Thursday, November 14, 2013

week eleven: oh how i remember ...

"Saturday night.  My first high school dance.
Showing up late, in my Sunday best.
I'd seen you before, oh but not in that dress.
The DJ's last song, and I lost the dare.

So with my heart and my pride on the line?
I asked you to dance for our first time,
Right there.

Holding hands in the hall,
All the way through your call --
It's 2 am, and you're still on the phone!

Hanging out at the mall --
Oh, that old picture show!
I reached for your lips, girl;
My first taste of love!

And that old Ford truck?
Was your daddy's worst fear!
Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in freshman year ...

Graduated in May; we went our separate ways.
Until the hole in my heart, was too much to take.
When you made that drive, down to my dorm room that night?
Every knock at the door, with you going hi?

And I thought I'd drown in the tears that you cried.
But we found a way to relight that old fire,
That night.

We were young and wild!
Hanging out too late at night,
In all those college bars,
With cheap Natty Light!

Just like one of the guys?
You stuck right by my side!
At every football game,
There with a smile!

Two in the crowd screaming "Go Dawgs Go!"
Oh how I remember, the way love felt in freshman year ...

( … musical bridge …)

And now?

We're still young and wild!
Hanging out too late at night!
In all these college bars,
With cheap Natty Light!

Because just like one of the guys?
You're still right by my side!
At every football game,
There with a smile!

We're still two in the crowd, screaming "Go Dawgs Go!"
Oh how I remember!
The way love felt in freshman year!"


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

Last Week ATS: 4-9-0.  Craptacular!
Season to Date ATS: 65-79-2.  Beautiful!

Last Week SU: 5-8-0.  Horrific!
Season to Date SU: 83-63-0.  It could be worse!

"The Voice of Reason" Last Week: n/a.
"The Voice of Reason" Season to Date: 57-73-3.

(Note Uno: Mr. Reason was unable to submit his predictions last week.)
(Note Dos: Mr. Reason does not pick straight-up winners.)

The "Screw You Pete King" Upset / Week Last Week: winner!  That's two straight road dogs, in national TV slots, I've picked to win outright, that have.  Hmm.
The "Screw You Pete King" Upset / Week Season to Date: 5-8.
This Week's "Screw You Pete King" Upset / Week: in the words of my high school history and government teacher: "stay tuned".

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This week's post, is twenty seven years, in the making.

The theme this week is singular in focus, and means a lot to me.  I hope I nail this.  And I hope you enjoy it.

Because God knows I tried, to get this right.

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The Non-Chiefs, Non-Jets Clairvoyant Thoughts:

(Note: all wagering lines supplied by Danny Sullivan via USA Today.  Danny Sullivan, the Stevo's Site Numero Dos Official Oddsmaker!)

* Colts (+3) 31, at Titans 13.
* at Bucs (+1) 21, Falcons 10.  Your "Good Times Game O' The Week"!
* at Steelers (+2 1/2) 23, Lions 20.
* at Eagles 27, Redskins (+3 1/2) 24.
* at Dolphins (+1) 34, "Super" Chargers 24.
* at Bears (-3) 26, Ravens 20.
* Browns (+5 1/2) 28, at Bengals 27.
* at Texans 13, raiders (+7) 10.
* "Super" Cardinals (-7) 24, at Jaguars 14.  Your "Gordon Shumway Game O' The Week"!
* at Seahawks (-12) 41, Vikings 3.
* 49ers (+3) 31, at Saints 20.
* at Giants 31, Packers (+5) 27.
* at Panthers (-2 1/2) 31, Patriots 27.

Byes: Cowboys, Rams.

The "Klassy" Kevin Keitzman Tweet O' The Week:

I'll take a pass this week.  Mainly because the Chiefs section is 17 pages in Word.  (But I swear, I swear -- it's good stuff!  I only go on like six pointless rambles!) 

"The Voice of Reason"'s Reason:

(Note: this appears unedited, save for formatting.)

Ind +3.5
Atl -1.5
NYJ pk
Pitt +2.5
Wash +4.5
Mia +1.5
Balt +3
Cin -6
Hou -7
Jax +8.5
Den -8
Minn +12
NO -3
GB +4.5
NE +2.5

The Poem:

There is no The Poem due to this not being a home game for the Chiefs.

The Tailgating Plans:

There is no The Tailgating Plans due to this not being a home game for the Chiefs.

The Flashback -- Chiefs vs broncos:

In 2009, the Chiefs went to denver, with the donkeys playing for a wildcard berth, and beat the crap out of the donkeys, 44-20.  That was a fun little birthday present for me -- a brief moment of joy in an otherwise miserable season.

In 2011, the Chiefs went to denver, with the donkeys playing for a division championship.  The Chiefs beat them 7-3 in one of the two or three worst games in this usually fun-filled rivalry.  (The 9-6 overtime duel of field goals out there in 2006, was worse.  But only because the donkeys won.)

In 2013, the Chiefs go to denver, with a division title and home field throughout the playoffs, looking good for the winner, especially if it's the Chiefs. 

Hmm. 

Odd number year, at denver, with denver having a lot to play for, and the Chiefs either having nothing to play for, or having some margin for error to absorb a loss. 

Hmm. 

Circle me intrigued, Bert.

The Jets Best Guess:

The Ralph is our house of horrors.  I'm not optimistic.  Then again, I predicted the Jets would threaten the most points allowed in a game record (73, for those keeping track at home) in their two prime-time contests at New England and Atlanta, and go figure, they damned near beat the Pats, and did beat the Falcons.

* at Bills (NL) 31, Jets 14.  I assume NL is due to EJ Manuel's playing status.

