Thursday, December 22, 2011

week sixteen: hell on the heart

"No ifs, ands, buts or maybes,
So you wanna be her baby,
I can read your face like a book.

Yeah it looks easy to love her,
But believe me brother --
It's harder than it looks.

She's as pretty as a picture.
Every bit funny as she is smart.
Got a smile that'll hold you together,
And a touch that'll tear you apart.

When she's yours?  She brings you sunshine.
When she's gone?  The world goes dark.
Yeah, she's heaven on the eyes,
But boy she's hell on the heart ..."

-- "Hell on the Heart" by Eric Church ...

--------------------------

(‘the congregation”) (restless with anticipation)
(“father stevo”) (straightening his “sermon notes”)

Of course it comes down to this.

Four months ago, the Chiefs had lost eight straight, counting pre and post season. The last two of those defeats were the worst – a 41-3 defeat to the doormat Bills, and a 48-3 woodshed-beating by the worse-than-a-doormat Lions.

So of course, it comes down to this.

After surviving a winless September, a winless November, five defeats of 27 points or more, losing our Pro Bowl running back in week two, our Pro Bowl safety in week one, our emerging tight end in preseason, our Pro Bowl quarterback at midseason. After winning one game on a Hail Mary, another on a fumbled center exchange, yet another on two fifty five yard field goals, a fourth by rallying from down 17 to a team that would lose 13 straight. After being reduced to starting Tyler Palko at quarterback, Jackie Battle at tight end, Jake O’Connell at tight end, Sabby Piscatelli and Jon McGraw at safety, and of course, reading every damned disaster just listed and coming to the (sarcasm voice) completely logical conclusion that the only person responsible for this season was the head coach, so let’s fire him – after all of THAT, coupled with me missing my first (non-preseason) home game in a decade because apparently in South Florida, if a f*cking drop of rain happens, that means an instantaneous two hour delay for any and all flights headed west ... of COURSE it comes down to this.

That the two teams who tuned us 89-10 to open the season, control 2/3rds of the fate of the season in their hands on Saturday.

Of course it comes to this. Of course we need the Lions, who beat us like a government mule, to defeat the Chargers. Of course we need the Bills, who treated us like a port-a-potty, to defeat a team that reminds me of a stank urinal, the denver broncos.

And of course the Chiefs, who somehow hold every tie-breaker within the division at 6 and 8, would have to face the team that started the 250 some odd days of defeat and disaster, with both of our seasons on the line. (The loser of Sunday’s Chiefs / raiders contest is eliminated from postseason consideration, regardless of what happens elsewhere.)

I think it’s great. I love symmetry, I love bringing things full circle, and for Chiefs fans, it doesn’t get much better than this, a chance to exercise the demon that began this dark season ... and to exercise the demon that ended the run of greatness twelve years ago.

Of course it comes to this.

Because with a win on Saturday, coupled with Bills and Lions’ victories? Oh boy. You talk about bringing things full circle? You talk about, in the words of the late, great Herb Brooks, “great moments arising from great opportunity”? With those three positive outcomes, it’s going to be the greatest eight day hype for a Chiefs game since 1993. (OK, fine, “technically” 1994, the eight days between beating the Steelers in overtime in the wildcard round, and pounding Buddy Ryan’s ass in Houston eight days later in the divisional round.)

As Kyle Orton would lead these fatally flawed heroes in the Red and Gold into the gates of hell itself, to face his former employer, with a home playoff game and a potential AFC Championship berth on the line.

(You think I’m nuts ... but tell me the Chiefs you saw on Sunday, the broncos you’ve seen the last two months, or the Chargers of the last month couldn’t beat the Steelers at home. Then tell me the Jets can’t beat Baltimore on the road, meaning the winner of AFC West / Pittsburgh goes to Houston to face a quarterback, and a franchise, playing its first ever postseason game, while the Jets get one last crack at their arch-rivals who, in case you’ve forgotten, they thoroughly ass-whipped last January in this same exact spot. And before you call Charter or Two Rivers to commit me, two words ... ok, three. Ready? Arizona. “Super”. Cardinals. The EXACT path they took to the Super Bowl as a 9-7 team a mere three years ago.)

