I think I've discovered a major component of that thing we've reviled for decades.
A critical part of the curse is winning.
I've shared before that being a Bay Area transplant from Kansas, my favorite teams are commensurate with that geographic identity. Here's how the curse has affected those teams.
San Francisco Giants. None other than the major league baseball champions three of the last five years. I don't think my feet have touched the ground in any even-numbered year this decade. The crazy thing is that in the last World Series this team played the...
Kansas City Royals. That this team would play one of the my other favorite baseball teams in the fall classic was just insane. 29 years of complete and utter baseball destitution, and suddenly a well-deserved American League pennant. Thing is, the Royals were arguably the best team in all of baseball, consistently, from the mid-70's to the late-80's. Because I now live in southern California, and have mostly since the late 70's, I grew to appreciate the...
California Angels. Sorry, no "Los Angeles" for you, or Anaheim, or any of that. I still like the team a lot, one that won it all in 2002 (against the Giants, how crazy is that) and this year had the best record in the majors with 98 wins. They haven't quite had the success of the...
San Francisco 49ers. Talk about winning. Five Super Bowl titles. Three years in a row previous to 2014 making it to the NFC Championship game. Reputation as one of the greatest teams ever. I watched a documentary on the NFL channel last night about Bill Walsh, not just a genius coach but a genius leader. Funny thing is, during that broadcast something was happening, live, with my only favorite NBA team, the...
Kansas City Chiefs.
As I get to what this is all about, major, intense, very fun Chiefs things, that big-time Warriors thing that happened last night? In their game against the Sacramento Kings, guard Klay Thompson scored 37 points in one quarter, setting an NBA record. I mean, how could this Warriors team get any more dominant?
How could any of this be a curse?
It is simply because of the Then what? factor. The simple truth that when you've won, what are you going to do now? After you've won, what happens when you don't win? How do you feel then? It's almost like you are the first loser. It's not the second place guy who's the first loser, it's the team that won last year and couldn't keep it up. Why? How? Were you for real or not? Guess not or you wouldn't've lost. You were winners, now you're just the most disgraced losers. That's nice.
What if you're such a dominant team no one cares? Especially if you're not in a major media market. Wow is it great to be a Warriors fan right now -- it is so much fun. But the Warriors are crushing every opponent they see, and while Steph Curry is extraordinarily popular because he is so skilled, what if every game is a blowout? And you're a team like, oh, the Charlotte Hornets or the Jacksonville Jaguars -- small market, smearing the New York's and Los Angeles's. (In fact the NBA is probably going apoplectic right now because the Knicks and Lakers are so thoroughly crappy this year. There's a planetload of money going right out the window. But don't worry, they'll mess with something to get them back to winning very soon...)
Then there's the pursuit. In a very perverse way, I admit, it is good to not win. It is good because you can keep thinking about what it takes to win. The coaches and players work harder at it all, we fans and bloggers get to keep talking and writing about it, and there is great anticipation about what's to come.
When you've won, tha's it. You did it. Now don't get me wrong. Again, the Giants winning World Series crowns every other year is extraordinarily exhilarating, and carries through the whole following year. Every devout fan of a winning team knows that well. But when you think about it, what good is it if you win it all every year? "Oh, yeah, forgot, this is our 57th title in a row. Whoop. Pass the peanuts would you?"
It means something when your team has worked like crazy and done what it takes to reach that final pinnacle. In fact, it only means something when that happens, and you'd done a bunch of losing before, and now, now -- you actually have a shot.
The curse is not in the losing, but in the winning.
Which makes me think, maybe all that crappy stuff that has happened to the Chiefs, all that playoff ugliness, is for something better, something greater. Maybe not, yeah, and yeah, the curse is wretched, it really is. But I do want to emphasize, when I speak of the curse in spiritual terms, as a supernatural element -- I am serious about that, but I also know that overcoming it requires all the facets of leadership and talent and coaching and heart and camaraderie and desire and incisiveness and pride and teamwork to come together to make any title worth it.
I must also add this important point. It's just a game. It's for fun. Yes it's brutal when we lose. Yes there is a dynamic that the sport reflects real life when reaching for success in any endeavor we must employ the finest leadership and talent and [see paragraph just above]. I don't mean to dismiss the meaning, because it is splendid when we win. But damn, we do tend to treat it all far too seriously.
This past weekend Green Bay lost when a furious comeback by Seattle included a dropped on-sides kick by a Packers receiver. I'd heard that many were excoriating the guy, like in social media and such, and I'm thinking, are you kidding me? Sure I wear it all over my sleeve in this blog whenever there's a bad Chiefs thing that happens, sometimes I wear it all over my clothes. But please, if I ever did that to any player regarding any Chiefs thing, somebody pull me aside and yell loudly to me that this whole thing no matter what happens is supposed to be a fun thing.
With all that in mind, let's do the thing that's fun no matter what, let's get into those Chiefs, let's talk about them during this time when it's a lot of fun to think deeply about our team's prospects for next year. And I will tell you, I am very encouraged about what we've got going. In earlier posts I addressed the impact of Clark Hunt and John Dorsey, but we can't go without making mention of the third key guy in that triumvirate, our coach.
