Monday, December 3, 2012

chiefs! panthers! where sometimes i thank god for unanswered prayers ...


“I came across a fallen tree.
I felt the branches of it looking at me.
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?

Oh simple thing!  Where have you gone?
I'm getting old, and I need something to rely on.
So tell me when, you're gonna let me in.
I'm getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin.

And if you have a minute?  Why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything.
So why don't we go, somewhere only we know?

Somewhere only we know?
Somewhere only we know."


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

sk: I can only speak for myself.  And God knows, I'm about to.  I’m warning you up front, this is one lengthy recap.  As in "16 pages in Word when I typed it" lengthy.  But in all honesty?  This might be the best post I've ever typed.  I hope you'll take the time to read it.  And if what I get into on the last three pages describes you in any way, shape, or form, PLEASE -- take my advice and call someone.  Anyone.  You are NOT alone in this amazing journey we call life, and nothing you do ever -- EVER! -- will make those who truly love you, completely abandon you ...

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

The best moment of yesterday's 27-21 Chiefs victory over the Carolina Panthers was on the final drive of the first half.  To set the scene: the Chiefs are in the red zone.  The clock is ticking closer to all zeroes, it’s ticking fast -- :08, :07, :06.  The offense either hasn't gotten the playcall, or didn't know what to do.  In a season filled with disaster beset by catastrophe multiplied by outright incompetence, this one was set up to be the biggest on-field one of them yet.

And then, out of nowhere, here comes Romeo Crennel attempting to sprint down the sidelines, to get a timeout called.  I'm being generous in calling it a "sprint" -- he was waddling, the lovable ol' big guy, waddling down the sidelines as fast as a 65 year old man pushing 300 pounds can move, with his playlist tucked in the front of his pants, bending perfectly into his ample stomach.  I couldn't help it -- I lost it.  I could not stop laughing at the scene.  If you re-enacted that 100 times, it couldn't even begin to approach how ridiculous, how hilarious, that moment was.  (And yes -- the peanut gallery in 132 did attempt to re-enact it.)  It truly was the funniest thing I've seen in a while.  It was truly, THE defining moment of the Romeo Crennel era.

(pause).

For a normal Chiefs game?  A normal, routine home win over a squad going nowhere anytime soon?  THAT would have been my lead into the recap.

Yesterday, sadly – tragically -- was not normal. 

I’m not going to get into the events of Saturday, other than to acknowledge that they happened.  Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher, in a blinded fit of (pick one: rage, jealousy, depression, God only knows), grabbed his gun, and coldly fired nine shots into the chest of his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, Kasandra Perkins.  He then got in his car, drove to Arrowhead, was met in the parking lot by Scott Pioli, who attempted to get him to put things in perspective.  He could not be reasoned with.  He then requested Romeo Crennel and Gary Gibbs meet with him in the parking lot.  Hey, the dude has a gun, you give the man what he wants.  Mr.’s Crennel and Gibbs headed out, where Mr. Belcher thanked the organization, and them specifically, for taking a chance on an undrafted linebacker from Maine.  He then turned the gun on himself, and took his own life.

The defining moment of the Romeo Crennel era?  Sadly, it was NOT that moment described to open this ridiculously long recap, although it was as fitting an image to describe this season as anything I've seen.  

No, rather, the defining moment of the Romeo Crennel era, was every damned thing that man did from 8am Saturday morning, through the immediate postgame scene, when a visibly relieved Brady Quinn and an equally emotionally moved Romeo Crennel man-hugged on the sidelines for fifteen seconds as the clock did reach all zeroes, and the opening couple chapters of this nightmare were finished being written. 

We have all experienced tough times in life.  Nearly everyone reading this knew someone who chose to take his or her own life, for whatever their reasons were.  I had two friends who made that choice, and I myself have made the decision to kill myself before.  I was in the car, a mile away from where I planned to plow my car into the concrete dividing the median at over 80mph, when fate intervened and saved my life.  (Well, you can call it fate; even though I am not religious, I call it God.)  

I describe why I reached that moment, why I made that decision ten years ago, in the last couple pages of this post, in the hopes that if my words can save one person's life, then any discomfort or embarrassment my disclosure might cause me is worth it.  God gave me a second chance that night that I did not deserve, and that I didn't ask for.  If just one person is given that second chance, even if its 25 years from now, long after I'm done updating this site and someone accidentally drunken Google stumbles on it, and it saves their life, then every word is worth the time it took to type.

As I mentioned, I have two very good friends who did kill themselves, within six weeks of each other, ironically enough.  But neither one of them did it, in front of other people.  One did it as I had planned to.  The other swallowed a boatload of pills, turned the car on in the garage with the door closed, and let nature take over.

I cannot possibly imagine what Mr. Crennel is feeling even now.  I cannot even begin to fathom how he got this team together, how he simply held it together, on that sideline yesterday.  And yet, he did, up to that moment his victorious quarterback collapsed in his coach's embrace.  Hell, I'm gonna be 36 exactly one month from today, so I can say it -- I was genuinely moved by it.  I'm actually tearing up typing this.

I intentionally stayed later than most, because I purposely wanted to see what Mr. Crennel's reaction after the game would be.  And whatever I may think of Mr. Crennel's head coaching capabilities, godd*mmit, that man was a MAN yesterday, and all weekend long.  He was the ROCK this franchise needed, his players needed, we as fans of this team needed.  This season?  No longer a waste.  Not after yesterday.  

In hindsight, it's apparent that this season was destined to be a total disaster from the start.  Let's just all be thankful that the PERFECT person to lead this team through the darkest days in its history, was in place.  

(Sweet merciful Jesus, can you imagine Todd Haley trying to react to THIS?)

So let me open (readers voice: wait, he hasn't OPENED yet?!?!?!?!) by saying what I thought yesterday was about, because unlike just about every other Chiefs game played this season, yesterday did have lasting value, it did have a true meaning.  It WILL be worth remembering.

Sometimes, things happen that make no sense in the here and now.  The Romeo Crennel hiring made no sense to me in January, and for the first three months of this season, my doubts about it have proven to be true.  But perhaps, and I hate to invoke religion here, if only because I’m not a religious person, but like it or not, it's getting invoked today.  Perhaps, in his infinite wisdom, God knew this was going to happen.  God knew the ONLY person who could hold this together, was Romeo Crennel. 

