Sunday, March 5, 2017

2016 chiefs in review part dos: bests, worsts, and "the dream schedule"

“Life ain’t always beautiful;
Sometimes it’s just plain hard.
Life can knock you down --
It can break your heart.

Life ain’t always beautiful.
You think you’re on your way,
But it’s just a dead end road,
At the end of the day.

But the struggles?  Make you stronger.
And the changes?  Make you wise.
And happiness?  Has it’s own way,
Of taking it’s own sweet time.

No, life ain’t always beautiful,
And tears will fall sometimes.
Life ain’t always beautiful --
But it’s a beautiful ride! …”


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In case you missed Part One of the 2016 Chiefs Season in Review, you can click here to access it.  (Warning: it’s a long, long read.  This part … will probably be shorter.)

Here now is Part Two of the Chiefs Season in Review -- my favorite (best) moments, my least favorite (worst) moments, and The Dream 2017 Schedule.

Part Three will be Professor Stevo’s Grades; Part Four will be Ten Moves I Want the Chiefs to Make this Offseason.  And if there’s a Part Five?  Even better.  But not likely.  I have exactly one week to knock these three parts out before Selection Sunday hits … and given that you’ve gotten one post out of me since Election Day, this could be a challenge.

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The Best Game (Quality): Week Twelve at those people.

Even if the Chiefs had lost that game, I have to admit the Captain Oats in the room -- that was one fun battle.  You had everything leading up to about three minutes to go in overtime.  You had the Chiefs scoring via every scoring play imaginable -- a safety, a kick return, a couple extra points, a field goal, a 90 yard touchdown drive to score as time nearly expired, and the two pointer to tie.  And now you’ve traded field goals with those people in the extra session, and they’re lined up to attempt a 65 yard-ish field goal try to win.  Even if that sucker goes in, it’s still the highest quality game, start to finish, the Chiefs delivered all season.  The fact that those people's kicker's attempt missed, and the Chiefs staged yet another last minute drive -- to win on “The Doink” to boot as time expired! -- only adds to a game that had long before clinched this nomination.

Honorable Mention: Week Three vs Jets.  Eight turnovers!  Eight!  Every time the Jets touched the ball, they coughed it up!  (Or so it seemed.)  Throw in my "wait, he actually likes this?" weather conditions for football (70s and light rain * ), coupled with a national TV audience in the stand-alone late afternoon slot, the whole day was just spectacular.

(*: I’ll always prefer 85ish and sunny for football.  Or any outdoor sporting event, for that matter.  Warm enough to potentially enjoy “The Perfect Stevo Day”, which involves my feet propped up, my ass in my chair, cold beer in my coozie, and my t-shirt and Birkenstocks nowhere in sight.  But 70s and light rain is pretty damned cool.  It’s warm enough that the rain / drizzle feels really good on you … but not decrepit condition enough that the game is a slopfest.)

Worst Game (Quality): Week Four at Steelers.  Honestly, this is the only nominee.  The other four losses, the Chiefs lost by less than a possession, and lost due to their own ineptitude.  (Couldn’t find the end zone at Houston; threw costly pick in the end zone vs Tampa; stupidly iced an already frozen kicker vs Tennessee; "The Hold" or "The Conversion" vs Pittsburgh in the playoffs).  Everything about the Steelers game was a disaster from the start -- it was 22-0 before I’d even cracked open my second frosty cold Coors Light, for God’s sake, and it’s not like I nurse those suckers.

Dis-Honorable Mention: Week Fifteen vs Titans.  God above -- you get up 14-0 in negative nine actual temperatures, at home, and choke it away, to a kid from Hawaii, who had (and this is a true fact) never, prior to that day, played a game where the temperature was below forty?  Let alone below freezing?  Double let alone below zero?!?!?!?!

Best Game (Entertainment): Week Sixteen vs those people.  The Chiefs had not beaten those people ** at Arrowhead in six years.  The last time those people left Arrowhead as the defeated asshats they are, Josh McDaniels was coaching them.  (At least until the plane landed; he was fired immediately after that defeat.)  Since then, the Chiefs had dropped five straight, three of them in prime time, at home to those people.  To exercise the demons of five years, with the eyes of the entire nation upon us, on Christmas Night to boot, given that those people are affectionately referred to as “satan’s squad” by myself and a few fellow members of my tailgating crew … that was spectacular.

