My lifelong commitment to the Kansas City Chiefs began as a child, though not by choice.
My father began following the team in the early 1970s; back in the days of Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, and Willie Lanier.
He stuck with the Chiefs through countless losing seasons during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and was rewarded with nine winning campaigns during the “Marty Ball” era in the ‘90s. This is where my first football memories began.
My first game at Arrowhead Stadium was in 1993, Joe Montana’s first year in Kansas City. My family and I attended the preseason home opener against Buffalo. I distinctively remember the sudden roar of the crowd as Joe ran out of the tunnel for the first time in KC.
The atmosphere at Arrowhead was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
The smell of the grill, the sea of red. The rumble of B-2 stealth bombers flying over the stadium. The 80,000 fans screaming, “And the home of the CHIEFS!” at the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner." The late Derrick Thomas holding his hands above his head, signaling a safety on the opponent’s goal line.
The experience was priceless.
In 1995, I attended the Week Three game at Arrowhead against the rival Oakland Raiders; a game I will never forget. Chiefs cornerback James Hasty intercepted a pass from Jeff Hostetler in overtime, returning it for a game winning touchdown, and a 23-17 win.
The infamous Arrowhead crowd roared at 116 decibels, so loud I couldn’t hear myself scream. I slapped high fives with complete strangers as I watched the team mob Hasty in the end zone, only 15 rows in front of us. It was the greatest football moment of my life.
It was at that point that I knew—I was a Chiefs fan for life.
Even after the Chiefs finished that ‘95 season 13-3, then lost 10-7 in the divisional round against the Colts; I was still a fan.
Even after the Chiefs posted another 13-3 record in 1997, only to bench Rich Gannon in favor of Elvis Grbac, and lose 14-10 to division rival Denver in the second round; my loyalty overruled.
Even after failed draft picks, such as Sylvester Morris, Snoop Minnis, and Ryan Simms; I still stuck behind my team.
Even after the world’s worst defense blew yet another 13-3 season, in a 38-31 defeat to Indianapolis in the divisional round in 2003, my fan-hood prevailed.
And even after the Chiefs suffered through their worst season in franchise history last year, not once did I think about trading them in for a new team.
Do you know why?
Because being a Chiefs fan isn’t a choice, it’s an addiction; and a lifelong commitment.