The Chiefs Commentary and Prediction:

In the interest of fairness, I always pick the post song, to reflect how I feel, in this moment of time.

And in the interest of fairness, my freshman year of high school?

The Chiefs won their first playoff game in twenty one years, taking down the raiders at Arrowhead on my 15th birthday weekend.

But my freshman year of college?

Saw my favorite Chiefs team of all time, take the field.

(That would be 1995.)

So let me admit up front, I’m being a bit disingenuous here, in using “Freshman Year” as the lead.

Because while the 1995 Chiefs are my favorite?  

They weren’t the best, I've ever rooted for.

So let me change the lyrics ... slightly.

“Oh how I remember,
The way love felt …

... in (junior) year.”

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

I suppose it goes without saying, that there is nothing on this planet, that I hate more than the denver broncos.

This week’s commentary – and if you notice above, there is no theme, no running thread, no Shecky Greene-esque one liners, no "Tale O' The Tape".  This is it folks.  This is what you get.

This week’s commentary, is why this team matters so much to me. 

This is my explanation, as best I can muster, for WHY the Chiefs mean so much to me.

I believe this current version of the Chiefs, has a shot – and a damned good one – at attaining a greatness anyone my age (and I turn 37 in less than 60 days), has never seen in this town, with this team.

The greatness that is being the best team, the National … Football League has to offer.

Buckle up gang.  Here we go.  Because if there is one thing I am sure of, it is this:

“Oh, how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year.”

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

My first real memory as a Chiefs fan.  I was 9 years old, nearly 10.  Week Fourteen, 1986. 

Just for laughs, I Google searched the exact day this "love affair" began.

December 7, 1986.

President Roosevelt was prescient. 

December 7 really is a date, that will life in infamy.

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

The (at the time) best Chiefs team of my lifetime opened 7-3, and the Red and Gold's first playoff berth in fifteen years seemed likely.

Sure, the schedule was about to turn difficult, with four of the last six away from Arrowhead, and the eventual AFC champion broncos awaiting us twice.  Predictably, the Chiefs lost in week eleven at denver, decisively: 38-17.  And not surprisingly, the Chiefs lost at their then cross-state rival St. Louis "Super" Cardinals the following Sunday.

Remarkably, the 7-5 Chiefs lost in overtime to the god-awful Buffalo Bills in week thirteen.  The Bills entered at 3-9; Marv Levy got some revenge on the franchise that never should have fired him.  The Chiefs now stood at 7-6, entering the final home game of the season, against the denver broncos.  Predictably, denver scored first, and not surprisingly, the game was a competitive one for a half, with both squads entering the locker room having posted ten points on the board.

Remarkably, the Chiefs scored the last 27 points of the game, demolishing the donkeys 37-10, and setting in motion the final struggle to reach the playoffs -- a successful struggle thanks to not one, not two, but three -- three! -- special teams touchdowns in Pittsburgh, to end the regular season.

For the first time in my life, the Chiefs were relevant. 

More to the point, for the first time in my life?  The Chiefs mattered to me. 

From that magical December Sunday onward, it's been season after season after season of obsession, of passion, of caring, of love, of support -- both traditionally (by being a fan), and financially (by being a season ticket holder, and an addict of the Jacked Up*).  I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that, other than "The Voice of Reason", you will never meet a bigger, more loyal, more die-hard fan of the Red and Gold, than me.

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

(*: for the benefit of you minors out there, a Jacked Up is a libation that contains equal parts Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, and Coca Cola.  It is the best cocktail I have ever had.  In fact, I'm enjoying one as I proof this.  (Which probably explains why every post has at least three grouse grammatical errors.)  

And if you know me at all?  You know I've had damn near every cocktail ever imagined, at least once.)

-------------------- 

The first two years of my "marriage" to this franchise, were tough times.

A players strike.  Frank Gansz Sr.  Drafting Paul Palmer in the first round.  8-22-1 in 1987 and 1988.  The fact that by midway through 1988, you would show up at Arrowhead, and grab your ticket off someone else's windshield.  (That urban legend?  Is true.  If you left two on your windshield heading in, for anyone to use?  There was a damned decent chance you'd come back, and not only would your two still be there, your two would have a couple buddies tucked under the wiper as well.)

Then the tide began to turn.  Thanks to two men who saved football in this town, and virtually single handedly made the Red and Gold matter, to at least 90% of the people, who care about them.

Carl Peterson, and Marty Schottenheimer.

--------------------
  
The next eight years, were the golden days – that magical time between the honeymoon, and when you begin forming a family through having kids.  What I would think, is the best couple years of your life*.

From the hiring of Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer in the 1988 offseason, through the difficult loss to Buffalo to close the 1996 season, and miss the playoffs for the first time in the decade, it was mostly all uppers, with few downers.  Routine playoff berths -- the Chiefs in that eight year stretch won two division titles, four wildcard berths, and were the first team out the two years they didn't make the postseason.  Wins, lots of them -- an 81-46-1 mark. 

Memorable "holy crap!" moments, lots of them -- every moment of October 6, 1991.  Arrowhead's first playoff game, a win over the hated raiders in the rain.  For all intents and purposes, Arrowhead's second playoff game, a 42-20 ass whipping of the denver broncos, in a "winner's in / loser's out" finale in 1992.  The trade for Joe Montana, and the ensuing run to the first division title in 22 years, the first AFC Title Game berth in 24 years.  Keith Cash chucking it off the poster of Buddy Ryan in defiance of the old coot.

And more still to come.

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

(*: I wouldn’t know personally; I have never been married, and I’ve never had an intimate relationship with the opposite sex, that reached year three.  Hell, I haven't had an intimate relationship with the opposite sex, that's reached night two in four years.  Still, I’ll take the liberty to bullsh*t like I know what I’m talking about.)