But to clinch the victory with “Fat” Andy’s ultimate double-middle finger “f*ck you!  No really -- f*ck you!” salute of having 350 pound Dontari Poe line up in the shotgun, the game already clinched, and use “The Tebow” against the team that employed him?  That was … well, to quote that chick from Seinfeld: “that was real, and it was spectacular!”

Or as I noted at The Bus afterwards: “that was f*cking awesome! (multiple fist pumps)!”

(**: for those who wonder why I refuse to even acknowledge the denver broncos exist, just know my hatred of those people is ... well, there's only two people in life I despise as much as those people, and go figure, one of those two people, is a fan of -- and her family (at last check) season ticket members of -- those people. But setting aside personal ill feelings -- I choose to refer to the denver broncos as "those people", because that is what General Lee always referred to the Union soldiers opposing him as -- "those people". He didn't want to dignify his opponent with a shred of respect towards them. I feel the same way, about "those people" in the mile high city.)

Honorable Mention: Week Nine vs Jaguars.  Any time you can have your tight end ejected for imitating a ref -- and using his flag as a prop to boot -- it’s quality entertainment.  When you can double down on that with your stud cornerback, upon recovering a fumble in the end zone, “punting” the ball into the stands in celebration, and the refs don’t even flag it, they’re either (a) too clueless it occurred or (b) too awe-struck at how awesome that spontaneous celebration was?  (Note: I lean (b).)  That’s entertainment the likes of which you have to go to a shack in the corn fields in unincorporated Douglas County, to compare it to.

Worst Game (Entertainment): Week Two at Houston.  I was there.  Trust me -- every f*cking moment of that day sucked.  Including the lovely afternoon deluge that made the Sam Houston a f*cking parking lot trying to get out of town, back to the Metroplex afterwards *** .

(***: seriously Houston, I love you.  No really -- I do.  You’re at worst my fourth preferred place to live in this fine country we call home (behind the Metroplex, Kansas City, and either tied or ahead of Tampa / St. Pete.)  You're also the home base to a sixteen / seventeen year old clone of, uuh, sixteen / seventeen year old me. But seriously Houston -- enter the 1880s already.  Build a curb or six in your lovely metropolis.  Or at least put drains on the side of the freeways, since most of them are elevated anyway.)

Dis-Honorable Mention: Week Fifteen vs Titans.  Four minutes of fun followed by fifty six minutes of “wait, what’s happening here / how is this happening / what the f*ck is he thinking?” horror and regret.  

Or, how you’d describe a typical hookup with your Friday night pickup at The Eclipse (rimshot!)


Worst Play: “The Conversion”, Divisional Round vs Steelers.

The two most talented Chiefs teams of this century, were the 2003 squad, and this past season’s squad.  Both hosted a divisional round playoff game against a team that, despite an inferior record, was probably the better team.  Both staged one hell of a battle against that probably superior opponent.

And both games ultimately came down, to a 3rd down, deep in their opponent’s territory, with the game on the line.

In 2003, it was a 3rd and 6 that Marvin Harrison got 6 and two inches on, that sealed the Chiefs 38-31 defeat to the Colts, in the last game of The Chiefs Experience as I -- and many of you -- knew it to be.

This year, it was a 3rd and 3, that Antonio Brown turned a quick out into seven yards, to seal the defeat.

If the Chiefs had held there -- and to be honest, it’s the second down play that hurt more, when the Steelers gained five on a play that if DJ was healthy, would have been an incompletion, because God love him, Steven Nelson is no Derrick Johnson -- if the Chiefs had held on that third down, then the Steelers are punting from their goalline coming out of the two minute warning.  The Chiefs likely get the ball at midfield -- with no timeouts -- but only needing about twenty yards (factoring in wind and weather conditions) to attempt the game winner, thirty yards to feel confident about it.

If the Chiefs had held there, do you really think the team that stole a win at Carolina, stole a win at Atlanta, had two last minute drives to win inside hell itself on a Sunday night, had already staged the biggest comeback in franchise history to open the season -- you mean to tell me, if the Chiefs force the punt there, they DON’T get the twenty yards to give Pedro the chance to win the game?  