Romeo Crennel was born for yesterday.  Sam Mellinger nailed it in the Star today.  If he accomplishes nothing else in life, he literally saved a franchise yesterday.  He healed this team.  He healed this fanbase – there may have only been 45,000 some odd of us there yesterday, but us 45,000 are the die-hards.  We’re the ones who care enough to still show up, to wear black to announce to the world our outrage over what our team has become.

Romeo Crennel is a horrible head coach.  He needs to be replaced in that capacity in 22 days.  But he may be the finest human being the Kansas City Chiefs have ever employed, and his only competition for that title is the late Joe Delaney, and I will use this platform to once again register my OUTRAGE over the fact that number 37 is not officially retired.  

When this team, this fanbase, this city, this community needed someone to step up and heal us, Romeo Crennel did it yesterday, with one of the most inspirational coaching performances we will ever be privileged enough to witness.  I PRAY you watched that game yesterday.  Because like Romeo and Brady Quinn after the final gun sounded, I too had tears in my eyes.

Yesterday was not about Jovan Belcher.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that the Chiefs PA guy did not mention Jovan Belcher once yesterday.  There were no "59" decals on the jerseys.  The flags flew at full mast.  The only acknowledgement of the proverbial "elephant in the room" was a request for a moment of silence before the National Anthem, for "all the victims of yesterday's tragedy".  Hats off as well to Scott Pioli.  I cannot fathom what he has to be feeling right now.  Len Dawson spoke to him as he left Arrowhead on Saturday, and noted in his comments on the encounter that Pioli couldn't speak, he was so shook up.  Sir, you are a horrific failure of a general manager, but not even I would wish this on you, nor anyone.  Noone deserves what happened to Mr. Pioli and Mr. Crennel early Saturday morning.  Noone.

Yesterday was also not about Kasandra Perkins, Mr. Belcher's victim, nor their three month old child.  Again, hats off to Mr. Pioli, Clark Hunt, and everyone and anything affiliated with the Chiefs organization.  From their initial reactions to this unbelievable tragedy, it appears the Chiefs are going to go well above and beyond the call of duty to ensure Mr. Belcher's child will never want in life for material things.  An incredible gesture and show of understanding and support to the real victim(s) of what happened Saturday.  I applaud them, and I urge everyone else to as well.

Yesterday was not about what happened ON the field.  Yes, a win is nice, and (sadly) completely unexpected.  Yes, scoring a touchdown on our opening drive for the first time since before Chuck Weis announced he was leaving to become the University of Florida's offensive coordinator was refreshing.  Yes, seeing a severely outmanned defense stand when it had to was beautiful.  Everything on the field that the Chiefs did yesterday was by their standards a masterpiece, right down to scoring a touchdown as time expired in the first half to take the lead at the half 17-14.  But nothing that happened on that field yesterday matters at all.  Again -- not one damned thing that the Chiefs did on the field yesterday, has any meaning or consequence.

It's what happened OFF the field yesterday, that matters.  Yesterday was about healing, and not the sexual kind that Marvin Gaye famously sang about.  Yesterday was about healing.  About a fractured, angered fanbase setting aside any and all issues with the organization for seven amazing hours, standing as one with OUR team in its darkest hour.  My dad has a saying that who your true friends are, is revealed when you're in a fight, because they're the ones still throwing punches for you after you're laying unconscious on the floor.  Yesterday, we Chiefs fans who showed up, did so not because we already had tickets, or because we had nothing better to do.  We were there yesterday for a purpose, and it was this: that no matter what this franchise has done this year, no matter how much we hate what this season has devolved into, this is OUR team, and we've got it's back.  

Always.

But it was about more than just that.  It was about far more than standing strong with a sports team, because if we're being honest here, we all know sports is simply an escape.  It's an enjoyment, nothing more, nothing less.

Yesterday was about you.  Yesterday was the day when stupid sh*t was dropped and buried 29 feet under the ground, deep enough to ensure even a zombie attack can't resurrect it.  Yesterday was about shaking hands with those you despise, being respectful to those you don't respect, and hugging each and every person you love until both parties in the hug are crying from the emotion of the moment.  Yesterday was about what matters, which is you.  And me.  It was about "friends".  It was about "loved ones".  Yesterday, only one thing mattered, and that was to take the time, simply take the time, to embrace each and every person you love, and make sure they know how much you love them.  It doesn't matter what stupid disagreements arise -- all that matters is you and me at our cores. 

Yesterday was about making damned sure the people who matter the most to you know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that you not only are still throwing punches for them long after they hit the floor, you're pulling a knife and a gun to put the person who hurt them, in their place. 

The opening lyrics, from Keane's awesome song that came out (dear God I am old) nearly a decade ago, were chosen for a reason, for a purpose.  "And if you have a minute?  Why don't we go talk about it somewhere only we know?  This could be the end of everything!  So why don't we go?  Somewhere only we know?"  Yesterday was about the only thing that matters in life -- going to that special place with those you love the most, that "somewhere only we know".

You all know I don't believe in coincidence, and that I'm not a religious person, even if God keeps doing his damndest to get my attention.  (Well, unless you just stumbled onto this site by accident or curiousity, then you wouldn't know that.  If that's the case, welcome!  Grab a chair, grab a beer, and make yourself comfortable!)  Having said that, you all who regularly read this know that I've had my issues with a couple people over the last few months, over stupid sh*t that 99 times out of 100, anyone else would look at and say "damn Stevo -- you crazy!"  And the one time I do take offense? 

Well yes, I was crazy. 

And now, having established those two things ... "Somewhere Only We Know" is what popped up on the Mixology playlist as these two friends arrived yesterday.  I saw them walk into the tailgate, started to head their way, then heard this song come on, and I'm not kidding you -- I had to walk away, because I didn't want everyone else to see me crying.  (Good God, I need professional help). 

Because all that stupid sh*t between us?  Stopped mattering as of 9:32am Saturday morning, when my brother texted me to "get on Twitter!  Now!", which is how I found out about the tragic events of the day.  All that mattered, was that my Champ and my Chica were there, were healthy, upright, ambulatory, enjoying a frosty cold Miller Lite, and again -- they were there.  

They were there. 