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

Monday, October 17, 1994.

It was the first time real doubt about the "significant other", entered my mind.

Opening 3-0, including one of the greatest games Arrowhead has ever staged.  Montana!  Young!  Madden!  The late, great Patrick J. Summerall! 

Then somehow getting shut out by the lame-duck Rams, in Arrowhead to boot, before a debacle of a loss at eventual AFC Champ San Diego.

Setting up one helluva showdown on October 17, 1994, between two teams at the crossroads, two playoff teams from the year before, that were in deep trouble six weeks in to the new season.

Chiefs. 

At denver.

The first truly defining moment, of a lifetime relationship.

In eleven simple words, uttered by Dan Dierdorf.

“Lord!  You can take me now!  I have seen it all!”

Montana.  Davis.  End zone.

Chiefs 31, donkeys 28. 

I actually watched this game at my buddy Jasson’s mom’s house … until Marcus Allen fumbled away the game (or so I thought) with barely four to play.  P*ssed as hell, I said my goodbyes (probably not pleasantly), and drove the ten minutes home to my folks house.

My mom was still up.  Unusual, to say the least.  Up at 11pm on a school night?  Unheard of … unless something epic was about to go down.

I walked up the steps, and saw the donkeys score to take the lead, with only ten men on the field, via a john elway draw up the middle that was so brilliantly called by Jim Fassel?

The undermanned donkeys kept every defender, from laying a finger on mr. elway.

1:28 to go.  denver 28, KC 24.

1:25 later?  KC 31, denver 28.

Montana to Davis led to one of my most cherished moments in life.  As soon as Willie Davis crossed the goalline, I sprinted down the steps (there are 14 of them, in my folks house … and sprinting is NOT advised, given how steep they are), ran out the front door, and started screaming “YES!  YES!  YES!” with multiple fist pumps, in our section of the cul-de-sac.

I didn’t get the third “YES!” out, before my dad pulled in after his day of work, with the radio broadcast blaring from the radio.

Neither of us had to say a word.

Man hug time.

The moment Dad had truly passed on the passion for football, to his oldest child, beyond the shadow of any doubt.

I think the only person (pick one) disgusted / appalled / embarrassed, at the spectacle in my folks driveway, at pushing 11:30 on a Monday night in the middle of October?

(Pause).

Was no one.

Other than possibly Wade Phillips.  (dan dierdorf voice) "Oh!  Poor Wade!  His team did everything tonight ... but win."

That 1994 season ended rough – an epic collapse down the stretch, rallying to win a de facto playoff game in the last NFL game played at the Coliseum to steal the six seed from oakland, before getting pole-axed in Miami on New Year’s Eve.

1994.  Without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! – was the year this relationship with the Chiefs, reached the “you just have to know me to get it” point.

Because everything from 1994, set up the year, that the “lover” …

… became the “soul mate”.

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

1995.

Perhaps no year has been more eventful for me, in a positive way.  I graduated high school.  I moved away to college.  It’s also the year my favorite moment with my dad occurred, on a cold, snowy February Thursday night.  It’s a moment only he and I would know about, and he probably doesn’t even remember it, but it’s the one reason I keep struggling to keep going, to keep living. 

It’s a story I’ll only tell once, and I am dreading the day, that story gets told.  We came way too damned close to that day arriving, six weeks ago.  WAY too damned close.

It’s also the year that the Chiefs fielded my favorite team of all time.  Quite frankly, even if this current bunch reaches the Super Bowl, I’ll probably still say 1995 was my favorite.

But it wasn’t the best.

That was still two years away.

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

I think the moment that truly defines 1995 for me, was with less than a minute to go, in the game against the Houston Oilers.

Tied at 17, at Arrowhead, Oilers ball.  They were simply going to run the clock out, and go to overtime.

This game was played on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  I did not come home for the game or the holiday, because the Chiefs were playing in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and my family was headed down, not up, for the holiday. 

That Sunday night, ABC aired the first part of the “Beatles Anthology”.  My mom, to this day, has the tickets from their performance at Municipal Stadium in 1965 here in beautiful KC, framed in my folks house.  The first concert I ever remember attending, was me and Mom at Paul McCartney at Arrowhead in 1992.  Like my mom, I share an irrational love of the Beatles.  Unlike my mom, I favor McCartney over John Lennon.

The commercial comes at 9:54pm.  I’d been flipping between ESPN (who had the game) and ABC.  (It was 1995 people; DVR – let alone pic in pic – didn’t exist.)

“Free As A Bird” would be the first Beatles song “released” in 25 years. 

My mom and I were calling each other at every commercial break.  We did for this one as well.

Barely thirty seconds in to the premiere of the single … the room next to me in Moncrief Hall went ape-sh*t crazy.  The two people who resided next to me, were both from KC.

I missed Todd McNair fumbling a draw play, designed to run out the clock, that Mark Collins scooped up, to win the game for the Chiefs.

I have NEVER forgiven myself, for missing that play.

And I never will.

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

1995’s ending was brutal.  Brutally cold, and brutally awful – Lin Elliott missed three field goals, the Chiefs lost the first of the three “13-3 and crap out at home” divisional round games, to the Colts 7-10 on one of the coldest days in Arrowhead’s history.

2003’s book-ending to the Colts, another “13-3 and crap out at home” divisional round defeat, was just brutal, a 31-38 loss in which neither team launched a punt.

At least it was decent for that January defeat – in the low 50s.

Then again, it truly was the last game at Arrowhead, as I’d grown to know it, as a loss in life far greater than a defeat on the football field, awaited before 2004 really even got underway.