I have no intention (yet) of looking ahead to a potential prime-time battle to decide which mediocre quarterback the broncos took to training camp takes playoff snaps this year. Because there’s still work to do to get there, and quite honestly, I’d put the odds of denver losing on Saturday at a coin flip at best. (I expect Detroit to obliterate the Chargers, for one obvious reason – its “win and you’re in”, and the Lions have tiebreaker over nobody, are staring a 19th straight loss at Lambeau in the face next week, so they have to get to 10 wins to avoid the charging Seahawks or Cardinals, or fading Giants.)

Instead, I want to focus on the task at hand. Defeating the hated oakland raiders.

Do you realize the only game the Chiefs have won by more than 7 points ALL SEASON was the raiders game? It’s insane, but it’s true. We beat the Vikings by 5 because of two 55 yard field goals. We beat the Colts by four thanks to 21 unanswered points, the last seven via one of the most amazing catches you’ll ever see. We beat the Chargers by three in overtime thanks to “The Phumble”, and beat the Bears by 7 because of the Hail Mary. (Plus the Packers by 5 in a game that was really never in doubt, as strange as a five point finale that was never in doubt sounds.)

We know the blueprint of how to do this – we were in this EXACT same spot five years ago, although at oakland on a Saturday instead of hosting them. (That, and we needed eight other outcomes to go our way the last two weeks. This year? Only two. Progress!)

Even more spectacular than any stat I’ve stated so far? Is that 9 of the last 12 between the Chiefs and raiders at Arrowhead have literally been decided on the final snap from scrimmage! 9 of 12! If that doesn’t make you pause and think “wait, are those $5 tickets still available, I need to get my ass in a seat and root like holy hell for my team to beat these f*ckers!”, then check your pulse, or at least question your fandom status. (I know, I know, its Christmas Eve, but for f*ck’s sake, I’m blowing off a family function for this, and I’m pretty sure I’m about one more screwup away from getting written out of the will. Assuming I haven’t already reached that status. I might need to check the safe when I’m at the ‘rents next time ...)

The raiders have won two comfortable games, last year (31-10) and 2008 (23-8 in a game that was 16-8 with six minutes to play.) The Chiefs have one comfortable win in this stretch, in 2002 (20-10 in a game played in a monsoon. Actually, both Chiefs / raiders games in 2002 were played in monsoon-like conditions, now that I think about it).

The other nine? The Chiefs have won four, the raiders have won five, literally on the last snap of the game:

2009: raiders 13, Chiefs 10. janikowski chip shot as time expired.
2007: raiders 20, Chiefs 17. janikowski field goal as time expired.
2006: Chiefs 17, raiders 13. aaron brooks intercepted by jarrad page* on 3rd and goal.
2005: Chiefs 27, raiders 23. LJ accounts for 38 yards and a TD in final ten seconds.
2004: Chiefs 31, raiders 30. Lawrence Tynes field goal as time expired.
2003: Chiefs 27, raiders 24. Morten Anderson field goal as time expired.
2001: raiders 27, Chiefs 24. janikowski chip shot as time expired.
2000: raiders 20, Chiefs 17. janikowski’s first ever game winning field goal, from 52 as time expired.

And the most painful of them all:

1999: raiders 41, Chiefs 38. joe nedney field goal in overtime.

(*: why is jarrad page, a damned fine Chief, in lower case?  Simple.  If he doesn't blow out Tom Brady's knee to open the 2008 season, Matt Cassel never happens.  My hatred of our incumbent starting quarterback is damned near "lower case" status, just like the man who gave him the audition that got him the job has now earned.)

Anyone who thinks this game is going to be easy, anyone who thinks we don’t need every last available member of “the congregation” in a seat on Saturday come high noon, either (a) has not watched a single game the Chiefs have played this year, or (b) clearly has no clue what the Chiefs / raiders rivalry usually results in. (sarcasm voice) your car getting stolen?