That is something that, sadly, little precious three month old Zoey will never be able to say about either of her parents. 

I may not be religious, but there's no way, there's simply no freaking way, that having THAT song play at THAT moment, there's simply no effing way that didn't have God's fingerprints all over it.

I made a point to hug each and every person yesterday.  Not shake their hand, not yell "hey there!  Welcome!" from twenty feet away.  I intentionally made sure each and every person that arrived, saw me express how much you all mean to me.  I'm sure some of you thought it was corny.  I don't give a sh*t.  If Saturday taught us anything, it is that life is too damned short to focus on the negative.  Focus on what matters, which is you and me, and that special place located somewhere only we know.

I'm going to start the recap of the day in a few moments, since after all, that is the reason you came here for.  But it cannot be stressed or stated enough -- YOU are what yesterday was about.  It was about the friend who's done far more for me that I can ever possibly deserve, Gregg.  I love ya man.  I'll always have your back, just as you've had mine far, far, far too many times.  Yesterday was about his dad, one of the best people I've ever had the privilege to meet.  About Dusty and Kellie.  I know we've jokingly referred to ourselves as "The Family".  Guys?  I'm not joking when I use the word "family" to describe the two of you.  About Russ and Mona, my second parents.  About Susan, the best addition to our group in a long, long time.  About Chris, about Ray and his son (and his son's incredibly attractive girlfriend.  Good Lord dude, please -- bring her again!  And again!).  It was about telling those you have issues with, that you forgive them ... and more importantly, making sure that the ones you love, know it.  Yesterday was about taking time, the most precious gift you have, and giving that gift to those you love.

The only thing that mattered yesterday?

Was going "somewhere only WE know".

Because there's no guarantee of another chance to do so. 

So to everyone there yesterday, whether in person or in spirit, please know -- I love you all.  I am literally tearing up just typing that*.  You all have been so incredibly kind, so incredibly generous, so amazingly accommodating to this certifiably crazy dude typing this.  You've seen my flaws, you've seen me at my worst.  And you don't care.  Because you've also seen me at my best.  And you must like my best if you're still here.  And that means more to me than I can ever possibly express in words.  Hence the hugs yesterday.  Because we are not guaranteed another chance, to make sure those we love, know we love them.

(*: wow, usually I don't get this sappy, except for the Annual Column that'll go up on Christmas Day.  It sucks, it freaking sucks, that it takes tragedy to put things into perspective.  But if anything good can come from the events that made up the final hours of Mr. Belcher and Ms. Perkins' lives, then that is the good.  Shake hands with those you hate.  And hug the hell out of those you love, until they cry from the emotion of the moment.)

That's what yesterday was about, at least for me. 

And now, the recap:

* first, I didn't see it as it happened, but I was told of his comments, and watched them last night.  Tom Jackson, take a bow sir.  Take a freaking bow.  I am NOT a Tom Jackson fan.  Something about denver and broncos and linebacker.

Having said that, Mr. Jackson perfectly put this into perspective, and amazingly enough, his matched mine.  "We hear about what a great teammate (Mr. Belcher) was and how close some of the guys were to him.  He is in fact a guy who is a murderer, who has taken the life of Kasandra Perkins as a new mom and left a little girl without her parents."  Amen, Tom.  A-effing-men.

* We were first in line in aisle five at gate six.  Got there around 7am, and it was eerie.  There was a thick fog hovering over the practice facility, so thick you really couldn't see it.  The eerie part?  The fog didn't exist anywhere else.  Again, I don't believe in coincidence.  Here was the scene:

                                         (photo: me, via my Blackberry.)

* Had a good conversation with Warren and his wife outside the gates, and his wife raised a very interesting point that I admit, I hadn't even considered up until that moment.  "Have you noticed, no matter how bad it's been, this team is still standing strong?"  Bingo.  This isn't 2008, when you had players openly b*tching about each other in the media, a whiny malcontent of a tight end demanding in the papers to be traded, an open mutiny on the field against the coaching staff.  These guys are awful on the field.  But they are unified off of it.  For that, we can be thankful.

* Also, as she noted, what does it say for this team that the one place Mr. Belcher felt his safe harbor existed, was with this team?  The one person he sought out in his hour of greatest need, was Romeo Crennel.  However crappy this team is on the field, they've definitely changed the Carl Peterson-era culture off of it, at least from a players perspective, for the better.  For that, we can be thankful.

* For those keeping track at home, I am now 0 for 5 in getting the flagpole assembled correctly on the first attempt this year.  

* lynched donkey did not get lynched this week.  He did make a postgame appearance sitting on top of one of the speakers, but he was not hung in effigy this week.  Seemed a bit tasteless to string him up, honestly.

                           (photo: me, via my Blackberry.)

 * Some Eagles club members tailgated with us yesterday, and they provided the main course, smoked prime rib.  Unreal.  Unbelievably good.  Outstanding job guys.  Ray and his crew's philly steaks were amazing as well.  And damn if the SoCo wasn't going down perfectly.

                           (photo: me, via my Blackberry.)

* There really isn't much else to share from tailgating, because honestly, I wasn't the only person who reacted yesterday in the way that I did.  Again, from all tragedy, good can come.  It just sometimes takes a while for the good to come out.

* and yes, that tailgating scene yesterday was much more subdued than usual.  The difference from last week to this week, was a very noticeable thing.

* I enjoyed the National Anthem for once.  Just saying.  (Psst -- Mr. Pioli?  Feel free to give Ida McBeth or the Rev. Hal Weeks a call for the Colts game.  Please sir, let your "parting gift" for participating in attempting to build a winning football team, be to give us one of the only three people who should ever be allowed to sing the Anthem at Arrowhead (along with Patti DiParto-Livergood).  And while you're cleaning out your office, leave a note to your successor that "whatever you do, bring back the TD Pack Band and fire Rumble".  Thanks, your pal, Stevo.)

* OK, here we go.  Unlike last week, I wasn't dozing before kickoff.  I was alert, awake, definitely not pushing a dangerously high BAC. 

* Chiefs win the toss, choose to receive.  It's what I would have done.