To this day, when the Chiefs make their clinching stand … or reach the moment that defeat is inevitable, I still close my eyes, picture Randy either (in victory) ecstatically or (in defeat) bitterly, turning around and shouting “You ready, Nance?”, the cue to head for the exits.

Ali MacGraw’s character in “Love Story”’s famous quote was “love means never having to say that you’re sorry”.  I’ve never agreed with that sentiment, even if I love that movie irrationally.  (Note: the fact it is at least partly based on Mr. and Mrs. Gore’s early years together, may have something to do with that irrational love of it.)

I’ve always been a Luther Ingram person.

“If loving you is wrong?

I don’t want to be right!”

Because 1995 hurt.  2003 really hurt.  October 5, 2004, is one of the darkest days of my life, the day Randy chose to check out of this life, and the Chiefs “marriage” I’d known ceased to exist in its' original form for good.

But 1997? 

Hurt the most of all. 

We'll come back to it in a few paragraphs. 

Because “Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year!”

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

The Gunther years.

Look it, nobody, and I mean nobody, was more ecstatic when Carl Peterson chose long-time defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, to replace Marty Schottenheimer in January 1999, as the head coach of the Chiefs.

Or the husband in this "marriage", if you will.

(Because God knows, the Chiefs make you feel like Nicole Brown Simpson 92.43% of the time.)

The day Gun was officially hired, I was fresh out of college, was working for a division of Rubbermaid as a customer service rep.  My job basically was to drive all over Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, and get yelled at all day.  Good times!

The day Gun was officially hired, I was leaving beautiful – and man, do I use that term as liberally as it can be used – beautiful Lyons, Kansas, when the radio station I was listening to, interrupted some craptacular classic rock block of tunes, to carry the presser.

I had to pull over onto the shoulder of US 50, I was crying so hard in joy, at Gunther getting the gig.

Gunther Cunningham as head coach, was a win for the common fan.  It was a victory for the guy who gives everything he has for something, and then attains it.

The Gunther years taught me one very painful lesson in this “relationship”:

You can't make people do, what they don't know how to do.

1999 ended so damned painfully, the Y2K bowl defeat to the raiders, that cost the Chiefs a division title, cost them a playoff berth that, to this day, I believe would have resulted in a Super Bowl appearance … but January 2, 2000 was more than just a defeat.

It’s the moment this “marriage”, hit its first true crisis moment.

Because for the first time, one side of the “relationship”, didn’t know what to do. 

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

To be fair, the Chiefs knew change had to occur.  The ten year experiment had failed.

Unfortunately, the experiment saw year eleven.

The 2000 season was a disaster.  A 7-9 debacle that saw a 5-3 start devolve into a 2-6 finish, and saw the door close on the Cunningham years, when Gun showed up for work the day after the season began ended, and learned by reading the Star online, that he’d been fired.

It led to this classic Carl Peterson moment, as he escorted Gun out of One Arrowhead Drive:

(carl) How you feeling, Gun?
(gunther) How do I look, standing in front of you?
(carl) Confident.  And classy.

If a “relationship”, if a “marriage”, if a “partnership” can jump the proverbial shark?

That moment leapt said shark by 450 feet.

Gunther was replaced by Dick Vermeil.  I hated the hire then; I hate it even more in hindsight.  It was a pathetic, blatant cash grab by Ol’ Dick, Ol' Carl*, the Chiefs organization, and was the benchmark of cronyism at its finest, by Mr. Peterson.

When Richard A. Vermeil was hired, my season ticket cost $39.

When Richard A. Vermeil retired for a third time, my season ticket cost $73.

For that nearly 100% increase in cost, I got literally nothing.  Literally nothing.  One playoff season, one humbling defeat to the Colts once the playoffs began.  Mr. Vermeil’s successor, accomplished in sixteen games, what he did in eighty.

And yet, I kept coming back.  I kept the faith.  Hell, I sold out so hard-core for this team, “The Plea” happened.

Why?

Come on.  We all know why.

“Oh, how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year.”

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(*: no, I don't get the sudden desire to use Ol' to describe people either.  I probably was in a Wal-Mart, saw some Ol' Roy, and got it stuck in my head.  Folks, I'm not all here sometimes.  (dusty voice) no sh*t, Sherlock.)

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

Herman Edwards was hired as the Chiefs ninth head coach, on January 9, 2006.

For the second time in six years, I spent a January weekday crying with joy, over who my team hired, as it’s head coach.

You will never find a bigger defender of Herm Edwards, than me.  Part of it is the Jets fan in me – my 1A team, traded for my 1B team’s coach.

Part of it was disgust over the previous five years, and relief that they were over.

Hell, I was so into the Herm hiring, that Stevo’s Site Numero Dos was “The Herm”.  The damned site’s link was hermshomie.blogspot.com.  (It’s gone-zo folks … although there are a few posts from that site, I wish I’d kept before deleting the thing, and starting this thing of ... uuh ... well, whatever this thing is.  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Yeah, good point; I did already reference Carl Peterson.

This site?  Is pure class.  Except without the C, and without the L.  Now THAT'S a motto to be proud of! (rimshot)!)

The opener in 2006 saw a rematch of the finale of 2005: Bengals at Chiefs.  What a perfect way to begin an era that I truly believed, would pay off with the ultimate reward.

The lesson?  As always, I’m a blanking idiot.

And yet, there were moments in 2006, that you could believe.

The rally from “holy moly, Trent Green is dead!  As in, he just died on that field DEAD!” in the opener, to “holy cow, the donkeys lost!  At home!  To the 49ers!  We’re in!  We’re in!” in the finale, was one helluva ride.  All it did was reinforce everything I believed in, with this team.