(Note: since it’s Chrismukkah season, allow me to tell my favorite raiders joke of all time. Three guys – one wearing a Seahawks cap, one wearing a 49ers cap, one wearing a raiders cap – leave a bar come closing time. On their walk home, they come across a beautiful, smoking hot female laying on the grass, completely naked. She’s not assaulted, not in trouble, she’s just bombed and passed out and somehow lost all of her clothes. (God, why doesn’t this EVER happen to me?!?!) Anyways, out of respect for the woman, and her safety, the guy with the 49ers cap calls 911 on his phone, and places his hat over her right breast. The Seahawks fan places his cap over her left breast, and the raiders fan, for once showing some class, places his cap over her most private of parts.

So a police officer shows up, assesses the situation, takes the three football fans statements, and begins a preliminary investigation for his report. He raises the 49ers cap off the right breast, and replaces it. He raises the Seahawks cap off the left breast, and replaces it. Finally, he lifts the raiders cap, and replaces it.

Then re-raises the raiders cap, repeatedly, as if he is in a state of shock at what he’s seeing underneath. The raiders fan, alarmed, asks the officer why he keeps raising his cap off the woman. To which the officer replies, “I’ve never seen that before”. The raiders fan responds “what, you’ve never seen a woman naked before?” The officer replies, “no sir. Usually when I see a raiders cap, there’s an asshole underneath”. (“the congregation” groans). Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week.)

Now that I’ve completely killed the direction of this post, let me get to the Week 16 picks, and the Game of Great Importance:

* Texans (-7) 24, at Colts 14. I still think the Colts screw themselves out of Luck at J’Ville next week.
* at Redskins (-6 ½) 31, Vikings 20. One team has quit, the other one hasn’t.
* at Titans 3, Jaguars (+7) 0. I wouldn’t wager $0.01 on this outcome, the Titans are too unpredictable.
* at Panthers (-7 ½) 45, Bucs 20. Talk about a team that’s quit on their coach. Your Bucs everyone!
* Cardinals (+4) 21, at Bengals 20. Could Seattle at Arizona decide the NFC 6th seed?
* at Steelers (NL) 17, Rams 0. I could start for Pittsburgh and win this game 3-0.
* at Lions (-2 ½) 56, Chargers 17. Norv, we’d welcome you as our offensive coordinator next fall!
* at Patriots 24, Dolphins (+9) 21. Weird stuff happens when these two get together.
* at Seahawks (+2) 23, 49ers 17. Again, could Seattle at Arizona decide the NFC 6th seed?
* Eagles (+2 ½) 38, at Cowboys 35. Two 8-8 teams hosting 12 win squads will make Pete King’s head explode. Hence, this is THE “Screw You Pete King” Upset of the Week. Oh God please let it actually explode ...
* at Ravens 30, Browns (+12 ½) 20. Have to keep pace with Houston (who holds tiebreak) for first round bye. To say nothing of stay ahead of the Steelers for the division title.
* at Packers (-13) 45, Bears 13. The Bears are literally starting a high school coach at quarterback this week. A freaking HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH! And you know what? I’d still make the Bears a 5 point favorite at Arrowhead against a Tyler Palko led Chiefs squad.
* Falcons (+6 ½) 31, at Saints 28. Total gut check game for both squads. I like the Falcons make-up slightly better than the Saints make-up. Slightly.
* “at” Jets (-3) 24, Giants 17. This coupled with a Bengals loss clinches a playoff berth for the Jets. Thank God. Because that finale at Miami scares me sh*tless if something is on the line.

The Toughest Call of the Week:

My heart says denver wins this. Not just because Jesus hates me and loves him some timmy tebow, but good God, the Bills are in absolute free-fall. A team that’s lost seven in a row couldn’t possibly hand the Chiefs a Chrismukkah miracle, could they?

What’s that? A Bengals team that had lost ELEVEN in a row did that last year by upsetting the Chargers in this spot, with a backup QB starting? Whew. I knew to trust my gut. As badly as NBC wants tebow on its airwaves, what better way to get him than by setting up timmy to deliver the division, at home, against his former “mentor” and competitor? at Bills (+2 ½) 31, broncos 20.