* After a couple Charles runs net a first down, Quinn drops back to throw for the first time, and places a perfectly thrown pass into Dwayne Bowe's hands 30 yards downfield.  Then Quinn throws a tremendously placed ball 35 yards downfield to Jon Baldwin, who makes the catch, and Peyton Hillis pounds it up the gut for the six on the very next play.  THAT, was WITHOUT QUESTION, THE best drive of the season to date, bar none.  Outstanding execution, outstanding blocking, outstanding result.

* So of course, the Panthers strike back with a deep bomb of their own to tie the game at 7.

* Just saying, and I don't really know any Panthers fans, but if y'all really don't think Cam Newton can be a franchise quarterback in this league?  You're nuts.  Yes, the dude who sees a mental health professional every Tuesday at 5pm (more on this in the closing couple pages), is calling you nuts.  (alanis morissette voice) isn't it ironic?

* Chiefs answer with a decent drive of their own, setting up a Ryan Succup field goal to retake the lead, 10-7.  I agreed with the decision to kick, for what it's worth.  I only mention that, because it was 4th and 2 ... and as we're about to see, Ol' Romeo was feeling frisky* on fourth down yesterday.

(*: it cannot be said enough how awesome of a word "frisky" is.  It just sounds fun, you know.  "Hey honey?  Feeling frisky?"  Nothing bad happens when you're "feeling frisky", that's for damned sure.)

* the Panthers strike right back with an impressive drive that ends in a Newton to Steve Smith touchdown.  To call the Chiefs tackling on that play "non-existant", would be an accurate description.  Good Lord.  How in the hell do you let a simple slant route on 3rd and 3, simply designed to get four yards and the first down, how in the freaking hell do you let THAT turn into an untouched scamper* to the end zone?  I know we're severely short handed in the secondary, but good God, that was disgraceful.

(*: I also like the word "scamper", although it's nowhere near as fun as "frisky".  Or as funny as "dingy".)

* After exchanging punts, the Chiefs take over at their own 20 ... and proceed to mount what might be the best drive this team has mounted in a couple years.  It was a thing of beauty.  It had everything, really.  A healthy dose of Jamaal Charles.  Simple, effective throws from Brady Quinn to multiple receivers.  Outstanding blocking by the line.  Hell, Quinn even managed to draw the Panthers offside and get a free first down for crying out loud!  And the capper, as the clock wound down and Romeo did his best penguin impression to call the final timeout -- the Chiefs scoring from the one yard line as time expired on a perfect pass to Tony Moeaki.  Perfection.  Again, I can only speak for myself, but that was the funnest first half of football in that stadium since ... when?  The Chargers Monday Nighter last year that, in hindsight, was the beginning of the end of the Todd Haley era?

* I was feeling so happy over that first half that I did something I normally don't do: get up at halftime and buy a round of beers.  You're welcome for that $17.25, Hunt family.

* Wait, did I just say that prior drive was the best drive the Chiefs have mounted in a couple years?  Well (ac/dc voice) hell's bells -- their next drive topped it!  After a Panthers punt, the Chiefs take over at their 13 yard line, and proceed to mount a 14 play drive that took ten minutes off the clock, and ended via a Jon Baldwin short touchdown.  It's what happened in between that made it perfect.

The Chiefs went for it.

On fourth down.

TWICE!

If you know me, you know I have long advocated going for it a lot on fourth down.  I'm not one of these people who thinks you go for every fourth down, because sorry, if you've got 4th and 8 at your own 13 late in the first quarter, you punt there 100 times out of 100.  But I do believe teams are way too conservative in general, and give up points needlessly by punting or opting for the field goal.  Yesterday, the Chiefs faced a 4th and 1 at the Panthers 27.  In virtually that same spot in the first half (4th and 2 at the Panthers 24), the Chiefs took the field goal.  Romeo never hesitated to go for it there yesterday.  Peyton Hillis relatively easily got the half a yard they needed to extend the drive, rumbling for six up the gut.  Four plays later, the Chiefs faced a 4th and 1 at the Panthers 13, and again, never a moment's hesitation from Romeo.  Line up, hand off to Hillis, first down.  Two plays later Quinn found Baldwin in the end zone to give the Chiefs their first double digit lead at home all season at 24-14.  For one brief, shiny, happy moment, we saw what the 2012 Chiefs should have been.

* Before I forget, holy Lord, was that an amazing weather day or what?  When I can jokingly text "shirt off temps in the lower bowl", and it isn't a joke?  In the words of my favorite sitcom of all time: "ain't we lucky we got 'em?  Good Times!!!!!!"  It was hot down there in the sun.  72 degrees in December!  Did I move back to the Metroplex and forgot to tell myself I had?

* Of course, these are the Chiefs we're talking about, so go figure, Cam Newton immediately marches the Panthers down the field, tossing his third touchdown pass of the day, to drag the Panthers back to within a field goal at 24-21.  The key play on the drive came early -- after Newton scrambled left to pick up a 3rd and 1, he took the next snap, took off up the middle, and 28 yards later, a Chiefs defender finally bothered to pay attention to him, and shoved him out of bounds. 

I've been saying all season that other than denver, this was the one home game I had circled as can't miss*, because I was really looking forward to seeing what might be Cam Newton's only visit to Arrowhead.  He did not disappoint.  This kid is good.  I hate to say it, because it's a helluva thing to try to live up to, but Donovan McNabb came to Arrowhead for a Thursday nighter late in his second season.  He crushed it that night.  Newton crushed it yesterday.  I cannot express how impressed I was with this kid.

(*: yes, I am aware that me actually calling any non-preseason Chiefs game "missable" is absolutely ridiculous.)

* After the two teams swap punts, the Chiefs march down the field, but stall out at the 35 yard line.  Enter Ryan Succup.  Cue another successful field goal attempt.  Chiefs now lead 27-21 with a little less than five minutes to go.

And for the first time all season, it was our time to step up and be the difference between victory and defeat.

And step up we did.

* First down, Newton tries a short screen to Mike Tolbert.  Tamba Hali sent him crashing to the ground for a loss of one.  A huge cheer for the effort.  And louder cheers urging the defense to simply stand and give us a chance to finally, after 348 days, deliver a win for us on the sacred ground of Arrowhead. 

Second down, Newton in the shotgun, back to pass, but the protection was phenomenal.  Out of options, he's flushed out by Justin Houston, and eventually knocked out of bounds by Brandon Siler.  More on him in a second.

