Every city that has it bad when it comes to sports loves claiming that they have it worse than the next guy, that their heartbreak is somehow worse than the heartbreak that others feel. I’d say heartbreak is universally painful. It comes with the territory of being a sports fan. When you sign on for this life, you better be prepared for heartbreak. I don’t care if you’re one of those lucky sons of bitches who was born in Boston and gets to see a championship every three months, you’ve still experienced heartbreak. There’s no heartbreak that is greater than any other. The guy whose wife cheated on him with his best friend experiences the same heartbreak as the guy who watched his dog get obliterated by an SUV on the highway.
That’s how I feel right about now. My dog, the Kansas City Chiefs, was prancing happily along, playing catch and enjoying a 28-point second half lead in the AFC Wild Card Playoff, just one year after a 2-14 season. We were well on our way to our first playoff win in 20 years, too. 20 years. Then, the Indianapolis Colts and their big ol’ SUV driven by some neck-bearded fuck, outscored the Chiefs 35-6 in the final 25 minutes of the game, ran over my dog and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I’m only going to get upset if I say anything else.
Like I said, all heartbreak is the same, but what do you call it when the heartbreak happens over and over and over again? Is it tragedy? No. Not enough death, although I would in fact, rather be dead right now. Horror? No. Not scary enough. You have to be able to feel emotion in order to be scared. My emotions are numb to everything right now, so I don’t think horror is the right word for it. The point is, there isn’t a word for this kind of soul-crushing heartbreak. Sports aren’t really THAT serious in the big scope of things. There might be billions of dollars on the line and millions of people watching, but sports have little to no impact on how the world may turn from day to day. So why does it matter so much to me and everyone else?
I grew up with this stuff. I wore my Derrick Thomas jersey when I wasn’t in my school uniform. I cried whenever the Chiefs lost to John Elway, which was A LOT. I’d put my sports fandom in the top five most important things to know about me, despite the fact that it has never been proven to be an enriching or beneficial pastime throughout my entire life.
Whenever things get difficult, in life terms or even not so serious terms, I like to reference the great Jimmy Duggan quote from A League of Their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”
This isn’t hard, though. It’s not difficult. It’s beyond that. It crushes my soul. I’ve been writing this over the course of two days since the final gun sounded in Indianapolis, just searching for answers. Why is it this difficult?
I understand the plight of the Clevelands, Buffalos, Houstons, Seattles and Detroits of the world, but at least those cities have gotten close. Cleveland has played in a World Series and had LeBron James before he publicly humiliated them on national television. Buffalo lost four straight Super Bowls, but THEY STILL PLAYED IN FOUR STRAIGHT SUPER BOWLS. Seattle has played in the Super Bowl recently and Detroit? Fuck Detroit, they have the Red Wings.
The pure tragedy of Kansas City sports is that they don’t even get a few strides out of the gate before the horse’s leg snaps in half. There’s an entire generation of sports fans that have no idea what it’s like to compete for championships. Born losers that have never even had the chance to see a parade. The tragic history of post-1985 Kansas City sports history is well documented. Go find it out there on the internet, because I just can’t bring myself to write about all of the ridiculous early postseason exits and pathetic losing campaigns that KC has endured for a large chunk of my lifetime.
Again, as I grapple for the words to describe the plight of the Kansas City sports fan, I am coming up short. The love-hate relationship that comes with being a Kansas City sports fan is not unique or special, as most Midwestern cities have a special bond with their sports teams, but I can’t help but wonder if it is more unique and special in KC. The town treats the Chiefs like a small Texas town would treat its high school football team. Start a conversation with a Kansas Citian and the odds are that conversation will turn to sports at one point or another. I can remember the pastor of my church praying for the Chiefs on Sundays. A study came out that showed that Kansas City’s economic output is higher when the Chiefs win. It is so much more than sports in Kansas City. It’s our happiness. It’s our livelihood.
For the life of me, I can’t imagine what we’ve done to deserve this tortured existence.