They would have.  They absolutely would have stolen that playoff game, had they held on third down.

(And if you’ll buy that?  I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free!)

Of every play this year that went against us -- this is the one that ended the season.  (“clue” voice) Antonio Brown, on the field, with the football.  The only way that could have been more fitting, is if his last name was a different color.  Say, Plum.  Or Green.  Or Scarlett.  Or White.  Or Mustard **** .

(****: please, dear God, tell me if you're reading this, you’ve at least played “Clue” before.  Also, is mustard a color, or a condiment?  The jury’s out on that one, I would think.)

Dis-Honorable Mention: “The Hold”, Divisional Round vs Steelers.

Yeah, it sucked.  

It also was without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! -- the right call to make.

Best Tailgate:

Damn.  This is tough.  (Pause).  There’s only one way to do this.

Let’s go to the … hang on, I have to do this properly.

(good ol’ jr voice) Good God!  Good God Almighty!  That’s the Tale O’ The Tape Voice!

In this corner, weighing in at approximately thirty tailgaters, is Week One against the Chargers!  And in this corner, weighing in at approximately forty tailgaters, is Week Fourteen against the raiders!

(jimmy lennon jr voice) It’s … SHOOOOOWWWWWWTIMMMMMMEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

As always -- Seven Questions of Great Significance.  Three Possible Outcomes.  Two Contestants.  One Winner.

Question One: did Breckenridge Distillery provide over $600 in alcohol cost-free to use at said tailgate, in exchange for … actually we’re not quite sure, why Breckenridge Distillery provided over $600 in alcohol cost-free, for use at said tailgate.

Chargers: no.
raiders: yes.
Winner: raiders.

Question Two: did McFadden’s at Power and Light provide $300 in gift cards to use at said establishment for a future away game, in exchange for … actually, we’re not quite sure, why McFadden’s at Power and Light provided $300 in gift cards to use at said establishment, for a future away game.

Chargers: yes.
raiders: no.
Winner: Chargers.

Question Three: is said opponent looking to flee its jurisdiction, screw over its fanbase, and pursue the almighty dollar, in a pathetic and embarrassing cash grab that should remind all fans that “this above all: to sinful, indefensible greed be true”?

Chargers: yes.
raiders: yes.
Winner: push.  We are all losers here.

Question Four: the traditional tailgating meal.

Chargers: chicken.
raiders: ribs.
Winner: raiders.  Although the chardonnay chicken isn’t a bad (this day and age voice) second place victory.

Question Five: the tailgating weather.

Chargers: high 70s, not a cloud in the sky.
raiders: mid 30s, windchill in the 10s.
Winner: Chargers.  Tents and t-shirts optional!

Question Six: (afroman voice) “Because I got high?  Because I got high?  Because I got high!

Chargers: yes.
raiders: yes.
Winner: push.  I’m the winner here.

So, as we reach Question Seven -- the Question of Great Significance -- tied at 2-2-2 between Chargers, raiders, and “push”, there can only be one winner.  And that winner is …

Question Seven: Not one, not two, not seven, but twelve great friends, made the trek down from Sioux Falls, to root on their team … and enjoy one awesome, epic weekend of friendship, family, and (fidelity ad guy voice) why not, fun, frivolity, tomfoolery, and hijinks?

Chargers: no.
raiders: yes.
Winner: Week Fourteen, vs raiders!!!  (kazoo voice) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I mean, if Adam Drey makes an appearance, what more needs to be said?

And … thanks for playing.

Worst Tailgate: Week Sixteen vs those people.  Not only was it Christmas Day (which led to a late arriving crowd), but you try putting multiple tents up when the wind is blowing at 65mph!  It SUCKED!  At least donkey got his pacifier.  That’s about the only thing worth remembering about that tailgate.

Dis-Honorable Mention: Week Eight at Colts.  Only mentioned because Colts fans were too nice to us obnoxious Chiefs fans.  I expected confrontation and rage.  Instead, I got “you guys are gonna kick our ass today … want a beer?” politeness and respect.

Wait -- how is this a dis-honorable mention?!?!?!