Now, finally, the moment of truth.  3rd and 4 at the Panthers 25.  The noise level rising.  Hell, I've pretty much given up even cheering this season, save for denver, because I just haven't cared since Matt Cassel fumbled at the goalline against the Ravens, handing them a win they didn't earn and ensuring this season would go down one of the worst in franchise history.  And I was standing, screaming, pounding on the chair backs like it was 2005 again.

Third down, Newton again in the shotgun, and NOBODY is open.  NOBODY!  I cannot praise our beleagured secondary enough this afternoon for their efforts yesterday afternoon.  Realize, Chiefs fans, who isn't out there.  Our best corner, Brandon Flowers, is limited with injuries.  Our other starting corner when the season began, Stanford Routt, is no longer on the team.  We're playing such unsung, unknown players like Tysyn Hartman, who led the team in tackles yesterday.  Let there be no doubt -- yesterday was a total team effort.  Emphasis on the word team.

So Newton is out of options, and decides to take a chance, and try to float it into Mike Tolbert, who -- and THIS outta tell you how outmanned we are right now when it's an obvious passing situation -- was being covered by Dontari Poe, and no, Mr. Poe did not somehow magically drop 175 pounds and turn into a nickelback.  Poe defended the pass.  Chiefs hold.

This was another one of those moments, and I seem to have a few every season, when I simply look at our sideline to see how the players and coaches are reacting, and I gotta tell you, when they stood on that third down, I actually felt, for the first time in a long time, like celebrating these guys, and they did too.  Romeo was praising every defender as they hit the sideline.  In the words of Richard A. Vermeil, "the defense was servicing itself", high fiving and applauding.

And you know who else was doing that?  He was standing right behind Romeo, actually, if I saw right (granted, it's across the field from me, but there was maybe a foot, 18 inches between him and Crennel.  He would have been the second guy that greeted the D, after Romeo).

Matt Cassel.

That's awesome.

* Brandon Siler.  Are you freaking kidding me.  What an effort.  What a job yesterday.  If you're familiar with this site, you know I irrationally love this guy.  "The Voice of Reason" has ripped me countless times over how good I think this guy can be.  Yesterday, he showed you why I love this guy's potential.

* After a Panthers punt, the Chiefs take over at their own 30 with a little less than four minutes to play.  The Panthers have two timeouts (plus the two minute warning) left to stop the clock with.  I thought, realistically, we would need at least two first downs to end this, and possibly three depending on when we attained the first down.

(Pause).

It took one.  And that is entirely, solely and completely, due to the presence of mind, the leadership, and the intelligence ... of Brady Quinn.  And no, I'm not joking.  Brady Quinn on the Chiefs last drive yesterday put on a CLINIC on how to bleed the clock.  It was absolutely flawless.  Let's take this one play at a time, and for timing and accurate down and distance, I am reading from the play-by-play from nfl.com's Gamecast.

1st and 10, Chiefs 30, 3:47 to play.  The opening playcall is a delayed draw to Jamaal Charles* up the middle for a gain of two.  The Panthers use their second timeout, to stop the clock with 3:41 to play.  Went exactly as it should -- you run the ball, get a few yards, force the Panthers to start using their timeouts.  It's sad that this season has devolved so far, so fast, that simply doing what 99 out of 100 people EXPECT to see happen, simply doing that correctly, merits me crediting you for doing, again, what 99 out of 100 people assume to be a given.

(*: if it's possible to have an aspect of the Belcher / Perkins tragedy that hasn't received enough coverage, this is it to me.  Ms. Perkins was Jamaal Charles' wife's cousin.  She and Mr. Belcher met through him.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what had to be going through Jamaal Charles' mind yesterday, or his wife's.  Stay strong, Charles family.  Arrowhead Nation has your back.  Always.)

2nd and 8, Chiefs 32, 3:41 to play.  Another handoff to Jamaal Charles, another gain of two, another Panthers timeout called, their last one, at 3:36 to play.  Again, nothing to see here, just move along.

Then came the play that won this game, and it's a two fold play, both of them to the eternal credit of Brady Quinn, who, if nothing else, will ALWAYS be remembered in my eyes as the man who put the entire damned franchise, fanbase -- hell, the entire five county metropolitan area -- put us all on his back, and delivered a victory this team, this fanbase, this city, not only needed, it HAD to have, given all that happened not just Saturday, but all season long.  We need these guys to be whole again.  We need them to heal, so we can heal.  We needed Romeo and Brady Quinn and the roster to let us know it was ok to simply like these guys again.  Yesterday, we did.  Deservedly so.

3rd and 6, Chiefs 34, 3:36 to play.  Quinn drops back to pass, and there is nobody open.  So he takes off.  Slowly, surely, around right tackle, diving ... and picking up exactly six yards.  First down.  That was sweet.

What was sweeter was what happened next.  I believe I read somewhere, or heard it, whatever, that leadership is defined as the person who can keep their wits about them, when everyone else has lost theirs.  Which is why what I'm about to type, on first glance, makes absolutely no sense, even by my (now professionally diagnosed!) mental standards.  And it is this:

Brady Quinn intentionally took a penalty for delay of game.  Hang on, let me type that again:

Brady Quinn intentionally took a penalty for delay of game.  And it was the smartest thing anyone on this team has done all season long.

Did you realize that penalty was the first called on the Chiefs all day?  They played 57 minutes and 40 seconds of completely error free football.  No penalties, no turnovers, hell -- we hadn't even put the ball on the ground and then lucked out by recovering it.  So why, you ask, does taking a penalty there, virtually ensuring you will have to punt, because now you need 15 yards, not 10, how, I am sure you are asking, how in the hell am I praising INTENTIONALLY taking a delay of game penalty there?

Simple.  "40 seconds".

Had Brady Quinn snapped the ball with :03 or possibly even :02 on the playclock, there was a decent chance the Chiefs would have had to run another play before the two minute warning.  Quinn understood that taking the penalty, and ENSURING only one play would be run before the two minute warning*, meant the earliest the Panthers could get the ball back would be with about 25 seconds to play, and they'd be pinned deep in their territory with no timeouts available to stop the clock. 

