The Chiefs Will Always Unbury Themselves
As I sat in my apartment on Sunday watching the Kansas City Chiefs struggle to do anything resembling competent footballing against the Los Angeles Chargers, I sank further and further into my sofa. It was a familiar feeling.
It was the black hole in the gut that opens up and starts to swallow every bit of the joy of watching football. Replacing that joy is a particular blend of exhausted anger and despair only the Chiefs have known how to concoct.
My brother and I sat there, stewing in it. My mom texted me about it from Kansas City. One of my former bosses and fellow Chiefs fans’ messages were all-caps panic button presses. Here we go again. They can’t tackle. They can’t move the ball. Why do we do this? Why did we let this team convince us they’re going to #RunItBack? They’re pathetic, but we’re even more pathetic for believing in them.
Then the fourth quarter happened, the Chiefs won, and now they’re back to definitely winning the Super Bowl again.
It’s difficult to unlearn something that’s been drilled into your head for 30 years.
During the Patriots dynasty, whenever they played poorly there was an air of smug expectation among Patriots fans. They knew they were going to win. They’d seen it for nearly 20 years, and the ending was almost always the same.
The Chiefs have been a special kind of Deluxe Loser for so long. You look at the list of teams the Chiefs shared their various playoff droughts with before the last couple years, and they’re all names you’d associate with ineptitude. Browns, Bengals, Lions, Dolphins, Bills, Football Team. For decades, these have all been teams you could argue belong on the Mount Rushmore of poopbutt franchises.
But then there was also always the Chiefs. The one team, save for that dark time in the late-'00s and early-'10s, that was always a “contender”. Perpetually making the playoffs, but literally only making the playoffs. For what felt like infinity, there was this invisible playoff-win wall the Chiefs were not allowed to pass through.
Even after a Super Bowl win that required best-player-on-the-planet Patrick Mahomes to drag his team to three straight double-digit comebacks to do it, I still feel physically ill whenever the Chiefs are down by even one touchdown. If the opponent scores first, my gut still says “Welp, ballgame.” every single time.
Every time the defense misses a tackle or requires all 11 defenders converging on one 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back just to bring him down, the hopelessness immediately kicks back in. The Chiefs have a unique talent in looking like the absolute worst defense in the universe while giving up just 20 points.
It isn’t an issue of not having faith in the Chiefs. Faith is blind. The issue is that I now have plenty of evidence to fully trust the Chiefs, but I’m unable to turn off the second-nature football depression that’s been more-or-less my sole personality trait for almost 30 years.
Based on the way Chiefs Twitter had a full-on meltdown during the first half on Sunday, I don’t think I’m alone here. I could have tried preaching the Aaron Rodgers R-E-L-A-X mantra, but I’d just have been lying to myself. Prematurely dipping into misery when the Chiefs are down by all of 10 points is a defense mechanism that has been slowly forged over decades.
But it is time for me to learn to fully trust the Chiefs when they're down and looking incompetent. That likely goes for you, too, reader. They’re just going to keep winning. They could be down by 40 heading into the fourth quarter and they’d end up winning by 14.
It’ll be difficult to unlearn the gut-reaction negativity. It’ll be a lot easier once they win another Super Bowl (and maybe even another after that!). I imagine there will be a few more times this season I fall into the trap of thinking these are the same ol’ Chiefs. That’s just a phantom of the old truth, when the Chiefs would bury themselves and wait for the dirt to be filled in on top of them. The new truth is no matter how big the hole is or how they ended up lying in the bottom of it, this version of the Chiefs will always unbury themselves.