My favorite moment from 2006, honestly? 

As usual, it wasn't from the game itself.

6:06am, on the Sunday morning of the Chargers game (which would have been late October).  I’m at the Price Chopper off Johnson Drive and K7, getting some last minute tailgating items.  (Fine -- I was buying tomato juice, celery, and Worchestire sauce, for the bloody mary's.)  My phone rings.  It’s Dusty.

Generally speaking, if your phone rings before 8am or after 10pm? 

It ain't to shoot the sh*t.  It's to deal with sh*t.

In the mother of all upsets (note: employ sarcasm voice for those previous six words), the Eclipse wasn’t firing.  So, Dusty asked, would I mind swinging by to pick him up for the game?

Thirty minutes out of my way.  The complete opposite way of how I went to the First Church of Arrowhead in those days.

My response?  “I’ll be in your driveway at 7:30.  If you aren’t there, your ass gets left.”

Dusty was on The Deck, when we pulled in, a little before 7:30.

Knowing that guy?

He was on The Deck, within two minutes, of making his pick-up request.

The reason I mention that?  Is because it's the first time I ever had this crazy concoction that was DJ's contribution to the tailgate.  A little thing he calls "Taco Soup".

God, how I miss – and remember ...

... the way love felt in (yester) year.

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

2007, another enigma of a season.

I went with some good friends to the opener in Houston.  The Chiefs got demolished 20-3 on one of the strangest weather days I’ve ever witnessed. 

2007 saw the Chiefs open 0-2, climb to 4-3 … and then begin “The Losing Streak”, coming out of the bye week, that would see the Red and Gold go winless for 345 days.

2007 saw my current tailgating group disintegrate, as it split into two factions over … well, petty sh*t, but so be it.

Entering 2008, I was braced for the most difficult year of this “marriage” to date.  Year Twenty Two, figured to be its’ worst.

And in many regards, it was.  For only the second time in franchise history, the Chiefs failed to win three games in a season.  For the first time in franchise history, my long stated belief that “I can live with 1-15 every year, so long as the 1 is denver at home”?  Was put in play.

But if 2008 hammered anything home?

It’s that, in the words of Martina McBride, I was "wrong again".

I didn’t need 1-15, with the 1 being denver at home, to still care about this team, to still make this relationship function.  Because the Chiefs delivered that 1, an epic, “stir the echoes” victory over denver to close out September.  To this day, it’s one of my three or four favorite games, I’ve ever attended. 

But I was wrong.

I don’t need one and fifteen, with the one being denver at home, for this indentured servitude to continue.

I need more than that.

Because “oh, how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year.”

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

Carl Peterson stepped down before the home finale in 2008.

Fittingly, the home finale in 2008, is the only game that counts, that I’ve missed*/** at Arrowhead in the last ten years.

The Carl Peterson (and Herm Edwards) era closed with a defeat to the Miami Dolphins, in a game where it was -10 at kickoff.  (Note: if the Chiefs are 1-13, and its’ -10 out?  I ain’t going.  I can tolerate some “spousal” abuse, but that’s just cruel and unusual punishment.)

Carl Peterson owned twenty years of this relationship.  For twenty years, his every move affected me, and thousands of others, in the Kingdom.

Every Chiefs fan I know – including, if I’m being honest, myself – wasn’t sorry to see Carl step down.

But as Metallica noted so brilliantly in "King Nothing":

"Careful what you wish, you may regret it.
Careful what you wish -- you just might get it!"

Because nothing – nothing! – would test “how love felt in (junior) year”, like the Scott Pioli era.

And Lord, did the chorus to that classic Metallica effort, ever describe Scott Pioli.

"Then it all crashes down,
And you break your crown.
And you point your finger,
But there's no one around.

You just want one thing --
To just play the king.
But your castle's crumbled,
And your left with just your name.

Where's your crown, King Nothing?"

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(*: I do not count the Steelers Sunday nighter in 2011, as a miss.  I was there for at least part of tailgating, before succumbing to one of the worst stomach flu viruses, I've ever beaten.)

(**: I forgot about the next Miami home game, in 2011, when my flight home from (ironically) Miami, was delayed.  So I've missed two officially, in ten years.  I'll apologize for neither.)

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

The Pioli era.  How to put years twenty three through twenty six into proper perspective.  Let's see.  (Stevo putting on his thinking cap.)  Ooh!  Got it!

If my allegiance to this franchise was a TV show?

Scott Pioli would be the introduction of the random wacky new cast member, to shake things up, out of fear that things had become stale, old, unwatchable.

Those hires, rarely go well.  “NYPD Blue” is my favorite show of all time, but to this day, I continue to pretend the show never happened in seasons seven and eight, because of Rick Schroder’s Danny Sorenson character.  “Friday Night Lights” is my second favorite show of all time, but I swear to God, the “Landry murders Tyra’s rapist” season never happened.  “Lost” is my third favorite show of all time, but I swear to God, episodes two to six of season three never happened. 

Scott Pioli was the Danny Sorenson, the Tyra’s rapist, the Nicki and Paolo, of the Chiefs.

Everything was wrong, no matter how much I wanted it to be right.

And yet, I kept coming back.  For one very specific reason:

“Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year”.

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The thing with introducing the wacky, one-off character to a television show, is that it is guaranteed to do one of two things.

Either (a) it craps out so spectacularly, that the show is finally cancelled … or (b) it craps out so spectacularly, that the producers and writers realize “oh crap, we’re getting cancelled if this keeps up!”, and the long-needed changes to the stale, mundane, old, tired scripts get done.

Once you go the wacky addition route, one of those two things, will happen every time.  It might take a few years to get there and see which outcome is attained, but you're guaranteed to have either (a) or (b) occur eventually.