(*: as good as this decision was, it isn't even close to shanarat's 4th and 2 call in 2005.  To recap: it's 4th and 2 at midfield for denver.  Chiefs lead 31-27.  2:07 to go.  shanarat goes for it.  The initial spot, he gets it.  Mike White orders Dick Vermeil to challenge, because mike anderson wasn't in the same zip code as the down-to-gain marker.  Because the play was ruled as a first down, the clock ticked to the two minute warning.

The Chiefs (correctly) win the challenge.  shanarat then sprints down the sideline to get Bill Leavy's attention.  Because shanarat knew that if mike anderson was tackled short of the first down, the clock shouldn't have reached the two minute warning.  He bought his team an extra play, since he was out of timeouts.  He bought a free first down, and the Chiefs would have to get a first down, rather than taking three knees.  That man is a sick, evil genius.  Oh yeah, and he looks like a rat.)

Brady Quinn knew, he f*cking* KNEW, what the smart play there was, and it was to take the penalty, ensure the clock drops to 2:40 to play, and since the NFL uses a :40 play clock, the "dream scenario" just outlined in the previous paragraph was guaranteed to happen.

(*: hey gang -- go back and re-read it if you don't believe me ... but that is the first f bomb used in this post.  I know, I know -- I couldn't believe it either.)

And so, as planned and envisioned perfectly by Brady Quinn, the dream scenario happened.  The Chiefs ran the ball three times, punted it deep, and the Panthers got the ball back at their own 14 yard line with :18 to play.

Ballgame.  Right?

Uuh ... these are the Chiefs.  And when I said I was impressed by Cam Newton, holy Lord, he damn near pulled this out.  First down, Newton hits Steve Smith for 15 yards, and Smith gets out of bounds.  1st down, they run the exact same play, with the exact same result, albeit for 10 yards this time instead of 15.  And after an incompletion, from his own 39, Cam Newton let it fly ... and Steve Smith caught it 53 yards downfield ...

Let me see, how can I describe how I felt watching this play unfold.  I know.  If you're a fan of "Friday Night Lights", and if you aren't, please -- subscribe to Netflix and pound out seasons one, three, four and five.  You will NOT regret it.  (readers voice) why not season two Stevo?  (stevo) what season two?  They only aired one, three, four and five!  There's no season two!  That's crazy talk!

Anyways, the final scene in the pilot episode?  That's how I felt at that moment.  And if you think about it, given the tragic circumstances surrounding yesterday's game, it even makes sense as an analogy, given the tragic circumstances that had occurred to land Matt Saracen in the spot he found himself in.  Down 6.  Time for one play.  Your only play in the arsenal is some variation of "four jet all go", the play made famous in the greatest NFL game ever staged, the 49ers wildcard victory over the Packers on my 22nd birthday.  (Owens!  Owens! He caught it!  He caught it!)

The second Newton let go of the ball, I panicked.  Because like Steve Young famously noted after completing that pass to Terrell Owens to win that game, "he was open!  There was a seam!  He was open!"  I stared in horror as I saw Steve Smith streaking virtually uncovered down the middle of the field.  (In the Chiefs defense, they were playing serious prevent defense here, as they should have been).  The throw by Newton was just beautiful.  It seemed to take forever to come down, but when it did, Steve Smith was there to get it ...

And thank God almighty, so was Neiko Thorpe, who tackled Smith eight yards shy of his destination.

Chiefs 27, Panthers 21.

And as I noted many, many pages ago, while everyone else was filing out, I was staring at the Chiefs sidelines.  And I gotta admit, other than"Brave" Bennie Sapp grabbing the Powerade towel and hopping up on the donkeys bench to lead Arrowhead in celebration after the Thanksgiving Night win six years ago, I've never enjoyed a sideline scene of celebration more, than that one yesterday.  You EARNED this guys.  You EARNED this!

* forgot to mention, we have a tradition in our tailgating group, that if the Chiefs win, the first song that plays afterwards while we're waiting for the parking lot to clear / finishing off a few bottles of champagne, is "Dancin' On The Ceiling".  (The original classic, not the crappy Rascal Flatts reboot.)  The entire fourth quarter, as it began to look more and more likely that yes, we would win, I kept teasing what was coming.  Text to my buddy Damien: "I can almost hear it.  Something about dancing, a ceiling, and a Richie."  Let's just say, NOBODY was more nervous on that final pass from Newton to Smith, than me.  I was 100 percent certain, as Steve Smith broke wide open down the middle of the field, that I'd jinxed it.

Color me relieved.

* and please, reread that previous paragraph, and see if you can spot the word that matters.  It's ok -- I've got time. 

(cue "final jeopardy" theme song music)

And ... time.

"We".  Yesterday, this team, this fanbase, this city, so fractured and hurt and angry and furious at this miserable wreck of a season, having now suffered the highest indignity of them all -- a player killing his girlfriend, killing himself, and leaving everyone even more disgusted at all this season has devolved into -- we were made whole.  The fans, the players, the front office, everyone, was shocked back into reality by this unbelievable tragedy, and we – all of us -- came together to stand as one at the darkest hour in franchise history. 

No longer was it about flying banners, wearing all black, mocking the general manager for his obsession with candy wrappers.  No longer was this about hating our quarterback, booing our secondary, mocking our head coach, trashing our general manager, demanding our owner show up and clean house and fix this.  Sunday was about one thing -- setting aside all the ridiculous, trivial, worthless bullsh*t and coming together not just because it was the right thing to do, but because it needed to be done.  This team needed us.  We needed it.  I hate that it took something this awful to make that happen, but if this is the lasting legacy Jovan Belcher has on the Chiefs, then maybe something positive can come from this.

I will never forget yesterday as long as I live.  It was beyond subdued out there.  Not because of what happened the day before, but because of what was happening then.  Healing.  And since I do tailgate in Lot G, I’m sure some of it was of a sexual nature.

I don’t know why Jovan Belcher did this.  I suspect, at some level, he had no clue either.  I don’t know why, but the one thing I’ve obsessed over about all of this, is what was he thinking standing there in front of Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, and Gary Gibbs.  What was he thinking, at the darkest hour of his life, standing in front of three people whose sole desire, whose only intention, was to save him from the tragic fate that he was planning to embrace?  Whether this was caused by drug dependency, or depression, or concussions, or flat out because he’s an abusive ass who couldn't cope with his victim telling him to f*ck off, I do not know. 

