Kansas City. Home of The Chiefs, Royals, and the best damn barbeque in the country (if I may say so myself). This weekend, Arrowhead Stadium might not see as many spray-painted red vans, giant Chiefs canopies, and the occasional quarter-mile stretch of grills. Why not? Ashamed that you’re rooting for an 0-3 team? Uninspired to tailgate because of the slow start to the season? Don’t be. If tailgaters are in a depressing mood, the whole aura of why we love Chiefs football is gone.
Arrowhead Stadium, at one time, was the hardest stadium to win in by visiting teams in the NFL. Loud, crazy, and painted fans are what makes Arrowhead great. Pounding the seats, yelling things about one’s mother at the opposing bench to psyche them out, and of course, the home of the CHIEFS.
I first experienced the Kansas City spectacle in 2002, at a preseason game against the newly formed Houston Texans. I sat in the north endzone, on the club level. I was 14 years old and this was my first Chiefs game in Arrowhead. When the crowd of 40-some thousand people declared “home of the CHIEFS”, chills ran up and down my spine. It was then I knew that this was what Chiefs football is all about. The traditions, the history, all of it mixed together to form this great obsession with Chiefs football.
My first regular season game was the Monday Night game against the San Diego Chargers in 2010. I had the opportunity to see the Royals play earlier in the day then go and tailgate with some friends. We threw the football in the parking lot, along with hundreds of other die-hard Chiefs fans, awaiting the gates to open and countdown to kickoff to begin. As we walked to the stadium, the smell of barbeque hit me in the face like a Missouri mosquito hits a semi windshield. All I could see for hundreds of yards was Red, White, and Gold canopies, vehicles, flags, inflatable goal posts, grills, coolers- you name it, it was out there. When we got to the gate, I heard people yelling at each other randomly “Go Chiefs!” and a few “Hell yeahs”. The gates opened, fans flooded in, received a free towel, and we headed to the field. We got autographs from a few players, then headed to the new Chiefs Hall of Honor, where I saw the busts of all the greats- Len Dawson, Derrick Thomas, Hank Stram among many others- I felt submerged in this giant archive of football history and I didn’t want to leave.
All of the renovations that I saw from 2002 just captivated me. The giant scoreboards, the ribbon boards around the entire Club level, the spectacular laser light show prior to kickoff- it was almost too much. The Chiefs came out of the tunnel and onto the field, and I finally got to participate in the “home of the CHIEFS.” I felt like I was with 76,000 of my closest friends ready to whoop up on the Chargers. The rain came, everyone got drenched, and a lot of people left by halftime because of the weather. Mind you, it was 90 degrees or better all day, and with the swirling winds and pouring cold rain, it got kinda chilly. But there was no way I was leaving. So dressed in my cargo shorts and Derrick Thomas jersey, freezing parts of me off I didn’t know I had, I remained in the stands. I could not bring myself to walk out because of weather. Arrowhead exploded after the final fourth down stop that the Chiefs made against Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense. Fans were yelling and screaming and jumping and dumping beers and popcorn on other people, it was MAYHEM. But it was victory number one in the 2010 season.
After the game people were walking around yelling “Go Chiefs!” and honking their car horns as they yelled out their windows. Chiefs fans, not much different than myself, probably couldn’t sleep very easily that night. The excitement of beating our long-time divisional foe in the way that we did it in brand new Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night in front of a standing room only crowd kicked off 2010 with a bang.
Someone may come up to me one day and ask, “Why are you a Chiefs fan?” I could go on about how my family is from the Kansas City/Topeka/ Wichita area and they have always been and continue to be Chiefs fans. I could say I have a lot of respect for the organization because they don’t bring in players with a lot of baggage or cameras following them every second of the day (Ochocinco, T.O., those kinds of folks). I could also say I grew up following the Chiefs, from 1995 watching Joe Montana and Marcus Allen, to the playoff loss after the replacement of Rich Gannon in 1997, to the devastating loss of Derrick Thomas, one of the best linebackers of all time, in my opinion, to the 2003 season when my beloved Chiefs went 9-0 to start the season and finished 13-3, to 2010 when the Chiefs finally reclaimed that AFC West Champion title.
But the plain and simple reason why I am a Chiefs fan?
I BLEED CHIEFS RED.
Chiefs football is in my heart and soul and I’ll never let that vanish. Through winning seasons when we are on top of the world, to losing seasons when we feel like nothing we can do is good enough to put a W on the board. I will be a Chiefs fan until the day I die. And even then, I’ll be looking down on Kansas City and cheering for my beloved team.