Sometimes jet lag is a bitch. Other times it has it’s benefits. I arrived in KC on Saturday evening, unlike my bag, and stayed awake as long as I could. Normally waking up at 5am is far from ideal but when that is 11am back home then you’ve had quite the lie in and the brain is trying to convince that you should have been up hours ago.
However it’s game day and we’ve got some serious tailgating to do. There’s ribs need to be warmed, there’s bacon wrapped dates to be cooked, the car needs to be packed. It’s a busy time of day. There’s been messages going back and forth all week about who is bringing what. Organisation is crucial, what if everyone brought dips and no-one brought meat. That would be a disaster! Luckily my friends are veterans of the scene and this is most certainly not their first rodeo.
It’s sub zero out this morning, but it’s not windy and there’s a clear sky. Pretty much perfect conditions for a game provided you are well wrapped up. My bag finally arrives from the airport 12 hours after me but just in time for me to layer up with all the warm stuff I’d packed. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to see a bag before.
We leave the house about 7am, the stadium gates are opening right about now but you’d just be sat in line for a while anyway so we let the initial surge go through. A quick stop off to pick someone up and by 7:45 we’re at the stadium and into the parking lot. I’ve no words to describe what it’s like to arrive at an all day party with 70000 friends, 69990 of them you’ve never met before. And all of them have barbecues fired up. The smell that hits you as you pull in the stadium car park is incredible (unless you are vegetarian in which case it would be either nauseating or convert you into a carnivore on the spot).
Tables are unpacked, tents erected with heaters inside, coolers set out and the socializing can begin. There’s people I haven’t seen since I was over 4 years ago, there’s people I’ve never met before but we’re all friends now and it’s just amazing to be welcomed with open arms by so many people. The Mid West really is home to the most hospitable people in the country. Within an hour I’ve had 2 offers of accommodation for anytime I’m over and I’ve no where to stay. I’ve only just met these people and they’re inviting me into their homes. It’s like meeting a giant family that you never knew you had.
Everyone has contributed food of some description and it’s all laid out as one big buffet. Just head up and help yourself. Sharing is the name of the game here and it’s genuinely heartwarming to see. Although that feeling could just be the jello shots or the 2nd Jack and coke that I’m on after finishing the opening beer. It’s 8:45am. Mental note to self, slow the pace down or it’ll end up like the Bengals game in 2007 and nobody wants another of those, not that I remember any of it.
We tailgate for the next 3 hours, we’ve parked on the end of a row so there is a constant stream of people going past. It’s Veterans Day weekend and the NFL is doing a Salute to Service honouring the military. I chat with soldiers stationed all over, I turn around and our tent has half a squad in it being fed. A friend is telling me he’s seen this guy on YouTube called Brit Chief and how much he enjoys his shows. It hits home to me how far the reach that the Arrowhead Abroad to can have since that’s our very own Brad he’s talking about (shameless plug, if you haven’t watched him yet then do it now, you’re missing out). Those 3 hours pass far too quickly and soon it’s time to head into the stadium. Before we go I wolf down the last of the barbecued donuts. Yes, you read that right, barbecued donuts. Combining two of my favourite things into a small piece of glazed heaven.
Minimal queues as we head through security, we’re in the lower level and entered behind the endzone, you can see down to the pitch which is framed by the relative darkness of the concourse and it’s a wonderful sight.
We’re sat around at the 40 yard line on the visitors side, fantastic seats. It’s still quite empty in the stadium so I head down to the front to watch the warm ups. The DBs are in front of me catching passes (well, I say catching, if they could catch they’d be over with the WRs and Mahomes). Tyreek Hill is running routes nearby. If you’re a Chiefs fan then to stand here and just soak in the atmosphere is a wonderful thing.
The build up to kick off is a great show. It’s such theatre designed to pump up the fans. Music, fireworks, flame throwers, skydivers, the offence introduced one by one. Hill then Kelce and then finally Mahomes come out hyping the crowd up. The volume level of cheers goes up a notch for each one. The National anthem is sung complete with 70000 people adding “home of the CHIEFS” at the end as a flyover of A10 bombers goes overhead.
As for the game itself, well it was a win but it wasn’t a classic. I appreciate the team trying to keep it close and tense for the fans but I’d be just as happy with a blowout win. The offence looked out of sync for the first time. Maybe the money that Sammy Watkins got was money well spent after all. The defence looked ok, which I guess is an improvement on recent weeks, but it felt like the Cardinals were moving the ball relatively easily until the 4th quarter and that doesn’t bode well for the Rams and Gurley next week. However they stepped up towards the end and it finally felt like we had a serious pass rush going. It was great to see Justin Houston back on the field, his interception pretty much sealed the game and it was a pure veteran play. We’ve missed that.
I worry a little that we’re taking winning in style for granted already. Maybe there is no harm in a game where a poor opposition drags you into a bit of a fight. There are still too many mistakes on defence, still far too many penalties on offence. It’s going to come back and bite at some point. It’s on Andy Reid to get that cleaned up.
Its slow going getting out of the parking lot after the game, it was about an hour before we were out on I70 and headed east and home. Still, it gave us time to assess the game and say goodbyes to everyone.
And now I’m writing this in bed, on my phone, wide awake at 3am. Sometimes jet lag is a bitch.