A feeling of longing and desire washed through my body. I didn’t want to be drawn in, but the temptation was too much and the decadent promise of an old lover lured me back like expensive chocolate and cheap booze.
I shot the TV a passing glance and just hoped that my husband wouldn’t catch me drooling over my Ex. My heartbeat quickened as primitive muscle memory hijacked my forearm forcing it into position for the Tomahawk Chop. Sounds of the chant invaded my ears and jerked me back to long-buried memories until I had to leave the room.
What I caught on TV was my former beloved football team beating up on the Raiders in their usual ugly fashion. They worked their long-absent magic and tried to make me a believer again by showing off their impressive defense. Instead of flipping the channel to the NFL Redzone, I soaked up the post-win atmosphere and found myself yearning, hoping and wishing….wishing that they were still my Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs who had broken my heart, ruined my self-esteem and left me wanting more almost 13 years ago.
My love affair with the game of football started at the tender age of 14. It was then that I first noticed the adorable dazed look of appreciation in a cute boy’s eyes as I explained the difference between a first down and a touchdown during a high school football game. Sensing an opportunity, I quickly moved into describing the strategic advantage of the single-wing offense in an 8-man scheme–he was helplessly hooked and soon became my boyfriend.
Next came a naïve appreciation of college rivalries, tailgating and the Big Eight. I grew up with the Kansas State Wildcats and claimed them as my own even though they were terrible. The worst college football team in the country–way back when big hair was cool and high waist jeans were a fashion statement.
Then came the Joes–Montana and Theismann. It wasn’t their quarterback rating that caught my eye, but more so how they looked in tight white pants AND that they shared the same first name as my own high school boyfriend—something very important to a silly, romantic teenage girl trying to navigate through the NFL.
Once the “high school Joe” and I graduated and went to different schools, I dove into football female independence and developed a true appreciation for the game. In 1991, I moved to Kansas City and it wasn’t long before my path crossed with the team destined to be my demise.
I didn’t ask to love them, I didn’t want to love them. Obviously, I wasn’t their only girl and I certainly wasn’t their first. I tried to make them love me back by cooking great tailgate food, showing up to see them whenever they played and wearing red and yellow even though the colors looked hideous on me.
Quite simply, we moved too quickly and I jumped in bed before I really knew what had hit me. Only 3 months in and was I picking out seats for the Super Bowl.
That said, many of the games left me feeling used and cheap–just like all of the other girls who painted their faces red and bared their bellies for the cameras. But they continued to suck me in with their seductive culture. A culture of brats and beer on crisp October mornings coupled with infectious, decibel-exploding fans as well as a beautiful stadium nestled right next to my KC Royals.
While the relationship was long-term and committed, it was also unhealthy, one-sided and just plain wrong. By 1993, an exciting 11-5 season that resulted in winning the AFC Divisional Playoffs, I was hooked, intoxicated and completely obsessed. Even after I married and promised to love and honor my husband, I kept the Chiefs on the side. Hubby didn’t seem to mind too badly because I suspected he was messing around with his own love-hate relationship involving the Minnesota Vikings.
When Joe Montana (my most favorite football player ever) came to the town—I knew I’d never ever be able to leave. It wasn’t until I was standing on top of a rickety coffee table and yelling at the TV while big and pregnant with my husband’s child that I realized I had a serious problem.
From that point, the relationship continue to take mortal hits: a loss to the Bills in the AFC Championship and then again the following year to Miami in the Wild Card. These were the canaries in the cave mine that should have been my warning. Still I stayed, painted up, nursing tomahawk tendonitis and crying silent tears at the end of yet another anti-climatic season.
Then the inevitable happened. They had a post-season melt-down that broke the camel’s back. I watched in disbelief and pure horror as the man paid millions of dollars to kick a leather oval ball missed THREE crucial field goals. Those blown opportunities marked the end to their amazing 13-3 season and completely annihilated any love or affection I’d previously held for them. For my own health and sanity, I knew it had to end and it did. Just like that.
Since I still loved the game, I needed something to relieve the stress and watch for fun without any real emotional ties. My recipe for healing involved a series of one-season stands with “pretend” favorites such as Minnesota, Green Bay and New England.
I also clung to the KSU Wildcats and despite their many disappointing near misses, stood beside them like family–even in 1998 when they lost the Big 12 championship game to Texas A&M in triple overtime. You can’t ditch family, right?
As my heart healed, I continued to engage in a less monogamous relationships and fostered a fetish for fake teams and false match-ups. Fantasy Football was made for a girl like me since I could jump from team to team and player to player without any commitment or strings attached. By 2006, I was completely over the Chiefs and didn’t give them a second thought.
Until last Sunday vs. the Raiders.
How did this happen? I caught myself watching them on TV again. My heart was suddenly willing them–begging them–to win. When Houston fumbled near the KC goal line with less than two minutes left, I almost jumped out of my chair.
Listen, I don’t judge you for loving the chiefs. In fact, I’m quite envious because I wish I could. Suddenly, they are 7-0 and everyone around me is climbing on the bandwagon and beckoning me to join. We could be together in your living room right now jumping up and down and celebrating like idiots. This could be “the year” and my foolish pride will leave me to hang out at the little kid’s table with my hurting Wildcats over Thanksgiving.
Enjoy the rest of October, bask in the hope of post-season possibilities and harness the heady rush that a roller coaster relationship like this has.
You might have to help me keep strong though.
Even as I write this, my resolve is weakening as their sexy siren song beckons me back to the faithful with the promise of renewed love.
The smell of beer and brats…Len Dawson and Mitch Holthus on the radio…Arrowhead…
Hmmm…..Do you think we can at least be friends??
Up Next: My Heart to Yours (It’s just a little heart attack!)