If you love the show, you root for (b).  You root for the creators and writers and production staff, to "get it".

Steven Bochco got it on “Blue” – out went Danny Sorenson, in came John Clark Junior (played by Mark Paul Gosselaar), and I’d argue “Blue” was rarely better than it was, in its final season … four years after Rick Schroder was (tastefully) killed off by a Russian-mob fronted strip club owner.

Jason Katims got it on “FNL” – when the show returned from the writers strike after season two?  Season two never happened.  Ignore the elephant in the room.  I'd argue "FNL" was never better than its fourth season, but the fifth was pretty damned solid, in its own right.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof got it on “Lost” – Nicki and Paolo were killed off in a hysterically funny season three midseason episode; they convinced ABC to let them set an end date three years down the line, and delivered three amazing, incredible seasons of television, none better than season five, which truly didn't have a single episode in it, that feels like a filler or throw-away episode, even if they were.

It took three years, for Chiefs owner Clark Hunt to "get it".  It took three years, for (a) or (b) to win out, three years of painful suffering, of painful denial, of questioning my sanity, to continuing to love unconditionally a team that didn't give a damn about we the fans.

Mr.'s Bochco, Katims, Cuse, and Lindehof needed the Nielsen ratings, to "get it".

It took "The Blackout", to open Clark Hunt's eyes.

Because after that game?  Like QB1 Saracen in the brilliant pilot episode of "Friday Night Lights", Mr. Clark's eyes were open.

His eyes were WIDE open.

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The Blackout.

October 28, 2012.

The Chiefs limped into a national TV game against the hated and despised oakland raiders at 1-5.  They had literally not led for a single second of time, up to that moment in the season.  We were the punching bag of the league.  The red-headed stepchild yet again, not even three and a half years after bottoming out with the worst record in franchise history.  Not even three and a half years later, we were WORSE.  And noticeably so.

Not just four years, but twenty years, of frustration finally reached it's breaking point during the bye week. 

Chiefs fans, are like how I am personally.  I'll absorb a lot.  I'll roll with the punches for awhile.  But eventually, too many hurts, too many insults, too many wrongs pile up, and I blow.  And once Mount Stevo blows, it gets UGLY.  Fast.

Our eruption, our emotional breaking point, was The Blackout.

You couldn't mistake it.  Marv Albert and Steve Tasker spent the entire fourth quarter, commenting on how Arrowhead "was like a funeral" that evening.  And in many regards, they were right.  This team was dead to so many fans who, like me, had poured twenty, twenty five, thirty years of passion and love and dedication into this relationship. 

"It's like a funeral in (Arrowhead), Marv!"

Games weren't a privilege anymore.  Games weren't something I looked forward to.  After twenty six years, my relationship with the Chiefs was strained, to say the least.

Thousands of Chiefs fans wore black that day.  I was not one of them. 

I did wear black for Cincinnati.  I did wear black for denver.

But I still cared too much for this team, to wear black on raider Sunday.

"It's like a funeral in (Arrowhead), Marv!"

And maybe to those fans, it was.

But one thing kept me invested in the "special" relationship with the organization that calls One Arrowhead Drive home.

"Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year."

Then came "the moment of truth".

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9:32am, Saturday, December 1, 2012.

The late, great George Peppard, in his role of a lifetime as Colonel Hannibal Smith on "The A-Team", once noted that "it's always darkest just before it goes pitch black".  By that, he meant that before things truly bottomed out and could begin to turn around, something horrific, terrifying, and horrible had to occur, to top everything else in the downward descent.  There had to be that moment, when things truly could not by any stretch of any imagination, get worse.  That this was as bad as it could possibly get.

That moment occurred, at 9:32am, on that Saturday morning, the dawning of the twenty seventh year of this "love affair", via a text from my brother.

Those of you who know me, know that I do not believe in coincidence.  This affair began twenty six years ago, against the denver broncos.  For many fans, including myself, it was all but officially over, after a defeat the previous week to the denver broncos, who rolled into Arrowhead and held the Chiefs for a fifth straight home game, without a touchdown.

When it came to this team, I had reached my emotional breaking point.  I did not believe it could possibly get worse.  I had already made the decision to cancel my second ticket.  I was seriously contemplating cancelling mine.  I thought this team had sunk to lows unimaginable.

I could not have been more wrong.

It was about to go darkest ...

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"Get on Twitter!  NOW!" -- the text message from my brother.

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Over the next ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, the news filtered out.  Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, fresh off a night spent partying in Power and Light, drove to the house he shared with his fiance, his one year old daughter, and his mother.  It is a house I have driven past many times.  It is a house not even a mile, from where my tailgating group meets up, to board The Bus for each home game.  Mr. Belcher walked in the door, argued with his fiance, then coldly shot her eight times in the chest, before leaning down to kiss her forehead goodbye.  He then drove to Arrowhead, demanded a meeting with his coaches, and turned the gun on himself.

Two senseless killings in the span of an hour.

It sucks, it truly sucks, that it took THAT, to hammer the point home.  It sucks, it truly sucks, that it took the relationship turning to it's darkest moment, in order to reach the pitch black rock bottoming out, that every relationship is destined to have happened at some point.  The moment when you have to decide which road to take -- stick it out and work on it, or hitting the Rage Against the Machine Memorial "F*ck it, cut the cord!" moment, when you throw your hands up in disgust, and move on, bitter, broken, and full of hate and anger, over the injustice the other side of the relationship, did to you.

I remember doing the pregame shopping for tailgating with Mona, and we stopped in at the Dirty Bird for a late lunch / early happy hour, and met up with Josh and Katie.  "The Ex"'s question to me, was one that demanded an answer, that I didn't have yet.

