Thing is, the number of enshrined kicking guys is the same as the number of wide receivers who occupy that prestigious institution.
Thuh-ree. Chris Burford, Otis Taylor, and recently Carlos Carson. Tha's it.
Annnd, guess how many quarterback names are up there? If you were there at Arrowhead enjoying a splendid Chiefs victory -- go ahead, right now, just do a mental tour of the Ring of Honor -- and you were to look up at all those names that surround you as you sit in the stands, check it out, look around and find all the great Chiefs who were quarterbacks, arguably the most important position in the game of professional football, guess how many you would find?
Yeah. There is one. You know who he is, he last played a game in December of 1975, 42 years ago.
Since then? At Chiefs quarterback? While there have been some fine players doing some fine things out there for a little while, we all know...
Chiefs quarterbacking has been a barren wasteland. Again, to say nothing about these players -- all fine gentlemen indeed, all extending spirited contributions to good Chiefs things in the regular season -- there has simply not been anyone at the quarterback position who has shown they can sustain the durability and level of play particularly in the postseason to merit a place on the Chiefs Ring of Honor. Much of this is because of The Quarterback Project, the main thrust of which is you cannot get a good solid window of achieving postseason success unless you've got a drafted and developed quarterback no matter how exceptionally talented the one you have is -- Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, Trent Green, even Alex Smith among them.
A couple years ago I realized that the very same affliction has plagued the Chiefs at the wide receiver position. It may very well be that the two deficits together have aggravated the issue -- quarterbacks and wide receivers must work together with an almost transcendent mental precision, and through the years the Chiefs have just not had it, not at that consistent got-it level that gets you deep into the postseason. Again taking nothing away from those fine proud Chiefs players, I think most would agree that our winning seasons through the years have been much because of our stellar defensive play and our powerful running games (six offensive linemen, by the way, are in the Chiefs Hall).
Yes some quarterbacks and wide receivers came in and did well, but without that sustained play from those who'd eventually see their names on that Ring, the Chiefs have been doomed to slog along with extraordinarily little in the way of postseason glory.
Well guess what.
We now have our first legitimate shot at seeing that change, and right now the Chiefs Kingdom is ecstatic over the present state of affairs. Every Chiefs fan is seeing stars -- namely
Pat Mahomes. Tyreek Hill. Travis Kelce. Kareem Hunt. And now Sammy Watkins.
Very very exciting Chiefs Kingdom times indeed.
Here's the thing, I simply have to add. Yeah, personal note, but something I just have to keep in mind.
There was 1998.
We'd just come off a 13-win season, should've won a divisional game over Denver if it wasn't for ___ (fill in the blank any number of insanely stupid crazy-ass things that happened to us in that game), and that spring we signed Chester McGlockton.
I mention Chester because that is one of the few notable things I remember off-hand about that offseason. The Chiefs picked him up adding a thick wall to the middle of their line and I actually thought, "We are not going to lose a single game in 1998... YEAAAAH!!!" And it looked good for a while! Derrick Thomas was all over Oakland's QB Jeff George in that opener on Sunday night and we won going away. We shot out to a 4-1 record -- and then the wheels came off. We finished that year at 7-9 and, yeah.
So while this week it is excitement overload, I'm still going to temper my expectations. I'd still like to give Mahomes some time, let him grow -- it takes time to make it worthwhile. Sure he'll astound frequently enough, but he's likely to disappoint too, throwing that critically bad pick to lose a game in an especially nasty way. I so so so so so so want the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl this year, and every year after that. But I'm going to give these guys a break and let them mature through that standard five-year window. Can we win a Super Bowl in that time? Unquestionably.
And I do believe much of that is because of all that people like Brett, Andy, and even Clark are doing to overcome "Hunt."
I wanted to close this series with just some thoughts about the positives that emerge from the agony of Chiefs postseason reality. I jotted these down a couple months ago as I thought, hmm, what could the reasoning be for why we must endure this stuff? Could any of it make sense? Yes I am a spiritual individual, there are supernatural things out there having an impact on things, and I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I do believe things happen not merely "for a reason" but for God to accomplish His glorious purposes in our lives in light of what we may think is happening. No I don't believe God favors any team over the other and somehow arranges outcomes, I've elaborated on this before.
I do know He cares for us and wants good things for us. It's just a matter of us seeing things the way He does, and I do believe He does let us in on some of that. Not all of it of course, but enough.
How on earth could there be anything good coming from all that has happened at Arrowhead Stadium in January through the years? Here are some of my thoughts. Precisely...