Best Player (Offense): Travis Kelce, TE.  When I get to the Professor Stevo Grades the Roster post, this will seem like utter hypocrisy … but in fairness to Mr. Kelce, he was the best player on the offensive side of the ball that occupied a skill position.

Honorable Mention (Offense): Mitch Morse, C.  If you’d told me two years ago the Chiefs wouldn’t even miss Rodney Hudson, I’d have laughed.  

Best Player (Defense): Eric Berry, S.  If any other player on defense even receives a first place vote, you should immediately check that voter’s sanity.

Honorable Mention (Defense): Marcus Peters, CB.  Had Derrick Johnson’s season not ended against the raiders in Week Fourteen, this slot would have been a coin flip between Mr. Peters and Mr. Johnson.

(Also, in the interest of full disclosure and complete honesty (neither of which I practice in real life), Mr. Peters is not only my favorite player on the roster ... I wear his jersey for damned near every game. I think this is an awful thing for Mr. Peters -- the last three players jerseys I wore during games were (in order) Derrick Thomas (died), Shawn Barber (sucked), and Derrick Johnson (can't stay healthy). (Pause). I think it's time to retire the 22 to the back end of my closet.)

Best Player (Special Teams): Tyreek Hill, PR/KR.  I hope this season -- especially off the field -- is a sign of what we will see for the rest of his life.  I pray it’s not the outlier.

Honorable Mention (Special Teams): Cairo Santos, K.  I have long said any kick outside of forty yards is a crapshoot.  I rarely if ever blame the kicker for a miss beyond forty.  (Thirty or less?  That’s a different story.  Even I drilled a thirty yarder at the NFL Experience (brantley gilbert voice) back in the day.  If I can drain it, what the hell is anyone’s excuse for missing?)

Mr. Santos was two for two beyond fifty this year.  He was six of seven from 40-49 yards out (and his only miss from beyond forty was at Pittsburgh, a game that was over before I was done with my first beer, for God’s sake).  He drilled game winners, on the road, against BOTH defending conference champions as time expired -- in regulation (at Carolina), and in overtime (at those people).  Let that sink in -- he nailed pressure, literal “season ending kicks” to BOTH defending Super Bowl teams, on the road, as time expired.  That at least earns you an Honorable Mention in the Bests and Worsts of 2016.

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With that, the Bests and Worsts draws to a close.  (If only because a lot of specific plays I want to use in the Professor Stevo Grades post, to defend why I praise or condemn a specific person.)

Part Two of, uuh, Part Two, is one of my favorite exercises in futility: The Stevo Dream Schedule!

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Acknowledging three givens up front:

  1. This will not be the Chiefs 2017 schedule.
  2. If I get more than two of these right, it’s a miracle.
  3. A kid can dream.

It’s (3) that inspires this exercise.  So let’s establish a few parameters, a few ground rules, going in, for the 2017 Dream Schedule:

  1. The Royals schedule does matter.  It’s highly likely that the Chiefs will be on the road Week One and Week Four due to that schedule … and said Royals schedule also influences at least one preseason “dream” matchup.  (Note: saying “dream matchup” and “preseason” in the same sentence, should be punishable by seven to twelve in the county slammer.)
  2. My travel schedule matters (at least for this bad boy).  I know going in that I am going to at least two roadies this fall (Cowboys, Texans ***** ), and am highly likely to attend a third (Jets).
  3. My work schedule also matters.  My job is currently in a state of transition, so I’m not sure what my reporting parameters come September will be, versus what they have been for the past seven years.  (I no longer report to Seattle effective April 1; I’m back under the Chicago wing of the company.)  I have been led to believe that the month-end deadlines will be more relaxed going forward.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  And most importantly
  4. The Chiefs rarely if ever play a team in the preseason they face in the regular season.  The last time I recall that occurring was 2011, when they closed the preseason at Green Bay, and hosted Green Bay in Week Fifteen.  So I draw the preseason opponents based on that reality.

Got it?  Good.  Here we go.

