The cannon is loaded.
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Copyright © 2018
by Ralph F. Couey
Being a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs means you by necessity wear a thick callous around your heart. In 1967 and again in 1970, they appeared in two Super Bowls (although technically, the first one was just called the AFL-NFL Championship), winning one. The years since have been a long journey punctuated by some of the worst football ever interspersed with moments of regular season glee followed by truly epic playoff collapses. Sad events like blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins in 1991, an injury-ridden loss to the Pats in 2016, a loss to the Steelers greatly assisted by several very questionable penalty calls, the 2003 "no punt game" against the Manning-led Colts, when the defense failed to generate one single stop. Blowing an 18-point lead against the Titans, blowing another 28-point lead against the the Luck-led Colts, and the agonizing 3-point loss against the Colts when the Chief's "Kicker who shall never be named" missed three easy field goals, two in the fourth quarter.
Among those gut-punching losses are other games that should have been won, usually in the first round of the playoffs.
It is a long history of utter heartbreak, and perhaps even emotional abuse. This year, however, there is a refreshing breeze wafting through the Chief's Kingdom generated by the other-worldly talent of Patrick Mahomes. What was hope is gradually evolving into confidence that this team could go all the way to the Big Dance, even taking into account the massive rock of salt levied by the playoff history of this franchise.
I won't bury you with numbers and tales of Mahomes' prowess; there are plenty of eye-bulging websites which will accommodate even the most OCD'd stat freak. What is different now is the feeling -- the growing sense that this may not just be THE year, but the first of several championship seasons to come. This is rarefied air for Chiefs fans. By week ten, we are generally beginning to prepare ourselves for the annual post-season collapse. And while there remains a persistent whisper in our ears that assuredly states ,"This is the Chiefs; they'll find a way to blow it," that sibilant utterance is becoming ever harder to detect amidst the roar of jubilation.
In the ten games thus far, we have seen plays that could only have been created by CGI, throws that defy belief and human anatomy. But we've also seen consecutive three-and-outs, and an inability to get late first downs to put games away. We've seen a defense that allows 400 to 500 yards of offense each game, although they have gotten better as late. In the glaring light of the spectacular, these are the things that create that doubt, that hint of disquiet, things that could spell all-too-familiar doom in the post season.
I had a friend once tell me that Chiefs fans reminded him of the Pooh character Eeyore. No matter how bright the silver lining, all we could see was the black cloud. There's some truth to that statement. But I'd like to think we've earned that cynicism, or rather that past events have thrust it upon us. No matter how brightly the Chiefs shine now, there's a part of us that grimly awaits the darkness.
As I mentioned earlier, the good news in all of this is that this is only the first year of the Mahomes era. Even if they fall short this year, next year promises to be even better, and the years after. The defense is an entirely different unit with Eric Berry on the field, and it is assumed that at some point his heel will permit him to play. Also, the draft will bring in young talent, shoring up a weak defense. This season is the first stage of ascent for a team that could dominate over the next two decades in the same way the Patriots have over the last two decades. But for any of this to have validation, a Super Bowl must be achieved, and must be won. After so many years of close calls and near misses, nothing else will suffice.
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a young man who stole a very expensive high-performance car and took it on a high-speed run. In his post-arrest interview, he readily admitted stealing the car. Said he, "I knew I'd be caught, I knew I'd be arrested and convicted. But I was determined to enjoy the car and the ride for as long as I could." This tale may come as close as possible to describing our raging passions right now. We're riding a race car at blinding speed, and even if it ends in a blazing crash, we will at least have had the ride. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, that's us. But even the most stubbornly cynical Chief's fan will admit that maybe -- just maybe -- this IS the year.
And maybe this time around, January won't be so dark.