"So, are you showing up in black tomorrow?"

Arrowhead Nation rendered its' verdict the next day.

The Sea of Red returned.  

But more importantly, for the first time in a long, long time, something else happened -- not just for me, but for so many thousands of Chiefs fans.

We finally remembered, the way love felt in (junior) year.

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You will notice, there is one season conspicuously absent, in the (carry the two ...) last sixteen pages I've written.

1997.

My Junior Year at Texas Christian University.

1997 wasn't as memorable, or as magical, as 1995 was in this "special friendship" with the Chiefs.  There was no Tamarick Vanover punt return touchdown in overtime, to beat the defending AFC champions.  There was no James Hasty interception for a touchdown in overtime, to beat hated rival oakland.  There was no Mark Collins scoop up touchdown, of a fumble former Chief Todd McNair inexplicably committed, to beat the Oilers as time expired.  There weren't three straight overtime home wins, there wasn't a Steve Bono offtackle for 73 yards and the touchdown, there was no undefeated run through the division, like in 1995.

None of those things happened.

Something greater did.

November 16, 1997.

The moment this relationship went from "soul mates" ... to what my parents have been ever since the first time they met* -- partners for life.

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(*: this is an abject lie.  My mom was so impressed with my dad the first time they met, she gave him a fake name and phone number.  (Pause).  I suppose this is where every person reading this chimes in with "oh great, if your dad hadn't given up, I wouldn't be wasting my trip to the "second office" reading this right now!" blast.  Well true ... but then again, if some (probably) libation-induced fun over spring break in 1976 hadn't occurred, you wouldn't have to read this either.  Wait -- that doesn't benefit me, does it?  God above, this whole self-deprecating humor crap sucks!)

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

Week Twelve.  broncos at Chiefs, high noon, Arrowhead Stadium.

A cold, windy day.  A brutally cold, windy day.  Barely twenty degrees at kickoff, the winds howling through the lower bowl.

For fifty eight minutes and thirty some odd seconds, the denver broncos dominated the Chiefs.  john elway was sacked with 1:23 to play at the Chiefs 16.  For the sixth time that day, the broncos were in the red zone.  For the sixth time, they left it with points on the board.  For the fifth time, those points came via a jason elam field goal, this one a 34 yard attempt.

With exactly 1:06 to play, the donkeys had reclaimed the lead at 22-21.  The Chiefs were out of timeouts.  The offense had literally done nothing all day.  Rich Gannon had thrown for 52 yards at this point.  That is not a typo -- 52 blanking yards.  The running game hadn't hit the century mark either, hovering slightly under 100 yards gained.  So when Tamarick Vanover (who had more punt and kick return yards, than the Chiefs did on offense) was tackled at the Chiefs 27 with exactly one minute to play, there wasn't much reason for optimism.  There was nothing -- not one damned reason -- to expect what happened next.

Because what happened next?

Is why I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year.

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

:10 remaining.  The Chiefs have reached the denver 38, thanks to two clutch catches.  It's second down, after Rich Gannon spikes the ball on first down.  Both sides huddle.  The defining moment of the game has arrived.  The Chiefs need a few more yards to have any chance at the field goal; with the wind in his face, there was no way Pete Stoyanovich was hitting anything outside of 50.

The teams break huddle, and Rich Gannon notices something he never saw coming, and frankly, no one else did too.  On the NBC broadcast, Paul Maguire notices it too.

The donkeys have single covered Andre Rison, and there is no safety support.  Greg Robinson (yes, THAT Greg Robinson), the broncos defensive coordinator, has just committed a gigantic gaffe.  Gannon, seeing the mistake, tries to audible out of the play call, to change the play to Rison instead of the intended receiver (which I assume was Lake Dawson).

Just one problem: that pesky, grizzled ol' veteran named "play clock".  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Boom.

Delay of game.  Five yard penalty.  Talk about a gaffe!  Forget the screw-up by Greg Robinson -- Gannon's inability to see the play clock hit zeroes, has offically taken the Chiefs out of field goal range.  Now they're at the denver 43, and I don't care how good a kicker you are, not even sebastian janikowski is drilling it into a 25mph wind from 61 yards out.

A very deflating feeling, to be certain.

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"Let's go back to this!" -- Paul Maguire, on the NBC broadcast.

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Incredibly, despite the Chiefs on the prior play signaling to denver that they'd diagnosed the coverage, despite the Chiefs doing everything short of sending a telegram to the broncos coaching staff that "your defense cannot stop this play", the donkeys AGAIN line up in man coverage, with Andre Rison matched up one on one with the corner.

This time, there's no delay of game, because there's no play call to change.  The Chiefs line up in formation, this time certain where the pass is going.

:09 -- Gannon throws, complete, to Andre Rison at the broncos 41.
:05 -- Rison steps out of bounds, to stop the clock, at the broncos 36.

So let me let you in, on a little secret, for the next time you watch a game with me, be it at Arrowhead or your watching party.

It is tradition, that when a major kick to aid or harm the Chiefs occurs, I hit my knees and pray.  It's symbolic, because obviously it does no good.  (Plus, let's be honest here -- God isn't exactly my biggest fan, and vice versa.)  It usually draws a laugh or three from people not used to seeing it.  I hit my knees, as if lighting the candle in prayerful reverence, then cross myself, before bowing my head and closing my eyes, and letting the crowd or the noise on the television, let me know what happened.

What few realize, is that this kick about to be launched ...

... is what started the tradition.

"Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year."

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All these years later, it isn't the kick that makes me cry.