The Chiefs Prognostication:

Both oakland and KC have a lot to play for – if denver and San Diego both lose, then the winner of this game controls its own destiny to win the division (oakland would have tiebreaker over denver via conference record if they win out, no matter what happened between KC and denver).

So please, if you can afford the $5 plus fees to get a ticket online at various reputable resale sites (like ArrowheadPride.com), please – show up Sunday. If you don’t want to pay the $27 for parking, the Bus leaves at 7am, you have a ride there and back for the low, low cost of $0.00. (If you want to use this option, let me know, I’ll send you directions).

We need this one folks. Some dumb f*ck blogger named Stevo went on record four months ago and projected the Chiefs to repeat as AFC West champs (and let’s just ignore the rest of my thoughts about the Chiefs chances this season ... at least for now). My credibility as a mediocre sports gambler is on the line here! (Although if you go back and read the season picks, you’ll notice I’m probably the only person alive who picked the broncos to reach the playoffs. So I guess either way, I’m ok? So long as its not the Chargers or raiders?)

Please, if you can make it, if you can blow off the family, afford the cost, show up. Be loud. Screw that – in the words of Blake Shelton, “(be) Loud! (be) Proud! (and then) Get Worse!!!”

I inadvertently left off one thing from the recap about the Packers game, and how I forgot it, I have no idea, because it was THE moment of tailgating from the year.

The game is over. I finally make it back up to the Bus, and after the celebratory hugs, high-fives, and “holy sh*t, HOW DID WE DO THIS?!?!” expressions of shock, as well as grabbing my bottle of vodka and pouring half of it into a bottle of Glacier Ice Gatorade, I have the following conversation:

(stevo) hey, what’s up with no music?
(everyone) (with a “yeah, what’s up with this?!?!” look)

So I haul out the speakers, and fire up the iPod. Ray and his crew have just arrived. Even more impressively, Castro drove up to join us for the postgame. (Best of all? He’s as f*cking sick of the damned horn his crew uses as we are, hence his decision to join us rather than them. Sweet?)

And after the first song on the random shuffle plays (“Word Up” by Cameo, only Mona’s favorite song of all time, wow I lucked into that one) ... the second song out ... and I wish I’d remembered the camera to record it.

No, it wasn’t “Shout”, of which there are videos of me dancing to. It wasn’t even “Dancin’ on the Ceiling”, again, of which there are videos of me dancing to. It wasn’t “Sweet Caroline”, of which there are way too many videos of me karaoke-ing to.

Nope, what made this moment rule, was not only that every person there, including Ray and his crew, even including Castro for God’s sake, knew every word to the song ... but that as soon as the first few words came out, about 20 different people immediately broke out into singing it for the next five minutes.

“Well it was all ... that I could do ... to keep from crying.”

(Come on, you know you want to join in, if only because the first verse of this song so perfectly describes the Chiefs season to this point ...)

“Sometimes it seemed so useless to remain.
You don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’.
You never even called me by my name!”

Yes, when twenty plus people are belting out as loud as they can sing “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allan Coe, only THE greatest country song ever written and recorded ... its a keeper of a tailgate.

And this my friends, my “congregation”? Is going to be a keeper of a game, a keeper of a Saturday, and God willing, a keeper of a season. at Chiefs (-2 ½) 35, raiders 30. Again, I pick the final score for each Chiefs game for a very specific reason. If you get the significance of this predicted score, chosen because of the situation we find ourselves in? Congratulations, you’re a die-hard Chiefs fan.

(Hopefully) See Ya Saturday! I have no idea what the menu is, but we’re hooking up with Ray and his crew again, so it’ll be good. We’ll be in our usual spot, so don’t be a stranger – come out and enjoy the Chrismukkah miracle of a lifetime! Or at least of the last five years.

The weather looks good, the football should be entertaining, and really, what would you rather spend Christmas Eve afternoon doing, attending a family gathering? Last minute shopping? Or watching this flawed bunch of scrappy fighters, the “luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming”, extend the dream for three more hours? I vote option (c).  This game WILL be heaven on the eyes. 

And here's to PRAYING the eight days after Saturday are hell on every Chiefs and donkeys fan's heart ...

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