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Ten Thoughts for Monday Morning

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Normally, we start this talking Mizzou. And I promise we’re going to do that because that’s why most of you are here. But I wanted to go a different route to begin this week.

1) I spent seven hours parked in front of the TV yesterday watching first Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs and then Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs advance to Super Bowl LV. “The Goat and the Kid,” as Nate Burleson dubbed the matchup, will meet in Tampa, in Brady’s adopted home stadium, in 13 days. I’ve already rewatched a lot of the highlights and read a few stories this morning and two thoughts have continually run through my head:

First, I still can’t really grasp that this is the team that crushed my soul for the first 30-plus years I was a fan and that it is led by this quarterback.

But this isn’t an ode to the Chiefs or Patrick Mahomes. The second thought, and the one I woke up this morning wanting to write about, is Thank God for sports.

The last ten months have been pretty awful. We’ve all gone through our ups and downs. We’ve all had days where it seems more or less fine and others where it seems like this is never going to end and everything sucks and we just want to go back to bed and hope the next day is closer to the former and further from the latter. And sports has helped give me—and I assume most of you—a few days that were closer to good than bad.

First, I think it’s necessary to say that I know the games don’t really matter. With some of the things that have happened in our country and across the world in the last ten months, which color jerseys score more points is even more inconsequential than it has always been. In some ways, I think the last year has helped a lot of us put sports in perspective.

But in some ways, it has seemed even more important.

Last summer, when we were completely without sports and weren’t sure they were going to come back this year, I (sort of jokingly, but not really) told some of my friends that Mahomes damn well better not get COVID and if the virus cost us one of his prime seasons, it would be devastating. Again, of course that’s hyperbolic and I didn’t really mean it. I mean, at least not completely.

Anyway, to the point, I’ve gotten 18 windows this year to turn on my TV, watch and root for the team I’ve followed for 35 years and pretend the result of that game was the only thing that mattered. Because we didn’t have much else to do, I watched Chiefs every game live this season. I even watched a few other NFL games during the regular season, which isn’t really something I normally do because the older I get, I really only care about my team. I just don’t have the time or the desire to spend three hours watching the Saints play the Eagles. But I did it a few times this year. And I watched every snap of every playoff game except the Saints and the Bears.

I mostly watched games alone because my wife has a passing interest in the Chiefs, but usually not enough to invest three hours in it, especially the prime time games that end after we normally go to bed, and our son who is still at home has zero interest in sports other than to wonder why I care so much. So I’d settle in front of the TV and maintain five or six different text conversations with friends of mine who are Chiefs fans.

We’d share varying levels of elation and devastation (there was a whole lot more good than bad and when you cheer for a team with Mahomes at quarterback, becauseeven when it would be bad for most fans, it seems far less bad for you until the moment he tries to stand up and can’t and you think “This seems like a terrible way for it to end") for a few hours every Sunday (or Monday or Thursday, or whatever—the Chiefs played on a lot of different days and, honestly, every day seems pretty much the same at this point anyway).

If felt normal. For three hours, none of the other stuff mattered. It was just the game and the joy and the pain it brought me and sharing that joy or pain (virtually) with other people who were feeling the same things.There have been a lot of reminders in the last ten months that these games are ancillary and in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter at all. But for 18 days since last March, man am I glad we have had them.

I’m going to get one more Sunday of that this year. The Super Bowl is going to be different. Last year, I met my oldest son in Omaha and we went to a local Chiefs bar to watch our team win its first title since either of us had been alive. We drank a lot and screamed a lot and hugged and high-fived each other and strangers a lot. It is a day I will treasure for the rest of my life, partly because of the final score, but mostly because we got to do it together. This year, I’ll probably order a pizza and watch at home with my wife (my son might come down for the halftime show), texting my friends throughout the game as we shut out the outside world for three or four more blissful hours. Then my sports fandom will go back into hibernation for a few months because—assuming the Royals will be terrible again—the Chiefs are the one thing I have left that allow me to be nothing more than a die-hard fan.

Hopefully, the next game is the last one I watch with a mostly empty stadium where I’m not checking Twitter the morning of the game making sure everyone can play. There are reasons to believe the 2021 season is going to be a lot more like the first three dozen or so I watched as a fan and a lot less like this last one. But I’m just so thankful we had these games to watch and to share. They meant more than they ever have and far more than they should.

2) Sports, more than anything else in life, really reinforce a long true cliche: It’s never as good as the first time.

Last season was a joy ride for Chiefs fans. We got to see something we’d never seen before. This season was more like a long business trip. I was still invested in the 16 regular season games (really 15 because the last one was a JV scrimmage that didn’t matter), but I knew from day one that they didn’t really matter. If the Chiefs lost, so be it. They started the season knowing they were going to be in the playoffs and the only games that really mattered would be the handful that were played in January and February.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my team to win the whole thing as much this year as I did last year. But the second trip to Disney World just isn’t the same as the first. You’ve seen all this stuff before. You’ve ridden every ride and eaten every ridiculously overpriced meal and you’ve done this all before. It doesn’t mean you don’t take the trip and it doesn’t mean you don’t love the trip. But the awe in your kids’ eyes isn’t quite the same and you don’t have to take a picture of every moment and it’s just a little bit different.

I know those who aren’t Chiefs fans will read that and say “You’ve won ONE Super Bowl. How about shut the —— up for a minute?” I get that. The Chiefs are about to turn into the team everyone else hates. And I totally understand why. Because for four decades I’ve hated the Yankees and the Patriots and Kentucky basketball and Alabama football and every other team fanbase that starts a season thinking “If we don’t win the whole thing, there’s really no point in doing this and the year is a failure.”

Fans don’t hate teams that aren’t good. For decades, Nebraska fans clapped for Mizzou walking off the field because, well, it’s easy to be nice to the team whose ass you just kicked. After 2003, that changed. You know how Missouri fans knew their team mattered? Because Nebraska fans hated you. They didn’t clap for you anymore because you were a threat to them. As a sports fan, it’s good to be hated. It means you matter.

3) What’s that? You didn’t come here to read about the Chiefs? You want to talk about Mizzou? Okay, let’s do that.

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