(*****: I never miss a regular season or playoff game involving the Chiefs in my adopted home state … unless the Chiefs play at Houston and at Dallas in such close proximity, it makes two trips financially impossible.  This has happened exactly once: 2005.  The Chiefs played at Houston on a Sunday Night right before Thanksgiving, then visited Dallas a couple weeks later.  I could afford one.  I chose Dallas.  Go figure -- the Chiefs blew out the Texans in the true “take off the diapers” game for Larry Johnson … and lost a crushing last second defeat to the Cowboys, to cripple 2005’s postseason chances.)

Preseason:

Week One: at Vikings, Saturday, August 12, 7pm CT (KCTV).
Week Two: vs Browns, Saturday, August 19, 7pm CT (KCTV).
Week Three: at Bears, Saturday August 26, 7pm CT (KCTV).
Week Four: vs Rams, Thursday, August 31, 7pm CT (KCTV).

Reasoning / Rationale: the only one that matters to me is Week Two.  The Royals host the Indians on August 19th.  GIve us a true Double Header Day for the first time since 2010, schedule gods!  Please!  Because few things in life make me happier than a fifteen hour extravaganza at the Sports Complex.

(Also, I’m not sure if the annual game with the Rams is still in effect or not, given their move to Los Angeles.  I assumed it was, for this exercise, given that we went to LA in the 2016 preseason.)

Regular Season:

Week One: at Texans, Sunday, September 10, 3:25pm CT (CBS).
Week Two: vs raiders, Monday, September 18, 7:25pm CT (ESPN).
Week Three: vs Dolphins, Sunday, September 24, noon CT (CBS).
Week Four: at Patriots, Sunday, October 1, 3:25pm CT (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: the Chiefs have opened their road schedule the last two years at Houston.  Why f*ck with what is working?  I love opening the home schedule in prime time against the raiders -- a battle for divisional supremacy right off the bat.  The Dolphins seem like a relatively “lower key” matchup, in between prime time against the raiders, and traveling to visit the defending Super Bowl champions with the nation watching.

There’s no reason the Chiefs can’t be 3-1 after the first quarter.  There’s no reason they should be worse than 2-2.  

Week Five: at “Super” Chargers, Sunday, October 8, 3:05pm CT (CBS).
Week Six: at Jets, Sunday, October 15, noon CT (CBS).
Week Seven: vs Eagles, Sunday, October 22, noon CT (FOX).
Week Eight: vs Bills, Sunday, October 29, noon CT (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: yes, this means four of the first six on the road.  So what?  Three of them are either very winnable, or the Chiefs are highly likely to be road favorites.  Then you close October with a couple of winnable home games against two decent squads you’d fear on the road … and should beat 30-20 at home.  This quarter of the "Dream Schedule" has 4-0 potential.

Week Nine: at Giants, Sunday, November 5, 3:25pm CT (CBS).
Week Ten: vs Steelers, Sunday, November 12, 7:25pm CT (NBC).
Week Eleven: bye.
Week Twelve: at Cowboys, Thursday, November 23, 3:25pm CT (CBS).
Week Thirteen: at those people, Sunday, December 3, 3:25pm CT (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: by far and away the toughest quarter of the schedule … but with some comfort built in.  The late bye essentially negates the penalty of playing on Thursday … and buys you additional time to prep for the annual entrance into the eighth layer of hell itself.  Chiefs / Steelers almost always is in prime time -- it’s about the most rock-solid guarantee on the schedule, actually: Steelers / Chiefs, in prime time.  The only question is what day does it occur -- Thursday, Sunday, or Monday.

Week Fourteen: vs Redskins, Sunday, December 10, noon CT (FOX).
Week Fifteen: vs “Super” Chargers, Sunday, December 17, noon CT (CBS).
Week Sixteen: vs those people, Monday, December 25, 7:25pm CT (ESPN).
Week Seventeen: at raiders, Sunday, December 31, 3:25pm CT (CBS).

Reasoning / Rationale: since the NFL loves scheduling three game home stands for the Chiefs in November or December (or intersecting the two months ****** ), in the words of the Fidelity Ad guy: “why not?”

Open the stretch run with the Redskins at home, in a sneaky good “maybe this one gets flexed” inter-conference matchup that could have major impact on both the NFC East and AFC West postseason participants.  Then what should be the easiest home game on the schedule -- a divisional rival with a fanbase it despises, and has turned its back on.  You want games like that, at home, in the home stretch.

