For the sports fan out there January typically means one thing: NFL Playoffs. It also means New Year’s resolutions that are never followed through on.
If you’re like me you’ve made plenty of resolutions around this time of year, but not many you can say you’ve stuck to. The most consistent part of these internal promises is the fact I don’t follow through.
I bring this up because the way I watch sports is this ever-evolving cycle of optimism and doom, mixed with dread and fear of disaster around every corner for my team. Then optimism again that this time could be different. And the cycle continues until the game/season/career is over and the end result is the same, “if only.”
I come by the “if only” honestly though. Just as many that are my age who were born and raised in Kansas City. With the Royals’ glory years fading away like Shoeless Joe in Iowa corn, my love for the Royals was taking shape. That ended up being bad timing. But I had the Chiefs. The Marty ballin’, Montana throwin’, DT and Neil sackin’ beautiful Kansas City Chiefs. My growth from adolescence to adult was a film accompanied by Chiefs football as the soundtrack. And the soundtrack was scored by Kevin Harlan, Mitch Holthus and Dick Enberg. The voices of my teen years.
I hadn’t known what it was like to watch Chambliss connect on the first pitch of the inning from Littell and fall just out of the reach of Hal McRae for a walk-off pennant winner. Or the next year to have the Yankees win two games in Kansas City to win the pennant and cap it off with a 3-run 9th to close the door. Or the 1980 World Series when the breakthrough finally happened. Only to watch the Phillies take the pivotal game 5 in KC with a pair of runs in the 9th for the win and eventually the series in 6.
Not having experienced those things I could never know what it must have been like to live through Game 6 and 7 of the ’85 Series. All of the frustration, and the almost, washed away with a fateful 9th and a historic call at first.
But I had the Chiefs. The magical run in 1993 with the pass to Tim Barnett against Pittsburgh and the touchdown to Keith Cash against Houston—with a spike to Buddy Ryan for good measure. The feeling to me, call it youthful ignorance, of inevitability the Chiefs were going to win the SB. I hadn’t experienced the disappointment of the Royals before the 1985 magic. The year-long wait just to be in the same position. And, as Yogi Berra said, “Déjà vu all over again.”
So the AFC Championship game after the Oilers win was uncommon ground. This team wasn’t supposed to lose. But have no fear; they’d get it done the next year. And they didn’t. But of course, it was going to happen in 1995. It had to. That team was too good. And, damn, they were the #1 seed. The Favorites to win the Hunt Trophy. We know how that ended. I won’t say his name…but you know. 1996 was a massive disappointment. But at least it didn’t come in the playoffs with my heart being ripped out. I guess. Well 1997 was definitely the year, right? Until it wasn’t. And in a four-year span, I became fully aware of the fleeting success and elusive championships that come with being a fan. The Missouri fan in me also watched Tyus Edney, the 5thDown, Damon Stoudamire in the Elite 8, The Kicked Ball, etc, etc, etc. So this was all I knew. Impending doom.
I don’t want to start the playoffs in that state of mind. I mean the Dolphins just went to NE and WON. But Dee Ford is stuck in my mind like a splinter that just won’t come out. He’s in San Francisco but that moment is branded to my brain like a hot iron to cattle.
I want to watch this Chiefs team like the 2014 Royals. They were so unexpected, the excitement of just being involved felt like enough. The season was supposed to end before October in the Wild Card game. Instead, we were all treated to one of the best months of our lives watching them fall 90 feet short.
But 2015 was different. I didn’t feel as much joy until Game 5 of the World Series. Until Hosmer’s dash from 3rd. Until Christian Colon drove in the winning run in the 12thand Lorenzo Cain busted it open with his bases-clearing double. There were exhilarating parts along the way for sure. Moments I’ll never forget with bolts of unconstrained euphoria. But it was overshadowed by this never-ending feeling of impending disaster. Somehow this was going to be the next brick in the wall blocking me from knowing my team as a champion. Instead, they have a WS pennant and we’ll always have 2015.
I want to make a New Year’s resolution to just sit back and enjoy watching the magic of Mahomes and this team without the feeling of dread. Without the worry of “what if they don’t win?” Without thinking of the end while the present is still happening. To live in the reality that the previous years of Royals, Chiefs, and Mizzou heartbreak have no impact on this year. It all sounds good in theory.
I want to do this. I’ll try to do this. But if I’m being honest, I fear the result will be the same as my other resolutions have been. Starting out with the youthful vigor to attack the internal contract like the first day of class. And as it progresses I fall back into old habits. These habits have formed over a lifetime of watching “supposed to’s” end up in “what could’ve been’s.”
I know I’m not the only one who watches sports like this. So I’ll do my best to sit back and enjoy the ride. Embrace the highs and lows. And hopefully, when it’s over, the Chiefs are holding the Lombardi Trophy and I’m able to look back and say, for once, I followed through on a New Year’s resolution.