But I do know this: suicide is NEVER the solution to what ails you.

I debated whether to go here.  But one thing I’ve always tried to be on this site is up front and honest, and it’s a policy I try to adhere to in life as well.  You will always know where you stand with me if you are my friend.  It's both a good and (unfortunately, over the last few months) a bad thing at times.  Allow me to close then, by sharing what happened on the darkest night of my life, from my perspective.  In the words of Howard 100 News: “no more bullsh*t”.

Before I begin, first, one request: if you have problems, if you feel overwhelmed, if you feel like you're in a situation that's so bad that you view suicide as the only way out?  Please, please, please -- if you feel like that?  Pick up the phone.  Call someone.  Anyone.  I hope, I pray, that all my friends know I am available 24/7/365 (or in 2012, 24/7/366) for them.  Please, if you find yourself at a point that your problems or issues or whatever is so overwhelming you, that killing yourself seems reasonable?  Please, call someone.  Suicide is NOT the solution.  Suicide is NEVER the solution.  There is no problem in your life so great, so outrageous, so offensive, that your true friends won't still have your back.  Trust me -- I know.  I'll reveal a little something about myself here, to hopefully serve as an example to anyone reading this who thinks life has overwhelmed them, that they've gone too far, that they cannot be redeemed, that things cannot get better. 

Ten years ago, I had a severe, and I mean SEVERE, gambling addiction.  This was my typical workday: wake up at 8am, show up at 8:30, leave at 5, head to Ameristar or Harrah's or Argosy or the Isle, and stay until they closed for the night, or I'd maxed out my withdrawal limits at the ATM on whatever credit card or debit card I had with funds available, then go home and crash for a couple hours before repeating the cycle the next day.  This cycle lasted almost 8 months, virtually nonstop.  In April of 2002, I reached my rock bottom, when I disappeared into the casino on Friday night, and come 11pm Sunday night, having not slept in three days and being out nearly $3,000 on a weekend gone horribly wrong, I literally had $0.00 to my name.  My checking account was overdrawn.  My savings account was drained.  Every credit card I had was maxed out.  Definitely NOT "good times".

I walked out of Ameristar that night, sat in my car, and cried.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  My rent check had bounced, I owed my roommate hundreds of dollars he'd lent me for what he thought were reasons other than gambling, and I literally had the three pennies in my console to my name. 

That's not news -- everyone who knew me ten years ago knew I was a gambling addict, and I've admitted that on this site many times before.

What I haven't admitted before ... is that sitting in the driver's seat that night, I decided to kill myself, in the exact same manner as my buddy James would sadly do two years later: by plowing my car head on into the concrete barricades on the freeway at 80mph.  Heading home, I resolved to do it.  I even had my location I was going to do it picked out -- Southbound I-35 and 75th Street, where the freeway curves hard right.  I'd just drive straight into the barriers and never turn, never stop.  It would be quick, hopefully painless, and if I failed, and somehow survived?  I didn't want to go on living the way I had been anyways.  Incredibly enough, I actually picked that spot also because it was the closest place I could do it to my folks' house and the apartment where I lived at the time.  In my mind, I was "saving" my friends and family from having to travel to get me.  Jesus, I was eight layers of screwed up.

I had made my decision.  I hopped on the freeway, headed south ... and accidentally exited on Shawnee Mission Parkway, which was my normal route home at that time.

Again -- I don't believe in coincidences, and I'm not religious, but anyone who tells me that my turning off at the normal exit instead of going another mile, when the whole purpose of my being in the car at that moment was to kill myself, anyone who says that was random chance, or that God didn't have a hand in that?  Anyone who argues God himself didn't step in and make me exit a mile early, to save me from myself?  You'd be wrong.  I then spent another hour and a half just driving, both despondent over what I still intended to do, because I genuinely believed I had no other choice.  I honestly believed I couldn't go home.  Ninety minutes spent believing that what I'd done, the point I was now at, was so outrageous, so unforgiveable, that the roommate had probably changed the locks on me.

Finally, I opted to go home, since it was pushing 2am, and I figured I could sneak in, get a couple hours sleep, and slink out the door before anyone woke up or would notice.  And at worst, try again in the morning on the drive into work.

I opened the door to the apartment, and there on the couch, were my roommate and my brother, looking absolutely sh*t faced frightened.  I had no idea that they had spent all day Sunday looking for me (along with other friends and family), fearing I had done what I had resolved to do.  Terrified for me.  

I stood there for about 1/1000ths of a second, before my brother ran -- ran! -- over to hug me, and completely lost it, relieved I was alive.  Ditto the roommate.  We sat around for a while, and I spilled my guts.  What choice did I have -- I'd maxed out every credit card, I had no money in the bank, it's not like I could afford to continue this anymore.

What I learned that night, is this.  There is NOTHING you can do, that your true friends won't forgive you for.  I learned that there is nothing -- NOTHING -- so overwhelming in your life, that your friends won't help you fight back against, nothing that your friends won't help you work out, nothing your friends won't help you overcome.

I learned what true friendship, what truly unconditional "I got your back man, always!" love feels like.

I still struggle with my gambling addiction.  I always will.  But I've put steps in place to at least try to curb the problem.  And yes, I had a pay a price for my addiction.  Just because people forgive you and love you and accept you, doesn't mean that you aren't accountable for what you did.  I still struggle financially from the price I am paying to, uuh, pay off that addiction.  (Hey, you rack up almost $20k in credit card debt over a year, and tell me how cheap it is to pay it off.)

But the important thing, the only thing that matters?  Is that I'm struggling. 

I'm struggling, because I'm still here.  It feels wonderful to struggle, when faced with the alternative I had chosen.  I'm still good friends with my former roommate, and my brother and I actually grew closer as a result of this, believe it or not.  They still have my back.  As does everyone else who dropped everything they had planned on a gorgeous Sunday at the end of April, because their friend was hurting, and needed them, whether I knew it or not.  Because of them -- and God -- refusing to give up on me, I'm still here. 

(This is probably where ever reader groans out loud at the realization there was a chance you might have been spared from reading the last 14 pages and counting …)

Your true, core friends will ALWAYS back you, no matter what you do.  It’s why I’m not upset at the Chiefs players show of support for Jovan Belcher.  You can hate the sin, but love the sinner. 