What really is the good thing about the latest Chiefs playoff horror?
- Maybe we need to really understand what's important. Sometimes after any given Chiefs playoff heartbreak, I actually think, huh, maybe someone somewhere needed their team to win more than any of us needed the Chiefs to win. It is a tremendously difficult lesson in humility, in deference to the idea that hey, at least their team's fans are happy right now. It really isn't that much of a consolation, but it does profoundly relate to lessons learned in Job.
Yes, that book in the Bible that addresses head-on this suffering thing. We'd just finished it in our men's Bible study at work, and it is a radically faith-renovating book -- it really is. Yes, I do understand that there are quite a few things more important in life than a Chiefs win, I got that, but the fact is we still root for them, we still tune in or even shell out big bucks for tickets to Arrowhead and jerseys to wear there... It is still meaningful enough to capture some of our attention.
Job's lesson (among many more nuanced parts) is simply that God blesses us irrespective of anything we think or feel or do. Yeah I'm sure He still kind of expects us to be kind and loving and so forth. But the things He's doing far, far outdistance our thoughts about it all. Why do the Chiefs have this or that happen to them? It is much less about some ethereal thing God is doing to make things a certain way, and way more whether or not Tyreek can outrun that corner. And it isn't that God has waaay more important things to consider -- no, I think He's right there in Arrowhead, but not to do anything for or against the Chiefs on the field but to do things in our hearts irrespective of what happens there. It's not that He doesn't know or care about what happens there, but He is much more about the rich, vibrant substance of our relationship with Him and with others.
- Maybe we need to see the tremendous value of the commiseration, of the fellowship we can have with one another as Chiefs fans whatever happens. All of this really has to be about the people, win or lose. The players have it right. After a terrible on-field disappointment I keep seeing them embrace their opponents, trade jerseys, all that stuff. Some even kneel together at midfield and pray. Both team's players, in deep abiding fellowship nonetheless.
Please remember, Hunt is in no way an indictment of Lamar or Clark or anyone for that matter. Lamar was amazing and Clark is amazing -- he runs an organization that seems to me to be one people genuinely respect. I mean there've been far worse. And me? I have my own reckoning with my own intergenerational stuff to make too much hay about anyone else's. It's why I know how much I need Christ.
One of the key elements of the very good present-day Hunt is that family is emphasized -- the Chiefs Kingdom should be a place where the fellowship is rich and vibrant in spite of what happens on the field. After a Chiefs win I've been taken with looking for that one video and peeking in on the post locker room hollering and high-fiving, and the thing I like the most is when they join close, gather hands, and shout "Fam!"
I can only think of that movie Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, where everything bad happens to this kid, Alexander, as well as to just about every one of his family members. The film progresses predictably but it is engaging, and one of the themes is that the very bad things have happened so everyone can see the value of being with one another, respecting one another, actually being in the mix of conversing and interacting and courageously helping out each another through it all.
- Maybe the thinking through it all and working through it together is something quite invaluable. I have often had to tell myself this little personal aphorism: "No arriving allowed." It simply means that even after my most wonderfully fulfilling victories, there is always something else I must be seeking to achieve. Otherwise we become milquetoast people.
Believe me, it is difficult. How many times do we want some classically great victory simply to be the championship of all time, space, and dimension? This relates to the "Then what?" factor. What happens when finally the Chiefs have their world championship? I wouldn't say it wouldn't feel reeeeeally good, but you know. there's always another season. And likely another team very much not-the-Chiefs will just be better and triumphs.
I even wrote about this idea, the "Winning is a curse" idea in a post a while back. No no no it doesn't mean I never want the Chiefs to win it all, again it only counts if we do really want it! Otherwise all of this is nothingness! But it is having the perspective, and it is sharing it with others along the way.
- Maybe this is the impetus needed for the most valiant crusaders in the Chiefs Kingdom to give it just one more push to get us where we need to be. One of the best evidences of this extra effort this is in the phenomenally industrious work of Brett Veach to work the cap and pull in the really good players we need to make this thing happen. I've been reading The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan -- the great good thing being Jesus Christ. Klavan writes so splendidly about what it is like to let your imagination roam a bit, revel in the stories (Hemingway in particular) and thrill to the intrepid things one may do in life to triumph magnificently.
Really, the Chiefs on the gridiron battlefield is a wonderful thing in that the story is unfolding right in front of you, the story every red-blooded boy wants to live out every moment of his life. Look again at Brett's press conference after he went to the mat and got bruised and bloodied to get Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens into the Chiefs Kingdom. Pro football allows us to behold our fighting crusaders duking it out for the honor of our tribal community -- so valuable when today's real world is caked in the worst ennui.
