Running it back

As nice as it was to watch playoff football last weekend without the fear of my favorite team, the Kansas City Chiefs, being at risk to lose and have their season come to an end, I am now only a day away from that inescapable possibility. And for some reason I feel this urge to get some feelings off my chest.

This football season has meant a helluva lot to me. Not only due to the fact that the Chiefs are defending their Super Bowl, but that for a while I didn’t even know if there was going to be football this season in the first place. When everything shut down in March, I was more or less like, okay, baseball… you can have it. I can take it or leave it. When the NCAA Tournament got cancelled and the NBA regular season went on hiatus, again, I was cool with it.

When I went back to work in May, I must have said the same thing to a dozen different people: Just don’t take away the NFL. I don’t care about anything else (sports related), just let there be a football season.

Low and behold, there was. And it just so happened that the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, my defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, finished the year 14-2 — the best record in the NFL — and earned the number one seed in the AFC.

I would say it’s sad, or pathetic, just how much time I spend every day and every week watching and listening to football-related content on YouTube, or the Straight Outta Vegas podcast, or on Pro Football Focus, but really it’s just me. I can’t apologize for being who I am or caring about the things I care about. But it’s undeniable that for something like 20 weeks out of the year I am absolutely consumed.

As for the Chiefs, and their upcoming game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, I have two kinds of feelings. The first is that Kansas City is the best team in the league and I am confident that they are going to blow out the Browns. The second is that something stupid is going to happen. That this isn’t “our year.” That Baker Mayfield is going to be down 41-34 with 2:00 left, and he’s going to drive the ball the length of the field for a touchdown. And that the Browns are going to go for 2 and convert it to give the Browns a 42-41 win.

I have taken some shit over the years for being too much of a pessimist when it comes to my sports teams — I guess I get it from my dad — but when you are a fan of teams like the Chiefs, or the Texas Rangers in baseball, or Virginia Tech in football, it’s almost like I’ve been preconditioned to expect the worst. You can tell me I have Patrick Mahomes and everything is different now, and I feel you on that, but it’s really fucking hard to unwind and forget about a lifetime’s worth of disappointments.

I’m only writing this now because I don’t want it to come as a surprise when I’m proven right. I don’t want to be coming back to this blog next week wondering how it happened, how the Chiefs lost, when in reality the writing was on the wall the entire time.

It won’t be until after the season is over over, after the Super Bowl, that the 2020 season will fully sink in. But one thing I can say, heading into the Divisional Round, is that the Chiefs’ 14-2 record didn’t feel as “fun” as it should have. I think a lot of it boils down to being the best team in the league, having the highest expectations in the league, and media types do whatever they can to poke holes in the armor and rationalize why Kansas City is vulnerable. But the other half is that it’s an objective fact that the Chiefs have underachieved in terms of the point spread. A lot of their best wins were discredited because they weren’t as impressive as they should have been.

This may sound like a lot of crying over spilled milk — because at the end of the day wins are more important than however many points the Chiefs ended up winning by — but it’s undeniable that the magic of last year’s Super Bowl season got replaced by a feeling a lot less magical in 2020. Last year, what with Mahomes going down with an injury for a month and then coming back, the Patriots losing in Week 17 to pave the way for the Chiefs to get a first round BYE, the Titans upsetting the 1-seeded Ravens in the Divisional Round, all the pieces just fell into place. When looking back on the 2019 Super Bowl season, it’s hard not to feel like it was destiny in a lot of ways.

As an admittedly un-superstitious human being, I know there is logical reasoning for why that wasn’t the case. I mean, everyone thought Patrick Mahomes tore his ACL and it ended up “only” being a dislocated kneecap; the Dolphins are a real NFL team and they earned their win against the Patriots in Week 17; and the Titans are a real football team and they earned their win against the Ravens in last year’s Divisional Round. It wasn’t destiny that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Rather, it was a convenient set of circumstances that set them up for the opportunity to win it.

This year there is no hero story for Mahomes. There is no fight to get Andy Reid his first Super Bowl win. There isn’t a specific set of events that took place to propel the Chiefs from a really good team to one that is playing for a title. Instead it’s just the boring reality that, yeah, okay, sure, Kansas City is the most talented team. They have the most talented player in the sport. And they won 14 out of 15 games before they chose to lose in Week 17.

That is supposed to be a good year and a cool story, but for the Patrick Mahomes Era Chiefs it isn’t enough. As bullshit as it sounds anything less than another Super Bowl is inevitably going to be considered a disappointment. As a Chiefs fan, I want to believe that they can turn it on and dominate football games whenever they want. But the truth is, during the playoffs teams have no excuse not to be motivated. If Kansas City loses this year in the playoffs it won’t be because they aren’t motivated, it’ll be because they aren’t as good as I, and everyone else, thinks they are.

I think that’s what bothers me most about the 2020 Chiefs, that if they end up losing it will prove me to be wrong. It will invalidate every time I thought they were so good that they didn’t have to care and focus for 60 minutes to win football games. It will turn them from heroes into normal human beings who are susceptible to overconfidence and failure just like everyone else.

So, really, this is just an ego thing. I don’t think my ego can handle it if the Chiefs lose to the Browns, or if they lose next week to the Bills, or if they lose the Super Bowl to the Packers or the winner of the Bucs and Saints.

In a weird way, though, it would probably do me a lot of good if Kansas City didn’t do what I think they are going to do — and win the whole fucking thing. Because if they do it will validate my entire high school and college career of not working hard and still making the grade; it will encourage me to continue not giving a shit about my job while I earn more money than I deserve; it will prove to me that I’m right. Yet again.

I’ve been dying to be given a slice of humble pie, and if it takes my sports team to give it to me then that’s all the better. I love the Chiefs, and I love being right, but something tells me that this just isn’t the time. It isn’t the time for the Chiefs, and it isn’t the time for me to be placated.