Tag Archives: Fandom

Memory Banks

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Divisional Playoffs
January 23, 2022
Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City, MO

Wow! What a game between the Bills and the Chiefs!

The greatest game in NFL playoff history?

The greatest total QB performance by both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes?

Who’s to judge? I’m biased so I am a resounding “YES!” On both counts.

I tried to sleep after the game. I was beat. Worn out from a head cold and from sitting on pins and needles for hours watching the game. Okay, I was also worn out from yelling at the TV but I’ll rant about that in a later post.

I tried to sleep. Monday morning and work were staring me in the face. I needed sleep. I knew I had to trick my mind into a relaxing slumber so I pulled up a book I’m reading on orbital mechanics. Thirty minutes into reading about eccentricity and inclination and the argument of periapsis, I was not only not tired but I was actually getting really fired up about eccentricity, inclination, and the argument of periapsis. The Chiefs’ game adrenaline was still flowing.

I gave up on trying to read myself to sleep so I contemplated the game. There was a nagging familiarity during the game that jostled my memory banks. A pleasant familiarity I couldn’t quite put a finger on during the excitement of the game.

But as I lay there in bed staring at the ceiling with the joy of the unlikeliest of Chiefs’ victories being a real and tangible victory, that specific memory came rushing back.

It happened in the early 1970s. I was watching the Vikings play the Rams from the LA Coliseum on TV from Kansas City, KS. It was a beautiful, late afternoon, Southern California day. I was, and still am, a fan of the game of football so the 8-10-year-old me was soaking in all the NFL action he could find. The young me couldn’t get enough football when it was football season, baseball when it was baseball season, or basketball when it was basketball season. It was, and still is, a blessing and a curse.

Fran Tarkenton was the quarterback for the Vikings and Roman Gabriel was the quarterback for the Rams that day. What I remember is those two great QBs of my childhood throwing long passes up and down the field in an amazing offensive game. Gabriel would drop back, set his feet, and launch a rainbow of a pass that seemed to clear the upper rim of the Coliseum. Next, Tarkenton would employ his textbook scramble, moving 30 or more yards to avoid the fierce Fearsome Foursome pass rushers and let the ball fly downfield for a completion.

Burned in the memory is this pattern of incredible passing feats that went back and forth the entire game. Bomb after bomb after bomb. It probably didn’t happen this way but that is how the kid-generated memory reads in my 57-year-old mind. The memory may not be 100% accurate, but in my memory banks, it’s 100% spectacular even after all these years. It’s a feeling of pure, youthful sports joy I hope I never outgrow.

Why do I share this 1970s football memory with you? Because I hope the young kids who watched the Bills play the Chiefs on January 23, 2022, burn the memory into their memory banks like I did in the early 1970s. I hope when they’re 57, the near-perfect performance of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in a game for the ages rushes back and puts a smile on their faces.

That’s what sports are all about. Magic and memory.

Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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The American Game

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. For me, it’s always been a great day. This year is extra special because the team that’s woven into my DNA, the Kansas City Chiefs, is playing for a chance to win their second straight Lombardi Trophy. 

The Super Bowl is a celebration of the game of football. Football has become America’s Game. Rightfully so. 

It’s the perfect modern American Game. 

A contest is scheduled.

Fans, coaches, and players prepare. They can even talk some trash before the game.

The game is played. The teams tried to bash each other’s heads in for four quarters. 

One side wins. One side loses. 

At the end of the game, we shake hands, go our separate ways, and then get ready for the next game. It’s play the game, enjoy it, and get back to work. 

See what I mean? It truly is America’s Game. 

A lesson staring us in the face about what we need to do as a nation, as the United States of America, moving forward into 2021 and beyond.

It’s easy to get sidelined by things outside of our control. It’s easy to become caught in a loop of emotion and lost in confusion. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s vital and important. 

Enjoy the Super Bowl today!

Cheer and scream for our team. Eat, drink, and be merry. Most importantly, be safe and be true. 

When the game is over, shake hands, and wish your opponent well. Then wake up tomorrow and get back to the business of being a good American. We need teamwork to put the greatest nation on Earth back on the right track. We need each other.

America’s Game is asking for you to chip in. 

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No Country For Grumpy Old Men

Something hit me like a brick the other day while looking over the Chiefs Super LV Bowl Week Spirit Activities from the elementary school where my wife teaches. Something that could have instantly thrown me, a lifelong Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs sports fan, into get-off-my-lawn-you-you-you-young-whippersnappers, grumpy-old-man mode. 

It easily could have resulted in me ranting at whoever lent an ear about my long-suffering fandom, the years of terrible teams, years of gut-wrenching defeats, and years of one disappointment after another. Instead, while observing the enthusiasm the local youth exhibited after the Royals 2015 World Series Title and the recent Chiefs Super Bowl runs, I just about exploded with joy.

It’s awesome to see. The joy of being a sports fan. The joy of sports. The joy of proudly and innocently cheering for a sports team. Man, I remember those days well. Those days, in fact, help fuel my love of sports and passion for baseball and football. They helped form me into the somewhat responsible adult that I’ve become.

The young Chiefs and Royals fans in the 10-year-old range around our local elementary schools have seen two World Series, one with a championship from the Royals. They’ve witnessed an improbable three straight Chiefs home AFC Championship Games, two straight Super Bowl appearances with a great chance to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies, and a possible run at a three-peat. 

To these kids, this is normal. This is the way. 

It’s crazy but it’s true.

So instead of going grumpy old man on the enthusiastic young fans in your life, join the party! Cheer them on as much or more than you cheer on the teams. Learn from their youthful exuberance and live life with their spirit and passion.

