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12:34 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

A Fan's Notes: This Is Our Youth

The Kansas City Chiefs open their regular season this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s hard to see underneath those protective uniforms, but this years’ team is….well, let’s not sugar coat it – young.

Commentator Victor Wishna explains this month's “A Fan’s Notes.”

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

It’s a line often attributed to George Bernard Shaw who was, no doubt, an old man when he said it.

In sports, as fans know, youth is more than just the rule—it’s the premise, [a necessary component for peak performance.] Pro teams, of course, are always trying to make their rosters more competitive and cost-effective. Getting younger talent usually does both, though not necessarily in that order.

Right now in Kansas City sports, youth is king. The Royals, for example, are the youngest team in Major League Baseball. A lot’s been made of this, and why the team’s performance now is immaterial since…it’s next year—or maybe twenty fourteen?—that will really matter.So once again in KC, baseball ends as soon as football begins.

But did you know? The Kansas City Chiefs are also, man for man, the youngest team in their league. As the new season kicks off this week, the Chiefs’ roster is the only one in the NFL without a single player over the age of 30.

“What you want is some youth for the future,” said Chiefs GM Scott Pioli during this year’s NFL Draft. Youth can be raw, but youth can always gain experience—not so the other way around.

But youth—or youthfulness—isn’t just at the heart of competitive sports; it’s in the hearts of all sports fans. We crave that connection to a time in our own lives that’s recently, or not-so-recently, or perhaps long past.

By and large, sports allegiances are set at a young age, based on where you’re from, or where you went to school, not on where you live now, or might want to live tomorrow.

Sports fans say “we”…semantically and emotionally linking ourselves to these young adults…who wear our hometown’s name on their uniforms…or happen to attend the same school as we did, back in the twentieth century.When we say “we,” we stay young.

Perhaps I’m thinking so much about this because just this week, I turned thirty-eight—I know, just one year shy of my late thirties. It’s an age at which most NFL players and Major Leaguers have already retired, most pro golfers have turned that dogleg toward the senior tour, and most Olympic gymnasts have…children who are now Olympic gymnasts.

But sports, like youth, is wrapped up in potential. It’s what allows me to proudly and hopefully don that sweatshirt I’ve had since junior year with the name of my alma mater blazoned across it—even though they don’t use that font anymore.  And it’s what saturates the start of every new season with a youthful enthusiasm.

Football, of course, is different than baseball and other sports. For the athletes themselves, the window of opportunity is but a sliver. The game takes a brutal toll. The end of even a young and vital career is always one injury away. Every season counts. And a little experience doesn’t hurt.

“You’re anxious because you don’t know exactly what you have,” Chiefs Coach Romeo Crennel said this week. “And we all know that young players make mistakes… So we’re gonna have to see how that all plays out.”

It’s the question that keeps fans anxious, too: will our youthful expectations be served, or will they be wasted on the young? On Sunday­…we’ll start to find out.

 

Victor Wishna is a writer, editor, author, and sports fan.  He lives in Leawood.  You can hear “A Fan’s Notes” monthly on Up to Date.

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