Those of you who have read my “Dream Schedule” pieces before know I always schedule denver at Kansas City for Thanksgiving night.  And come next year, I will again.  But come on -- Christmas Night last year was damned fun, wasn’t it?  Let’s do it again when the opportunity presents itself!  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  No, that is NOT what I said to the last regrettable pickup at the Eclipse!  They’re regrettable for a reason!

Finally, since the NFL went to ending the season against a divisional opponent in 2010 (a move I strongly supported then, and would argue now is the single biggest credit to the Roger Goodell Error … I mean, Era, as commissioner), they have closed as follows: vs raiders / at broncos / at broncos / at Chargers / vs Chargers / vs raiders / at Chargers.

They have never closed at home against denver, or on the road against oakland, since this schedule shift began.  (They have done those things in the past -- memorably closing at home against denver in 1992 (a de facto playoff game the day after Christmas that the Chiefs not only won 42-20, and not only saw denver head coach dan reeves fired as a result of that outcome, but led to my favorite Kevin Harlan outburst as the Chiefs play-by-play announcer: “Not even Santa Claus can save the denver broncos today!”) and at the raiders in 1991 (decided who hosted the wild card game, Chiefs or raiders), 1994 (a de facto playoff game the day before Christmas, that the Chiefs won 19-9), 1998 (Marty’s final game as Chiefs coach, a Chiefs victory to end arguably the most disappointing season in franchise history), and 2002 (a raiders blowout played in a monsoon that gave them home field advantage, and led to their Super Bowl berth).)

So I’m banking on one of the two to happen this season … if only because both eventually will.  

I can think of worse places to spend New Year’s Eve, than in The Garage, with Rudy, Ian, Tom and Nicole, Adam, and whoever amongst you ventures up with me for that roadie.  (Note: I always go to Sioux Falls for the raiders road game, to enjoy it with the raiders fans who come here for their game against us, every year.  And Double Note: I cannot WAIT until that road trip … is a flight to Vegas, come two or three years from now.)

So there you go -- the Dream Schedule.  Zero prime time road games (although five are in the late afternoon national slot … and the fifth of them, is eligible for flexing to prime time to end the season).  Four prime time home games (which did happen once when the Chiefs lost a Divisional Round playoff game at home the season prior -- 1998.  The Chiefs opened at home against the raiders on Sunday Night, hosted Seattle on a Sunday Night (“The Rain Game”), hosted Pittsburgh on a Monday Night, and hosted denver on a Monday Night (“The Monday Night Meltdown”)).  

The third quarter stretch is by far the toughest -- 3 of 4 on the road, all 4 against regular playoff participants.  The second quarter is the easiest -- the two road games the Chiefs will be solid favorites in, and two very winnable home games -- all four games against teams that failed to get on the positive side of .500 in 2016.  (And in three of the four team’s cases, didn’t come within shouting distance of .500 last year.)

Hope Part Two of the look back at the 2016 Chiefs worked for you.  Part Three should be Professor Stevo’s Report Card.

Even odds Part Four or Five, will be a Fake Mailbag.

What can I say, other than the theme to this post not only defines what the 2016 Chiefs were?  But what this incredible gift of God known as “life”, is:

“(It) ain’t always beautiful --
But it’s a beautiful ride!”

As always, until next time: (sgt. esterhaus voice) “let’s be careful out there …”

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(******: you doubt me?  2009, three straight in December -- denver, Buffalo, Cleveland.  2010, three straight in December / January (counting playoffs) -- Tennessee, oakland, Baltimore.  2011, three straight in November -- San Diego, Miami, denver -- and four out of five, with Pittsburgh in prime time closing the month.  2012, three straight in November / December -- Cincinnati, denver, Carolina.  2014, three straight in November -- St. Louis, Jets, Seattle -- and four out of five, with denver in prime time closing the month.  2016, three straight in December -- oakland, Tennessee, and denver -- and four out of five (counting playoffs), with Pittsburgh in prime time to end the season.  I mention this, because it is f*cking cold in Kansas City far more often post-Halloween, than it is “unseasonably warm”, which makes those late season lengthy homestands “somewhat unpleasant” most of the time.)

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