Commentary: Despite Chiefs' Loss, Sports Is Again A Force In Kansas City

Jan 23, 2016

Wow. That was some game against the Patriots, huh? Twenty-seven to nothing at halftime. Tom Brady benched with nearly a whole quarter left. And how about Jamaal Charles?

Yeah, the game I’m talking about happened more than a year ago, the Monday Night Football blowout that ignited the greatest odyssey in Kansas City sports history. Chiefs fans marched out of Arrowhead chanting “Let’s go, Royals” with no idea of just what was to come the next night, in that now infamous American League Wild Card Game. Sixteen months later, the Royals were world champs and now it was the Chiefs who had risen from the ashes to set the NFL on fire. Not only had they won their first playoff game in 22 years, in another rout, but they became the only team in league history to do so after such a poor start to the season.

Clearly, this was now Karma City; our sports’ teams’ new deal with the devil had been prepaid in full by a generation of futility.

I’ll be the first to admit that I fully expected the Chiefs to be playing in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday, possibly in Kansas City. Not that they’d stop there. Oh, and how perfect if Super Bowl 50 could be a rematch of Super Bowl I against the Green Bay Packers—only this time, of course, it would go the other way.

It felt good to dream again. But we were dreaming, and Saturday we got pinched.

Pinched, not punched. Hey, the Chiefs lost on the road, to a better team — it’s a shame, but not shameful. A real bummer, but not a heartbreaker. KC fans know the difference.

And now that we’re wide awake, it’s as good a time as any to catch a breath and take stock of what this past year-and-a-half has meant.

Start with the obvious: We are the champions…but also, there are no losers here. As a sports town, we no longer belong in the same sentence as Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo—or anywhere near it.

Whether you care about sports or not, I don’t think that’s a trivial distinction for our city, for its reputation and identity. I know some people who look cynically upon the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up to support the Royals and not a “more important issue.” I understand their gripe, but they miss the point, which is this: hundreds of thousands of people showed up.

My hope, and belief, is that sports in Kansas City has been fully restored to its healthy role—as a source of civic pride and unity and motivation and, yes, comfort, not a blinding distraction but a necessary diversion—especially, when humanity isn’t having such a great season.

Sports are simply games, but they can bring out complex issues and emotions that are real. They can give us something to point to, to show what we mean by teamwork or resilience, and a reason to talk about things we may not want to talk about, like violence or greed—just ask any football fans who might be left in St. Louis.

And I’m not saying this dream is over, not by a long shot—the Royals are still rearming and the Chiefs are already making off-season moves, the first steps on the quest toward Super Bowl Fifty-One.

That monkey is off our back, that albatross has fallen from our neck, but may the chip never slip from our shoulder. Because, in sports, even when you win it all, there’s still more to win. And as even the most conscious and most conscientious sports fan will tell you, you never really wake up.