Unabated to the QB, Week 4: A Trip to Arrowhead

This is going to sound not just East-Coastish but elitist and snotty. But facts are facts. The special community of shoppers in the Expo Bldg. are a Midwestern subphylum commonly if unkindly known as Kmart People. Farther south they’d be a certain fringe-type of White Trash. Kmart People tend to be overweight, polyestered, grim-faced, toting glazed unhappy children. Toupees are the movingly obvious shiny square-cut kind, and the women’s makeup is garish and often asymmetrically applied, giving many of the female faces a kind of demented look. They are sharp-voiced and snap at their families. They’re the type you see slapping their kids in supermarket checkouts. They are people who work at like Champaign’s Kraft and Decatur’s A. E. Staley and think pro wrestling is real. I’m sorry, but this is all true. I went to high school with Kmart People. I know them. They own firearms and do not hunt. The aspire to own mobile homes. They read the Star without even a pretense of contempt and have toilet paper with little off-color jokes printed on it.

—“Getting Away from Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All”*

Nothing like David Foster Wallace* to articulate the Midwest in an essay I gleefully read on my flight back from it. That’s right, I spent my weekend living it up in Oklahoma City/Stillwater/Kansas City, witnessing the Giants’ 27-16 victory over the Chiefs first-hand at Arrowhead Stadium.

*This is quoted more for humor than as a representation of my Midwestern experience.

Now, like most baseball fans, I’ve long harbored the desire to see a game at every Major League stadium. Sometime in the last decade this became clichéd, although this guy has kind of taken it to a new level.

For various reasons, pretty much no one has this goal for football stadiums. The obvious one is that, with one game per week and only eight home games per season, it’s a lot harder to accomplish.* More important, however, is the lack of identity for many of the league’s stadiums. Watch a game in one concrete bowl, and you’ve pretty much seen a game in every concrete bowl.

*It’s conceivable to do all 30 Major League stadiums in one season. Football would take at least two, and that’s if everything works out perfectly.

That’s where Arrowhead enters the picture. Opened in 1972, Arrowhead seems to have gained most of its reputation during the 1990s, when every game was sold out and the Chiefs were practically unbeatable at home (except, you know, in the playoffs). It’s been known as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL for decades despite a design that I can’t imagine is great for acoustics.* As a result, the list of NFL Stadiums I’ve Always Wanted to See a Game In looked like this:

1. Lambeau

2. Arrowhead

*When most Midwestern cities were building said concrete bowls to house both football and baseball, Kansas City opted to construct separate stadiums that each had a modicum of character. Not surprisingly, both still stand while the likes of the Vet, Three Rivers, Riverfront, and Busch I have all been replaced. The very design of Arrowhead refutes the whole bowl concept: Its upper decks flare out parabolically in a wide, inverted arch. That means seats near the top of the upper deck (read: like the one I occupied Sunday) aren’t that high and provide an excellent view of the field. Amateur physicist that I am, I’m pretty sure the relative lack of steepness hurts the overall noise level.

And Arrowhead lives up to its reputation. There was, more or less, a sea of red at the game; the tailgate looked fun yet orderly; and the fans were still fairly loud despite the facts that the Chiefs entered the day with 28 losses in their last 30 games, that they fumbled the opening kickoff to pretty much kill any fan’s optimism, and that the Giants dominated for most of the game. The fans were consistently noisy on Giants’ third downs (even if they’re prompted by the PA announcer going, “Iiiiiiiitt’s thirrrrrrrrrrd downnnnnnnnnnn!”), quiet when the Chiefs were on offense, and got excited enough during that fourth-quarter “comeback” to make me a little worried.

It was the kind of crowd that really makes you appreciate Kansas City and the loyalty of the football fan in general. Can you imagine watching your football team lose 29 of 31? And then trying to talk yourself into the Royals? I don’t know whether I want KC to get the Islanders; is that a reward or a punishment of more of the same? Through it all, Arrowhead is still sold out game after game (since 1990) and the fans are still loud. And in the NFL, this is far from unique. Kansas City, Oakland, and Buffalo are still tough places to play, even if the teams there are awful. It’s hard to say the same thing in the NBA and MLB.