Let kids enjoy their fandom as kids. The realities of sports and of life will one day chase them down. They will learn to win as well as lose. They will suffer defeats as well as victories. 

But for now, enjoy the ride, kids!

And in twenty years, we can sit down and tell stories about these times in our sports life. Oh yes, we will have stories to tell my friends.

Remember that one time…

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‘Tis the Season

Is there really any better time for a sports fan than those golden few days of unbridled optimism right BEFORE the season starts? Hope courses through the veins and excitement runs rampant.

Everybody’s undefeated.

Everybody’s in the race.

The championship is still a possibility.

The MLB season starts in less than a week! It’s probably my personal favorite pro season. I’ll subscribe to my MLB At-Bat app this week for my fourth straight year. I can’t wait. For $3.00 a month, I get access to every radio feed for every game on every day of the season. Plus, there’s one free MLB TV game a day and the Gamecast feed for each contest.

Of course, I will follow my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals, faithfully again this year. I will live and die emotionally with the ebbs and flows of the 162-game season. I will try my best to home manage the team and drive them to a return to the playoffs.

I am excited. The 2017 Royals season may be the final season with the core group of players that brought a World Series trophy back to KC. But, I can live with that. That’s the economics of baseball and the economics of a small market fandom.

Baseball, like life, runs in a cycle. Things come around, things go around. Rebuild, succeed, dismantle, repeat. I enjoy the cycle. As a coach, a fan, and a former player, baseball clicks all the right buttons.

Next week, it all starts again.

The 2017 Major League Baseball season.

The Royal will win ANOTHER World Series. Possibly. Maybe. Okay, it’ll be a longshot. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

Hope springs eternal.

Play ball!

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ROAR

Tiger Bike Night. It’s one of the highlights of our local high school football home season. Local motorcycle enthusiasts line up along the track, and, after the team walks down the line of bikes, they take a lap around the track before kickoff. It’s cool. It’s LOUD. It’s probably the closest representation of what goes on inside the head of a player at the line of scrimmage just before the ball is snapped during a game.

My favorite memory of Bike Night from the days when I still coached was the first time they ever did it. I think it was 2005 or 2006, but those details begin to fade in my aging memory. The details may fade, but the visceral feeling doesn’t (and I hope it never does.).

This Bike Night was something completely new to CCCHS. We stood outside the locker room and watched the bikes drive through the stadium gate and line up in front of the stands at the south end of Otto Unruh Stadium. There was no plan for players to interact with the bikers, so we went back into the locker room to wait for the signal for us to come out for the national anthem and player introductions.

I wish I could describe the feeling in that locker room when the riders began to rev their engines. Words will not do justice to the reaction of the body and the reaction of the fifty odd, crammed-into-a-locker room-collective-of-teenage-boys, already emotionally charged to play a football game, when they felt the roar of the bikes.
It was electric.

The player’s eyes danced as they looked to their left and right at their teammates. Tight smiles formed across the faces. Each understood what the others were feeling. The rumbling and the roar flowed through the blood spiked by the release of adrenaline. They were ready to run through the concrete walls.

Blood
Intensity
Power

Chained power in the revved engines transferred to the hearts of each and every one of us. Energy in motion. Ready to hit the opponent in the mouth with a brick. Ready to shine your shillelagh and charge onto the field. Ready to play Tiger Football the way we were supposed to play Tiger Football.

Full throttle.
Fast forward.
Balls to the wall.
Hit you like a cannon shot.
Every man, every play.

Clay Center Tiger Football. The way the game was meant to be played.

I appreciated the bike night event. The 2016 Tiger Bike Night is this Friday. I don’t know if I’ll go. I don’t know if I can feel that special ROAR again and not feel the tug on my gut that pulls unrelenting back into that world again.
That grating, tingling sense which gnaws on you like a phantom limb. Always there, yet missing. The world of competing and pushing, pulling, driving, willing over 60 kids toward a common goal each year. All this wrapped up in that visceral rumbling of dozens and dozens of bikes, each revving their engine on the most beautiful piece of real estate in the county. Our house.

Finally, if you find yourself in Otto Unruh Stadium on this Friday Night In America listening to the roar of Tiger Bike Night before the Tigers vs Goodland football game, do old Coach Hays a favor. Close your eyes and feel the ROAR. Feel it in your gut and in your chest. Close your eyes and dream of competing. Close your eyes and appreciate the community of players, coach, and fans in our little gem of a city. Then bring on the three B’s:

Bandanas
Bikers
Ball

Friday Night In America…Biker style!

tiger-bike-night

Photo courtesy of the Orange & Black Pack

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Resiliency

Resiliency is  vital in tough situations. Resiliency with a little humor and smart-assedness is my favorite. I particularly like these photos from Fayetteville last week after the firing of the University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino for “misleading and manipulative behavior”. (For details of this story of the downfall of one of the absolute worst  character coaches in the profession, see here.)

You may not consider a college football coach scandal is a “tough” situation, but for some of us who are, or were, in the eat, sleep and live your favorite teams category, it is a tough situation. At a proud, tradition-rich football school like the University of Arkansas, there is A LOT of eating, sleeping and living Razorback football.  I do like the humor, the smart assedness, and the resiliency shown by these men. I laughed for an extended period when I first saw them. True, it is a sad, embarrassing situation for all involved, but here are a couple guys who have taken the first step to normalcy in their turned-over-on-its-head college sports fandom experience. I would bet these guys are ready to move onto the next coach, the next season; to put on their Hog hats on a fall Saturday afternoon and head to the stadium. That’s resiliency.

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