Somewhere between the black hole of Oakland and the Charger enthusiasm of San Diego there is a glimpse of red. Being a Chiefs fan in California I never hear the end of it. The taunts and jabs of my friends are relentless. Both a blessing and a catastrophe, my existence is not the result of some accident at area 51, but rather a chance occurrence that has turned into undying devotion.
The story, like many, begins with family. My father had received his Bachelors from SC and is a proud Trojan who vicariously shares the emotions of Trojan football players a little too intensely. He is known to do pushups during commercial breaks to calm down.
Mom is the patient fan who sits through every pick of the NFL draft marking the selections by hand as if less personal sources provide faulty information. However, do not underestimate her ability for momentum changing outbursts that I swear the players can hear through our television set.
My very first football game was a college matchup between the USC Trojans and the Washington Huskies. I was 11. We sat with the Husky fans in the seats behind their own end zone. My father on the verge of hyperventilation with exhausting exclamations of, “hit him,” and “take him down,” the job fell to my mother to explain the game. This is not an easy task.
Many a relationship has battled with the communication struggle that accompanies describing how “downs” work. So many can understand the confusion of an inquisitive youth who couldn’t comprehend why the teams had to punt on fourth down if they had four downs to get a first.
My confusion was exacerbated when told that they didn’t have to. Yet they kicked the dang ball away every fourth down, and after a score they kicked it differently? There’s more than one way to score?
Now fans, most of us forget that even at a fundamental level football is not a simple game. However, as much as I love competition and the unfolding drama of athletics, it was the game as a puzzle that drew me to it.
I was just young enough that the game was a complicated concept, but not impossible to understand. I accepted the challenge and tried to understand to the best of my ability.
The following day my mother sat watching pro football on the television.
“Who are you cheering for?” I asked.
“The guys in red.” She replied.
“Why?” I piped.
“Because they’re the underdogs.” She answered.
I knew a little bit about the game and now the jerseys had names to learn as well. Over the next couple of weeks I saw the “red” team on television again. I knew the game, I recognized the names, and I was as emotionally invested as an 11 year old can be.
Unwavering loyalty was sparked by pure chance and my love affair with the Chiefs was off and running.
My growing interest in the Chiefs accompanied an increased understanding of the game. The puzzle that at one time involved knowing the rules evolved to be an evaluation of talent, matchups, and finally plays and schemes.
The Al Saunders offense of capitalizing on mismatches with shifts before the snap was only appreciated because of my infatuation with the puzzle.
Spreading out the defense to hit Priest Holmes on a delayed screen was a simple concept requiring complicated execution and tore defenses apart. The creation of the “falcon” position for Derrick Thomas was revolutionary for me.
I’d like to believe I have developed a razor sharp analytical perspective on the sport of football that is only rivaled by the brilliance of the character from A Beautiful Mind, but I concede that I may never know as much as I’d like to. It’s just as well the puzzle is never fully solved.
The game will evolve and it is an honor to witness the Chiefs' part in the changing landscape of the NFL.
I did not regionally inherit the Chiefs as a team to follow. I chose them and don’t plan to let go.
I often joke that one day I will have my child (not yet born) go to a toy vending machine, put in two quarters, and get a cheap, plastic, team mini-helmet and that team will be the one my child follows forever more.
After all, my randomly placed passion has thrived, why not again?