Oh, don't get me wrong -- I did cry when that wounded duck, that line drive knuckleball of a kick that barely cleared the offensive line, and then somehow, someway, barely cleared the goalpost.  And I mean CRIED.  Even the late, great Randall Carlyle Wakefield, was crying.

We'd done it.  We'd beaten the donkeys.  The Chiefs now sat one back with six to play, and denver still had to travel to Pittsburgh and San Francisco (the two teams who hosted the title games that year).

That's not what makes me cry.

What makes me cry, is the reaction afterwards ... specifically one player's, to what just happened ...

... and a second player's reaction, to what the first one, said.

"Oh how I remember,
The way love felt in (junior) year."

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Nobody left.  That's the amazing thing.  NOBODY left.  The party had just begun, and nobody wanted it to be over.

Normally after a game, no matter how big the win, the stadium empties.  Not this time.  NOBODY left.

Down on the field, NBC sideline reporter Jim Gray had snagged Pete Stoyanovich for an interview, to discuss what had just happened.  Standing next to Mr. Stoyanovich, was the man whose catch made that moment possible, Andre Rison.

Mr. Rison had already saved the season, in week two at oakland, with the 33 yard touchdown with :03 left, to beat the raiders 28-27.

He knew that fact.  Pete Stoyanovich knew that fact.  Every Chiefs fan knew that fact.

It was high damned time, the entire nation, knew that fact.

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

About halfway through the interview, someone at Arrowhead puts through the live feed onto the old Jumbotrons.  Arrowhead literally falls silent, when they realize what they're watching.  It's an eerie feeling, and the only thing I can think of, to put it into context, is if you've ever been to the Indy 500.  300,000 plus, most hammered already before noon (hey, that's me!), noisy as hell, going dead silent as "Taps" begins to play.

Arrowhead went dead silent, when Jim Gray asked the question.

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It's not the question that makes me cry.

In fact, if you go back and listen to the interview, there are a few boos and angry shouts from the stands, for what the question asked.

As much as I hate Jim Gray?

He was like Ricky Bottalico on the mound, with the bases loaded, in the top of the ninth, for the 2001 Royals. 

He was about to have his pitch, his question, taken to (reggie jackson voice) second f*cking base.

Because the answer, started round two of the tears in the stands.

And explains why I will never forget, and always remember,

"The way love felt in (junior) year."

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(Note: I tried my damndest to upload the audio I have as a mp3, of this interview.  Blogger doesn't allow it on copyright grounds.  You'll just have to take my word for what came next ... or ask me to email you, the mp3.  Oh, and hell yes, it's going in the rotation list, for Mixology on December 1st.)

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"Do you think this kick saved the Chiefs season?" -- Jim Gray.
"I don't think it saved the season.  I didn't know this season needed to be saved!  We just keep rolling from here!" -- Pete Stoyanovich.

The "f*ck you" defiance of "Pete for President", drew the loudest response of the day from the crowd, up to that moment.

The next comment?  The response was louder.

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"I love you man!" -- Andre Rison, as he man-hugged Pete in jubilation of what had just happened.

"I love you man!"

Or, to put it another way?

"Oh how I remember!
The way love felt in (junior) year ..."

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Eight weeks later, the broncos returned the favor, this time stopping the Chiefs on a late drive, to hold onto a 14-10 win, in the single most disappointing, most depressing, most offensive outcome I've ever had the misfortune to endure.

It's been sixteen years.  For sixteen years, Chiefs fans, we have waited -- impatiently, and often angrily -- for one crack at undoing the shame of that cold January evening. 

Sixteen years we've been waiting, for a team good enough to beat anyone, anywhere, anyplace, like that 1997 Chiefs team was.

There have been some memorable games between the Chiefs and broncos since then -- the 17 point comeback to close down Real Mile High in 2000, the Dante Hall kick return in 2003, "The Stand" in 2005, Thanksgiving night in 2006.

Sixteen years we've been waiting, for a team good enough, to pay those bastards back.

I believe, we finally have one.

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Sunday night, the lone remaining unbeaten team in the National Football League, rolls into the second most intimidating venue they'll play in this season, to face the best opponent they will face all season.

They will take the field as a nine point underdog.  They will take the field knowing nobody expects them to win.  They will take the field having heard for two straight weeks about how this season is a fluke, how reality is now going to rise up and bite them in the ass.  How peyton manning is unstoppable.  How great eric decker, demaryous thomas, and wes welker are.  How intimidating fake mile high is.  They'll have heard every waking moment for two straight weeks, that they're not good enough.

And some people -- indeed, I would wager a majority of people -- are going to agree with that line of reasoning.

But folks?  I would ask you to consider the alternative.

What if the Chiefs really ARE this good?

And what if the broncos, aren't?

And what if Sunday night, swings the momentum to the Chiefs side, validates everything about them ... the way exactly sixteen years ago, on this very weekend, did?

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This Week's "Screw You Pete King" Upset O' The Week?

The five words all these previous 4,000 some odd, have led up to.

Because this week's Upset O' The Week?

(stevo in his meanest, angriest, grizzly bear voice) Take a mother f*cking guess.

Sunday night?

Do one thing.

And only one.

Remember the way love felt, for the first time, on December 7, 1986.  Remember how love felt new all over again, on December 2, 2012, twenty six years later.  Remember how love felt on October 17, 1994, the greatest Monday Night Football game ever played.

Remember how love felt on November 16, 1997.

Most importantly, remember how love felt on January 4, 1998.

Because that one, is what this season is now about.

Remember how love felt, in (junior) year.

* Chiefs (+9) 23, at broncos 22, in honor of the final match played at Real Mile High.

And come next Sunday?

Be at least one in the crowd,
Screaming "Go Chiefs Go!"

Remember how love felt,
THIS year ...

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