Furthermore, as you know, I take great pride in dissecting the jersey-wearing tendencies of individuals and fan bases. And KC definitely passed the test, as shown by the list of jerseys I saw, roughly in order of frequency, with some footnotes:

  • Larry Johnson1
  • Tony Gonzalez2
  • Derrick Thomas3
  • Trent Green
  • Matt Cassel
  • Dwayne Bowe
  • Priest Holmes
  • Joe Montana4
  • Marcus Allen
  • Christian Okoye5
  • Len Dawson
  • Dante Hall
  • Tony Richardson
  • Neil Smith
  • Mike Vrabel
  • Ty Law
  • Patrick Surtain
  • Johnnie Morton
  • Tamarick Vanover6

1 I questioned the frequency I saw LJ’s 27 at first, but what other current Chiefs jersey would you buy?

2 Totally forgivable. Gonzalez is an all-time Kansas City great.

3 Couldn’t be happier to see the late Thomas—probably the second-best pass-rushing linebacker in NFL history (and certainly the second-best pass-rushing linebacker in Tecmo Super Bowl)—represented. I, of course, sported the jersey of the first.*

4 While I liked seeing it, I wondered if, if I were a Chiefs’ fan, I would ever buy Montana’s 19. He never really belonged to Kansas City, even if it’s hard to come up with a legendary player having a better run with his second team than Joe. Ultimately, I like to think Kansas City Tim would own a Youth Montana jersey, given for his ninth birthday. I wouldn’t have considered the long-term ramifications of Montana jersey ownership at that age, and he was Kansas City’s best player at the time.

5 The first guy I saw wearing this had dreadlocks. Perfect.

6 I thought the Morton one was esoteric, but Vanover? Dude caught 39 passes as a Chief. He was, however, an AWESOME return man, and the guy wearing his #87 had clearly gotten a lot of use out of it.

*In the end, I decided to go with the old-school royal LT jersey over the road Strahan jersey because of the latter’s resemblance to Kansas City’s white jersey.

It’s really hard to find fault in that list, with the notable exception that no one sported Marc Boerigter’s 85 or Steve Bono’s 13.

  • Man, it couldn’t be a better week for Tim’s Untenable Jets Bash of the Week, with the only real difficulty residing in coming up with something that qualifies as untenable. Let’s go with: Hey Jet fans, still feeling good about Mark Sanchez as your quarterback after the offense he led scored fewer points than the mediocre Saints’ defense did against it?
  • Tim’s Indefensible Plug of the Chiefs seems a bit superfluous this week, considering above.
  • Worst 4-0 team in NFL history, Denver!
  • I joked last week about the Bengals going 18-1 with their one loss being of the last-second variety to Denver. But a friend pointed out that we can still consider the possibility that the Broncos may go 19-0, in which case that game would go down as one of the most incredible in NFL history. Furthermore, imagine this scenario: The Broncos go 16-0 AND the Bengals go 15-1, which would force us all to contemplate how much cooler it would have been had Brandon Stokley caught that pass in a Week 17 showdown between 15-0 teams.
  • All that said, if the Broncos were to play in Tennessee this week, who would be favored and by how much? And who would YOU pick?
  • Same can’t be said for Antonio Cromartie, who was toasted by the Steelers.
  • The underplayed story of the week: Ryan Longwell and Lawrence Tynes getting vengeance on their former teams.
  • Watching LaDainian Tomlinson the last 16 games makes you wonder how much is left in Adrian Peterson’s tank. Does the Vikings’ window close next season with him?
  • Tomlinson himself has kind of become the poster boy for the idea that the Chargers overall are a team without heart. Putting aside the intangible nature of “heart” and its effects on a football team, the statement is false. A lot of people look at the Chargers of the last two-plus seasons (since their 14-2 breakout campaign in 2006) as underachieving: They couldn’t back up that 14-win season under a new coach, and they luckily made the playoffs at 8-8 last year. At the same time, San Diego has won three playoff games the last two seasons, and I think it’s time to ask whether the Chargers underachieve of if they’re overrated overachievers. Think about it: Tomlinson is no longer an elite running back, their wide receivers are slightly above average, and their defense has been hampered by injuries to its best players. I myself am guilty of putting the Chargers on a pedestal, but maybe it’s time to say that San Diego is a good but not great football team—regardless of its level of “heart.”

“Prior to the Snap” — Week 5

Last Week: 5-10

Overall: 18-29

Minnesota (-10.5) over ST. LOUIS

KANSAS CITY (+8.5) over Dallas

Washington (+3.5) over CAROLINA

PHILADELPHIA (-13.5) over Tampa Bay

NY GIANTS (-15.5) over Oakland

Cleveland (+6) over BUFFALO

Cincinnati (+8.5) over BALTIMORE

Pittsburgh (-10.5) over DETROIT

SAN FRANCISCO (-2.5) over Atlanta

New England (-3) over DENVER

Houston (+5.5) over ARIZONA

SEATTLE (+3) over Jacksonville (outright)

TENNESSEE (+4) over Indianapolis

NY Jets (-1.5) over MIAMI

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