There's no question having Andy Reid with a couple Chiefs years already is tremendously advantageous. His coaching staff seems to be firmly in place, so tuned in to the program, and having a sense that the organization is tremendously stable -- what joy to be writing that! It seems, it seems none of these guys are angling to take off, messing with the steady building of a truly contending team.
Let's go through each level of the Chiefs team shaping up for next year, and do the intense analysis, shall we?
Running backs. Jamaal. Knile. We're set. I must also give major kudos to De'Anthony Thomas, who exceeded expectations -- this guy just looked spectacular. Think of what an imaginative Andy Reid could do with him for next year and beyond. The one concern, Jamaal's health and stamina. Again this year he took some real cringe-making shots. Um, I have to ask again, does he still have to play in the Pro Bowl tomorrow? Can he please not, please?
Quarterback. I'm sorry, but I'm not on the rip-Alex Smith-a-new-aye-hole crew every time we talk about him. I'd like to think most Chiefs fans do give him the benefit of the doubt. Yes he is too conservative -- but as I said, a lot of correcting that is the coaching staff setting him up for success. Yes we all think the issue with our passing game may be as much Alex as much as it is his receivers -- I'm hoping him being here with Reid for another year will get quite a bit more got-it pumped into him. And let's all face it, think about it, Smith has led us to winning seasons both of his years as our QB. I for one am hoping this is the year he makes the jump into the higher levels of top echelon NFL quarterbacking.
Offensive line. Yep Eric Fisher needs to get to the level of a No. 1 overall pick. Yes we need Jeff Allen to be back and playing well. Yes we need to re-sign Rodney Hudson. And yes yes yes this is a severe needs area for us. We'll see.
Wide receivers. Oh. Ngg. Errp. Nngkn. Well, since this is a mostly positive look at the 2015 Chiefs, let's just say that any team can have a year when no receiver scores a touchdown, come on, it can happen to anyone! Well, yeah, this is definitely one area that needs the most rigorous attention, but we all know that. In the mean time Dwayne Bowe is still good, and we saw flashes of fine play from people like Albert Wilson and Jason Avant. Having Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins injured for most of the season did not help.
Defensive line. Dontari Poe's already established himself as one of the best nose tackles in the league. We got very nice play from Allen Bailey and respectable results from a handful of others, some filling in well for injured Mike DeVito. The run defense needed work, but these guys were part of a top-notch pass defense.
Linebackers. Losing Derrick Johnson hurt a lot, but we still had All Pro pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston wreaking havoc in the opponent's backfield. Houston was half-a-sack shy of setting an NFL record last year. Here's to getting him re-signed. I'd like to think Dee Ford is a keeper, he looked good in the limited amount we saw him this season. We still need to get that guy who can shut down the run in a big way. D.J. should be back and ready to go, but I still have to ask: Will the next Luke Kuechly be available for us when we our pick comes up in the draft? I hope so!
This defense only allowed 18 points a game this year, one of the best in the NFL. It had the consistently top-ranked pass defense all year long. And yeah, we were the only NFL team to beat both participants in this year's Super Bowl, the Patriots and Seahawks. Thing is, we didn't just beat them, we really beat them. We blasted the Patriots 41-14, and while the Seahawks game was closer we grinded out a hard-fought, well-deserved win.
To me this kind of stuff just means we're poised for greatness next year. We don't have to win right now to enjoy Chiefs success, it is clear we have personnel at every level who know what it takes and are working hard towards the goal.
The beauty of winning is in the getting there. Yeah when we finally get there it'll be glorious, but it's glorious right now. You know, I confess I do think about the Warriors this year blowing it to some team that gets hot in the playoffs, but why worry about that? Why not have fun right now? It's a blast!
It's fun seeing that the Chiefs are moving steadily towards that level of respectability in the NFL as a genuinely quality organization.
I have to add that the Pro Bowl is tomorrow. I may or may not watch it, don't much care a whole lot about it. But the other day the NFL channel replayed last year's Pro Bowl, the first one in which the each conference's players were split up, last year it was "Team Rice" against "Team Sanders." To be honest, the only thing I remember from that game last year was watching, with the most gargantuous mortification you can imagine, Derrick Johnson just plow into Jamaal Charles. It looked like he killed him, right there on the football field. The announcers were saying things like, "Whulp, that's what you get with this, teammates playing hard against other teammates. How exciting!" How harrowing!
But with my attention on other things while the game progressed, I happened to catch these few items. It was weird how they just showed up when my attention went to the game. Yes, we did have eight players there, so it was likely these things might happen. It was still fun:
- Eric Berry intercepting a pass.
- Eric Berry recovering a fumble.
- Dontari Poe intercepting a pass. (Yes, Dontari Poe. Interception. And he rumbled some 40 yards afterwards.)
- Jamaal Charles getting the last good running play for his team towards the end of the game.
- Derrick Johnson talking to a sideline reporter about how proud he was of the Chiefs turnaround (remember: 1-15 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013).
- Derrick Johnson being in the mix of everything on defense on the way to winning the defensive MVP award.
- Derrick Johnson speaking to everyone from the dais after the game about how proud he was to represent the Chiefs.
- Alex Smith throwing the game-winning touchdown. (Perhaps a portend for the Chiefs 2014 season: the pass was to a running back.)
This team does have players who have got-it. The Chiefs have a lot of them. I see they have an owner, a general manager, and a coach with got-it. A lot of it.
I can't wait to see it on the field next year!