Kansas City: Why Chiefs and Royals Fans Are America's Most Tortured

Brett GeringCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2012

Image created by Brett Gering
Image created by Brett Gering

At 2-12, the Kansas City Chiefs are the epitome of disappointment, and their die-hard supporters are the undisputed title holders of "league's most tortured" in 2012. But one stat proves that, dating back to 1985, Kansas City's fan base tops the list as America's most tortured.

Let's start with the obvious: fans are insane. 32 flavors of crazy, sprinkled with a wide assortment of nuts. 

Need proof? Look no further than the Californian elbow.

On Monday mornings, the souls that littered the parking lot of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 24 hours beforehand belong to 60,000 now-normal and functioning members of society. Throughout the workweek, the same group paints an eclectic picture with a wide-ranging color palette, ranging from black markets to white collars.

On Sunday mornings, those same doctors, teachers and police officers leave their Clark Kent personae at the door, swapping their button-ups for spiked shoulder pads.

The point is this: Seemingly normal people live double lives as rabid fans who are blindly loyal and deeply invested in their team(s). They make arguments as to why their club is the best of the best or the worst of the worst—it's all about recognition. 

When the last weekend sunrise introduces itself, minds of football fanatics—nationwide— kick into overdrive. Every tock of NFL clocks coincides with the tick of a potential verbal time bomb, quickly triggered by blown calls and costly turnovers.

The voice of reason is deafened by screams of a fan's inner adrenaline junkie who's surfing atop brainwaves dictated by the game's momentum.

There are plenty of loud stadiums throughout the league which seat thousands of judgmental megaphones every Sunday. However, when the Kansas City Chiefs are competitive, Arrowhead Stadium bench presses the bar of expectations. 

But when playoff aspirations go up in smoke, a lot of tailgaters pack up the grill and spray their vehicle's red flag with a coat of white. Such was—and still is—the case in 2012. 

Arrowhead's ticket holders entered this season with high hopes. 13 weeks and 11 losses later, optimism has flipped to masochism, as the team's only buzz-worthy lead stems from the 2013 draft. 

By season's end, 30 other fan bases will join the pity party and insist that the other attendees don't share the same level of gut-wrenching pain. 

But for the past quarter-century, other cities' sympathy-fueled complaints don't come within shouting distance of those filed by Kansas Citians. 


Kansas City, Misery

Today, there are 25 American cities that play host to professional baseball and football franchises. 

Throughout the City of Fountains, the latter answers to a higher set of standards.

In Kansas City, a Chiefs season is deemed successful if the team chalks up a playoff win; a Royals season is deemed successful if the team even competes for a playoff win, let alone advances. 

Playoff berths have come and gone for the Chiefs—the latest occurring in 2010. Postseason appearances add a feather in the cap, but don't quench fans' thirst for success. 

On the other hand, the Kansas City Royals' track record makes their hard-hitting neighbors look like a modern-day dynasty. Midway through baseball season, locals recant the harsh words spewed toward Arrowhead's athletes and mark off the days until the Chiefs' next tour of mediocrity sweeps the nation.

Typically, by the second week of November, Arrowhead tailgaters ask themselves, "Can a team play any worse?" By Fourth of July weekend, those same tailgaters migrate to Kauffman Stadium and are reminded what true pain is, and how lucky they have it—by Kansas City standards—with the Chiefs. 

It's like that morning when your neighbor's travel-sized chihuahua repeats its vinyl-scratching bark like a broken record, so you forfeit the uphill battle of sleep and sluggishly drag your wind-up-walking self to McDonald's after realizing you poured the Everest of cereal in a milk-less house. You get home, peek into the bag and embark on a minute-plus, clown-degrading tirade after discovering the sack is free of hash browns—the glue of McDonald's breakfast. But then your valid complaints are abruptly demoted to petty gripes as Sarah McLachlan's ghostly "In the arms of the angel" vocals add an extra layer of depression to the eyes of a starving, malnourished puppy pleading for your help. 

For 27 years, that, in essence, is how naively spoiled Chiefs fans feel after witnessing the annual train wreck that is Royals baseball. If the Royals finished above .500—a feat last conquered in 2003—couches would be engulfed in celebratory flames. If the team landed in the playoff picture, Hy-Vees would be looted for bottled water, canned goods and double-A batteries, and Bruce Willis would be sizing up the asteroid he was about to land on

The prerequisites for fan approval are at all-time lows, and history shows why.

Judge Dread

On the MLB list of longest postseason droughts, three teams distinguish themselves from the pack: the Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates and, of course, the Royals. Toronto's 19-year vacation is a shade less embarrassing than Pittsburgh's streak of 20. But the Pirates' two consecutive decades of head-hanging disappointment don't remotely threaten the Royals' 27-year hiatus.

In the NFL, two franchises—the Cincinnati Bengals (1990) and Detroit Lions (1991)—have endured longer winless droughts throughout the postseason than Kansas City's home team, but the Chiefs' streak still extends to 1993 (19 years). 

We've established that the Truman Sports Complex is due a cameo in the next Prozac commercial—old news.

However, you can't truly understand the depth of Kansas Citians' disappointment until you combine the length of both ongoing droughts—NFL playoff victories and MLB playoff appearances—for each of the 25 cities and compare.  

The sum for eight of the cities surpasses double digits, and the combined streaks for five of those eight fanbases even dips into the twenties.

Overall, Cleveland finishes second amongst the cities, as the Browns haven't notched a playoff victory since 1994, and the Indians last made a playoff appearance in 2007—that's 22 years in all. 

However, Kansas City not only headlined the list, it lapped it. The droughts for the Royals and Chiefs pair up to equal 45 seasons. 

Pathetic, right?

Kansas City easily takes the cake in terms of droughts, but here's the cherry: Dating back to 1969—when the Royals were founded—the two teams have never participated in postseason play within the same year. 

In other words, within the context of postseason droughts, Kansas City's footprint can be traced back to Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon. 


E-mail: Gering.Brett@Gmail.com