Dear Kansas City Chiefs,
Each of us will face someone in life that is stronger, faster, and smarter. We encounter others whose youth gives them an edge. Or they are older and more experienced, more talented, more attractive, funnier, or wealthier. Advantages and disadvantages are real but they are also relative. Comparisons are a limiting way of viewing life, trying to measure against other people, athletes, teams, and coaches. Such comparisons do not truly measure who is better, but only account for what is different.
Standing 5′, 7″, Spud Webb didn’t let his upbringing in poverty or his short height limit him from outplaying competitors, earning a spot on team rosters as an NBA point guard, and winning slam dunk contests. He didn’t let physicality hold him back.
Afflicted with polio, Franklin D. Roosevelt led a nation through the Great Depression and mobilized the U.S. entry into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Faced with a devastating attack, Roosevelt acted decisively.
Clara Barton quit her job and took care of soldiers on the front lines of the Civil War, where she almost lost her life. After an eight-year campaign with the U.S. government, she launched the American Red Cross which has served millions of people over generations. She persevered over years to make a difference.
Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, named to the Pro Bowl three times during his 12-year NFL career, overcame the adversity of his mother’s death. All of these people from past and present never gave up. They forged on.
Football is not war or overcoming a crippling condition or rising above a loved one’s death. When the Chiefs play, it’s a chance to represent Kansas City as one of a few dozen privileged cities across the nation. On one level, it’s about pride for you as a professional athlete. On another, it’s about the pride of a city competing on a national level. A Chiefs’ game is more than a chance to tailgate at the best stadium in the league. For those of us at Arrowhead or watching at home, the game is a real life drama. It is a physical and mental contest of will that tens of thousands of fans care about deeply.
Your effort matters. Leading and executing to the best of your ability matters. Win or lose, doing your best is what fans want, coaches expect, and true competitors strive for every down, game, and over the long haul of a season. Losses are inevitable. Quitting is not. Winning is never a given. Defeated, you can decide to improve, build, bond, and make the most of each chance ahead. Or, take another course.
Doubt, blaming, anger, giving up – it’s easy to channel energy into a negative void but it won’t change the past or present. Feeling this way means you care about the outcome but aren’t proud of the results. It’s not easy to carry around the psychic and physical wounds only to have to shake them out of your bones and aching muscles and mental state a few days later. For fans, it’s easy to grouse, complain, and write off the rest of the season. For professional football players, the consequences remain long after the last seconds tick away.
At this point in the season, it’s clear that no opponent – ability aside – will lay down and allow the Chiefs to win easily. The team has had hard-fought wins this year. No matter the skill or mishaps of your opponents, you still had to show up, execute plays, and never give up. If a team supposedly lesser than the Chiefs can win, then it is in the realm of possibility that the Chiefs can win against teams supposedly greater than them. On any given Sunday, two football teams will meet to compete. Comparisons will be made. What matters is not who is better in the court of public opinion, but who will perform with the tools and talent at their disposal to perform the best they can on the field of play.
When tested, the best competitors push to achieve the results they desire. The Chiefs have made successful defensive goal line stands. Ryan Succop has turned his kicking game around admirably. Tamba Hali has developed into a threat. Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Kendrick Lewis, Javier Arenas, Jon McGraw, Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers – you’ve demonstrated the ability to make plays. The Chiefs have weapons in their arsenal. They may not be the latest, greatest, fastest, strongest. What matters is how you perform. Success is sought in huge strides and big scores but it typically comes in incremental steps and precious yards.
Fans, players, and coaches may be disillusioned and dispirited after this most recent loss. But not all of us remain that way. Yesterday, I turned off the television and walked away from the game. I could hardly bear to hear the coverage on the radio. Then I went to my neighborhood grocery store. The game was airing over the P.A. system throughout the store. Cashiers, stockers, and customers listened. Elsewhere, the game was on at local bars and restaurants. Blue collar, white collar, suburbs and metro, fans of the Chiefs are connected to your efforts.
Out of our busy lives during the week and weekend, we pay attention, watch, hope, cheer and boo. We care. You represent our great city. We could remain stuck in the past, but we look ahead and wonder about the outcome of next week’s contest against formidable adversaries. And no matter the odds, the strength and speed and skill of the opposition, hope remains that OUR team and coaches will try their best, work harder, improve, and prevail.
With each week’s game for the remainder of the season, I’ll turn on the game again and keep watching, cheering, and believing in my team as a proud member of the Chiefs Nation.
Still a fan,
P.S. I have never written about football or my hometown team so take this for what it’s worth.
Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
Harry S. TrumanIn reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.
Harry S. Truman