- Maybe there will be greater joy when we do win. There are guys on this team who know nothing about Hunt or the Chiefs travails of postseason pasts, and that's a very good thing. I was buoyed when I heard young lineman Chris Jones, a solidly potential got-it guy for sure, joyfully enthuse right after the Titans loss, "We'll be here winning this thing next year, for sure!" This is what we need coursing through the Chiefs Kingdom.
Maybe it isn't better that we have the wildly successful postseason success of a Patriots. Maybe all this is this way because when we do win it will be glorious -- it's axiomatic: when you already have everything getting something new isn't that great, but when you've been in the pit of hell for some time, finding a nice meal and warm pillow to lay your head is the most astounding blessing. It is biblical: Check out the second verse in the 13th chapter of Nehemiah: "...Our God, however, turned a curse into a blessing." Then there is the 21st verse of Luke's sixth chapter: "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."
- Maybe our focus should be on being a true servant - giving it up to gain something much greater. I've wondered often if I am being told that maybe we shouldn't be too into the NFL. Maybe we do need to focus on more of the other things in life and maybe the pro football thing is capturing too much of our attention. I'm often sure I take Chiefs stuff to heart way more than anyone else does. Here I am writing a ton about it. I don't apologize for being a Chiefs fan by any means, after all this thing Chiefs does have some genuinely worthwhile things about it. I've written about it frequently here.
Life is a lot like that worship song from the David Crowder Band, How He Loves Us. Here're some lyrics: He is jealous for me / Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree / Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy / When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory / And I realize just how beautiful You are / And how great Your affections are for me.
Yeah Chiefs stuff makes up a lot of very positive things. The most positive is that through the Kingdom is an opportunity to give and sow into people's lives by worshipping and serving Him no matter the afflictions we endure. He is the One with the ultimate victory.
Please know in all of this that I'm not trying to rationalize anything away -- I'm just doing therapy for the perspective. That's all. Really, I don't want the Chiefs to lose another game just so we can experience all these relatively positive things. Perish the thought! As much as we reach some level of maturity out of the trials, it all only works if we're on track to be winning!
Also know that I don't mean to make this some grand theological treatise. Some may take issue with something I wrote about God, but please, no worries. I'm just blogging. Yes I do want people to know Christ, that's cool, but I'm really just talking here about the Chiefs and other things, in many ways just to talk. All of us do that -- I want to talk until I know what I want to say. That's having relationship with others, and this is just how I do it in the Chiefs Kingdom.
As you know I live in Southern California and there aren't a whole lot of Chiefs fans out here -- there are a few, I know, but I mostly interact with family about Chiefs items. In that light I want to close all this with a very personal anecdote, just something that impacted me quite viscerally, just for a moment. I'll just share with you the transcript from my journal entry of January 28, 2008. I describe it best here.
5:30 pm. Driving home from work, January 8 just three weeks ago.
I’m coming off Kellogg hill going east on the 10 and around the 57 interchange I notice a red F150 Ford Truck, big ol’ truck, in the lane to my left. There was some traffic so it goes ahead of me, I go ahead of it a bit, back and forth. All the while I’m trying to remember the license plate because, yes, you guessed it, the guy had a big ol’ Chiefs emblem on the window behind the cab, and a Chiefs license plate frame.
We’re both driving on down the 10 a bit further, and at about Fairplex Ghost in You comes on the radio. Now this song puts me away anyway most times, but hey, I’ll just listen to it since I’m feeling good, and…
I come up closer to this red truck, feeling real good that he’s a Chiefs fan, and I notice at about White that there is some smaller writing he’s got on that cab window just to the left of the emblem. It’s big enough to read, but you gotta be where I was at that point to actually read it. I got the chance to. It read:
“Proud father of a Special Olympics swimmer.”
Already I’m wanting to cry again just as I write about it. Needless to say, my car was just about flooded with my tears. It was as if somebody squeezed the fluid from by chest and it streamed out of my eyes.
The Chiefs supremely sucked this year, football-wise. This was a yet-again they-sucked kind of thing, I’d been resigned a bit about just how sucky through their history my favorite team of all-time has been.
But just seeing that there was this Chiefs fan, and there was this one who has the most compassionate connection with his child in this way, and that I can relate and know that God has this kind of love for us, and that I can be a part of this “family…”