Understanding in a Car Crash

With the exception of Duke’s basketball team — effectively the New York Yankees of college hoops — none of my favorite sports clubs are championship-level good year in and out. I know that sounds like something a douchebag says. It’d be like saying if it wasn’t for the million dollars I have in my savings account, I’d be broke. Duke has won three titles since I’ve been a fan of theirs, which is more than many sports fans can say about any of their favorite franchises.

Yet the fact remains that the rest of the teams I follow are perpetual losers. Virginia Tech’s football team has played in one National Championship, a game they lost to Florida State way back in 2000. The Texas Rangers have been involved in two World Series, in 2010 and 2011, and lost both times. The Kansas City Chiefs have won a grand total of one playoff game since I became a fan in the late 90’s. Below is a list of every playoff game they have been involved in during that stretch:

  • 1998 vs. Denver Broncos (14-10 loss)
  • 2004 vs. Indianapolis Colts (38-31 loss)
  • 2007 @ Indianapolis Colts (23-8 loss)
  • 2011 vs. Baltimore Ravens (30-7 loss)
  • 2014 @ Indianapolis Colts (45-44 loss)
  • 2016 @ Houston Texans (30-0 win)
  • 2016 @New England Patriots (27-20 loss)
  • 2017 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (18-16 loss)

This was all, naturally, before they took another gut-wrenching 22-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. Some would call it a flop, or a choke-job since they led 21-3 at halftime. Any naysayer of Andy Reid or Alex Smith — or, fuck it, the Kansas City Chiefs in general — was validated. Teams that blow 18-point leads at home do not deserve to win playoff games.

And still, it wasn’t shocking to me. I mean, it’s the Chiefs. This is what they do. I was so prepared for something tragically weird happening that I hedged my bet in my last blog, which went like this:

If Vegas is any barometer to this equation, it would be reflected in the moneyline (the straight-up winner). Right now they have the Titans at +310 to win the game outright, which is a dime better than 3-to-1 odds. Simply, Las Vegas believes a Marcus Marriota Superman game happens about 33% of the time. Since I like math so much, I’m going to rely on the comforts of statistical probability with this one, even though as a Chiefs fan I’m conditioned to prepare myself for some catastrophic letdown.

Earlier in the week I switched craps days with a woman I work with. She picked up my Tuesday and I took her Saturday. This was before I knew the Chiefs were playing the Titans that afternoon. All week I was kicking myself for switching days without considering the playoffs, and not getting the chance to watch the Kansas City game from my living room.

In retrospect, that was a good thing. Had I been home, sitting back and viewing the game from my couch, I would have made an emotional investment in the game. I would have felt the magnitude of every first down, and every touchdown, and every pass interference call I didn’t agree with. And it would have crushed me to see the Chiefs blow a 21-3 lead.

Since I was a work, I didn’t sow that relationship. Of course (obviously), I wanted the Chiefs to win. I cared about the Chiefs winning. But it’s different to consume it from afar, peeking in every few minutes from the (consistently busy) craps game I was on, than being in my comfort zone at home — where the game is pretty much the only thing that matters in that moment.

As a result of the loss, I took the type of ribbing you would expect from many of my football-fan coworkers. This is also something I prepared myself for, even though I’ve never really understood why people do this: My first reaction when any of their favorite teams lose is usually some form of sympathy. I’ve been there, I think to myself. How would I want people to come at me after a shitty loss?

But that’s not the type of love I ever see in return, and that’s fine. Sports are played for keeps, and you have to take the good with the inexplicable, awful, and terrible. When the Rangers got swept by the Blue Jays in the 2016 playoffs, my friends at work were more than happy to let me know about it. When the Chiefs lost (or lose, I suppose) in the playoffs, same thing. All I can do is laugh along at the ass-kicking I receive, mainly because any alternative reaction would make me look petty and childish like I actually care about sports. (Which I clearly don’t.)

My only theory to why this is — why most people give grief to those whose sports teams falter — is due to them not really caring about sports. And when I say they don’t care, I don’t mean they aren’t fans, or they aren’t real fans. I’m saying they don’t care the same way I care. If you’ve never had your heart ripped out during a World Series game, or during the 4th quarter of an important football game, or from an opponent sinking a buzzer-beating shot in a basketball game, then you would just assume a game is only a game. (Which it is.)

The Chiefs lost another playoff game in a horrible way, and every one of my boys at work gave me shit for it. In too many ways it’s precisely how I planned on the day panning out, which is the reason I didn’t really care once it happened. I’m a Chiefs fan, and this is what the Chiefs have done my whole life. They had a fun, interesting regular season. Then they made it to the playoffs and forgot what made them so difficult to play in the first place.

And still, in a sick way this is why I love them so much. I love the things that hurt me. It would have been easy — and much less emotionally taxing — if I had just become a Yankees fan, or a Patriots fan, or an Alabama football fan, where each season was more an extension of greatness than anything else.

It’s not my style, though. My style is to dance with who brung me. One year, probably sometime way down the road, the journey will be worth it. The Texas Rangers will win a World Series in my lifetime. The Kansas City Chiefs will win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. And though I dream of it happening, I already know that team and that sport won’t mean as much to me afterwards, because how could it? Scaling the mountain is the fun part. Actually reaching the top makes for a boring story.

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