Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Have Stood at 18th and Vine

I grew up in Kansas City. I loved that town. When anyone talked trash about K.C., I used to attack as if someone had insulted my mother.

I'm not sure what my parents did to instill this pride, but I loved that town. I can remember riding ski lifts in Colorado as a teen or pre-teen extolling the virtues of Kansas City on some poor stranger.

I spent almost every free minute from ages 15 to 18 (a weird farm-based quirk allows kids in the Sunflower State to get a restricted license at 15) driving the streets of that city. That's almost all we did was drive. Here. There. Everywhere.

I probably should have been mayor of Kansas City.

In the spring of 1992, my dad took a job in Phoenix, Arizona. Things had not been going well in life (a story for another day), and an 18-year-old version of me decided to abandon my hometown and move to the Southwest with my parents. Luckily for me, my eventual wife, Emily, decided to join us for the move.

Reading this, you probably think, "people move." And it's true. And that makes it especially difficult to explain how unlikely it was that I would ever leave Kansas City. I remember the stunned reaction of a close friend at the time.

"But you love Kansas City," she said when learning of the pending move.

Emily and I overloaded her Chevy Cavalier and headed down I-35 on July 18, 1992. Although we were excited about the adventure, it was a difficult drive.

As you may know, Phoenix has many paradise-like qualities, and there was much to love. But given the depth of my roots, there was much to miss.

Already a Chiefs fan, the football team somehow came to embody my hometown. The more I missed home, the more the Chiefs came to represent what I left behind. I lived and died with the team that year.

They don't carry many Kansas City games on television in Phoenix. And that was before even existed (I think). Our house in Scottsdale was well beyond the Chiefs radio network, so I was stuck watching the stupid 10 minute ticker during some other NFL game that meant nothing to me.

One day I ventured to a sports bar with my half brother Lance. We watched the Chiefs play Denver, which was a mistake. Denver is far closer than Kansas City to Phoenix, and neither Lance nor I are what you would call "good sports." He and I are pretty different characters, but he is one person that I know detests losing as much as me.

The Chiefs seems to have it wrapped up at Mile High that day, but John Elway did what he always seemed to do to Chiefs' coach Marty Schottenheimer. There were a lot of obnoxious Denver fans there, and I am still not sure how we got out of there without coming to blows. I don't watch many games at bars anymore.

The Chiefs had a decent season, finishing 10-6 and headed to San Diego to face a Chargers team they had twice defeated during the regular season.

If that game had been at a Vegas table, I would have been "all in." I overinvested in that game like an Enron pension fund.

Of course the damned Chiefs lost. They got shut out, 17-0. It killed me.

When paired with my existing homesickness, that game caused some serious depression. I wasn't myself again for weeks. I worked for Super Shuttle at the time, and I can remember standing on the curb at Terminal 2 shortly after the game (it may have been the same day; memory fails me). As sophomoric as it may sound now, it seemed difficult to avoid assault incoming passengers from San Diego.

As someone who studies media effects, I try to never forget that experience.

I wrote this post as I watched the Chicago Bears advance to the Super Bowl. Congratulations, Chicago (star linebacker Brian Urlacher grew up in Lovington, New Mexico, just 2 hours from here). It struck me when the announcers said that Chicago fans had waited 21 years to return to the Super Bowl.

That rung a little hollow to me. The Chiefs have not been to the Super Bowl in my lifetime, and I'm just a bit older than 21.

Three times in recent years the Chiefs have gone 13-3 during the regular season only to lose their first playoff game, twice to the Indianapolis Colts. On my pessimistic days, I think that the Chiefs exist solely to torture my soul these days.

Two weeks ago, the Chiefs lost again to the Colts in the playoffs. I couldn't watch. You see, I learned something that day in January 1993. There's only so must emotional angst to which I will voluntarily expose myself. When I expect to lose, I don't watch.

Sports media research does not get much respect. I still say that it should. Very few things in life reach right into your core and pull you around like strong identification with a sports team. And the media link us to those teams.

If you ever get the chance to go to Kansas City, I recommend it. It's not the hick cowtown that you might think. More fountains than any city other than Rome. The Plaza shopping area is an outdoor shopping area patterned after the sister city in Seville, Spain.

I like the place. I still read the Kansas City Star 0nline every day.

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Blogger theaudioprof said...

Talk about emotional angst. When the Colts were down 21-6 at halftime, I almost turned it off and went to bed. "The Patriots sure have our number" I told my wife....

Glad I toughed it out!

Go Colts!

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cleveland Browns have never been to a Super Bowl. They won Championships before the Super Bowl existed, but they've never been to a Super Bowl.

And still, I tune in every Sunday and get my hopes up.

The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948. My father was born in 1949. Neither of us have seen the Indians win a championship. I had to watch on TV in 1997 as Jose Mesa blew a save in the 9th inning of game 7 against the Marlins. That was rough.

The Cavs had great teams in the late 80's, but Michael Jordan had a habit of sinking them. I've never seen the Cavs in an NBA championship series.

This is why OSU's football championship in 2002 meant so much to me. I always assumed that none of my teams were allowed to win.

We Cleveland fans feel the pain of you Kansas City fans.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Nice post! You have said it very well. Keep going.

7:09 AM  

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