If you feel overwhelmed, please -- take the time to call anyone you have faith in.  A true friend will never judge you.  He may hold you accountable, as he should, but a true friend will always accept you, ugliness and all.  If you feel that dealing with your problems with your friends is too overwhelming, or too embarrassing, then please -- call a professional.  Get help.  

Depression is a dark, ugly place.  Believe me, I know -- I currently see a counselor every Tuesday night on my way home from work, to simply talk through my feelings with someone who knows how to help, and wants to help.  I resisted it for a long time, but I can honestly tell you -- scheduling that first session back in February, was THE single best decision I've ever made in my life.  That thirty minutes every Tuesday night is the best therapy imaginable. 

All of us have issues.  And there is no issue too great, that you coupled with the ones who have your back, cannot overcome.

I suffer from depression.  There are times I literally cannot get out of bed, the pain in my mind and my emotions is too intense.  There are times I simply break down and cry, for no obvious reason, because some random thing triggered sadness in me.  I tried medication two summers ago.  It left me so screwed up in the head that it frightened even me.  So I know that doesn't work, at least for me.  Up until ten months ago, I just figured I was going crazy, or was having a mental breakdown, when the dark periods would hit.  Now I know, thanks to professional help, that I’m not crazy, my mind is fine.  That there is nothing wrong with me.  I simply have an issue that millions of people deal with, and cope with.  I am NORMAL!  And sweet merciful Jesus, if those aren't the three most frightening words you will ever read on this site, I cannot possibly imagine the three that are going to top them (rimshot!)

If you feel overwhelmed by your life?  Talk to someone.  There is NOTHING wrong with you.  NOTHING!  Say it with me -- there is not ONE godd*mned thing wrong with you!  Believe that! 

And if you don't feel like sharing this with someone you love, as was (and at times, still is) the case with me?  Then seek help.  There's NOTHING embarrassing about admitting you have a problem.  We all do.  Believe me, seeing a professional is not a sin*.  It's not a bad thing.  They aren't there to judge you.  They aren't there to humiliate you, or degrade you, or make you feel worse about yourself.  They are there to HELP!  No, really -- that's what they're paid to do and everything! 

My mental state is at least 50% better now than it was entering this year.  I am happier most of the time.  I'm much more relaxed.  I am beginning to regain a sense of perspective again, something I had lost.  There is NOTHING wrong with YOU.  If you feel that you are the problem?  You're not.  Accept who you are.  You are how God made you.  Your true friends love you no matter what.  NO.  MATTER.  WHAT.  You are NOT the problem.  There is NOTHING wrong with you. 

(*: well, unless you're seeing a disreputable massage parlor worker.  "It's not a massage parlor like you think it is, sir.  Oh, so they don't have sex with their clients there?  Oh, is that what you think a massage parlor is?  Then yes, it is a massage parlor like you think it is."  I never miss a chance to work "The Norm Show" into a post.)

Please -- if you need help, ask for it.  Please don't choose to check out like Mr. Belcher did.  Yes, Mr. Belcher's acts were reprehensible.  Killing your baby's mother by shooting her nine times in front of your daughter and your mother is a pretty awful thing, even by our morally bankrupt society's rock-bottom standards.  But it wasn't so awful that Mr. Belcher couldn't be redeemed, either by paying his debt to society for his actions, or possibly through finding faith and placing his life in the hands of a higher power.  There is nothing you can do, that a true friend won't still find a way to have your back for.  If you don't believe that, please -- call someone.  Anyone.  Now!  Just pick up the phone and dial.  You have value.  You have meaning.  

You matter

You have more people than you can imagine who love you, who care about you, who only want the best for you.  Believe that.  And if you don't, please, take the time, the most precious gift any of us have, take the time to call for help, as I've done recently.  There is help available.  Please, take advantage of it. 

Yesterday’s results don’t change what needs to, uuh, change, after this season.  A serious house-cleaning is in order.  Yesterday doesn’t change that one bit.  But yesterday showed that Mr. Belcher notwithstanding, and again, by all accounts, this was a “WHAT?!?!?!” moment in his life, that the soul of this organization is still intact.  It’s more solid than ever. 

Yesterday, Romeo Crennel delivered the most amazing, incredible, epic coaching performance I have ever had the privilege to witness.  What he pulled off on the field yesterday was, quite simply, the most incredible sporting feat I may have ever seen.  He accomplished the impossible on the field.

What makes yesterday so awesome, why it will be a day I will never forget, is that I don’t care.  It’s the job Romeo Crennel did off the field, that history will judge him on.  Romeo Crennel saved this franchise yesterday.  He somehow brought together 52 plus fragile, shaken, hurting young men, all of whom are at least 5 years younger than I am, and somehow, someway, made this unbelievable tragedy bearable. 

And he made those of us who stand with Save Our Chiefs, those of us disgusted by what this franchise has devolved into, he made us PROUD again to wear red.  He made us proud of what this team is.  I will never, ever forget the feeling I had leaving that stadium yesterday.  And the best part of that feeling, is that I felt as I did, due to NOTHING that happened on the field of play.

For the rest of the season, Chiefs fans, don’t swear to God over how angry you are to see Romeo Crennel on the sideline. Don't huff and puff and scream about how Romeo Crennel needed to be fired after the oakland debacle, after the Cincinnati blowout, after the denver defeat, or that he shouldn't have ever been hired in the first place.  (All thoughts I have expressed at some point this season, for what it's worth.)

Instead, remember the words by Garth Brooks, and feel this way:

"Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.
Remember when you're talking to the man upstairs,
That just because he doesn't answer?
Doesn't mean he don't care.
Some of life's greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers ..."

Pray for the Belcher family.  Pray for the Perkins family.  Dear God, PRAY for that precious little girl now left without her parents.

And while you're doing that, thank God Romeo Crennel was on that sideline yesterday, and every day this season before yesterday.  He saved this franchise yesterday.  As someone who DESPISES being wr ... wr ... wr ... possibly incorrect, even I have to acknowledge the obvious.

Some of God's greatest gifts?  Are unanswered prayers ...

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also, apologies on the layout ...

Something went bat sh*t crazy when I tried to upload the previous post.  I'll work on fixing it Tuesday.  I didn't change a thing; t...