Thursday morning I woke up and checked my phone as I always do. I’ve an email from my friend Steve in Kansas City, a spare ticket for the game has come available (THANK YOU AVAN!!!) if I can get flights then it’s mine.
Wow. That’s some way to wake up!
Quick chat with my wife, she understands, you don’t get these opportunities every week. She’s been to Chiefs games with me, our first holiday to America together we went to see the Herm Edwards Chiefs get spanked 38-0 by the Carolina Panthers down in Charlotte. She knows what supporting the Chiefs means to me.
I spent the day in work looking at flight prices rather than actually working. By 6pm I’d found some at a not too unpalatable price that were at semi decent times, flying out on Saturday and back on Monday. Booked. I’m going to Kansas City for the AFC Championship game.
Friday afternoon and I’m firmly on holiday mode, I get a message from Linda in KC telling me KCI is shut down because a plane slid off the runway and there’s a big snow storm coming across the US. Not what I wanted to hear Linda. Saturday morning and I leave home at 6:30am, I’m only 15 minutes from Dublin airport, flight is on time and we’re good to go. However. There’s a snow storm coming to my first stop in Newark and it’s due at 1pm ET. I’m due to leave Newark at 1:18pm. Not great. It did indeed start snowing at about 1pm and it was starting to settle but we were boarding the plane so I didn’t think it would delay us much. Walking through first class I see someone that looks a lot like Peter King of NBC Sports who appears on Sky NFL weekly. Mental note to self, he’s likely on the same connection to KC out of Chicago.
We’re delayed maybe 45 minutes while we the plane is de iced. I’ve only an hour in Chicago and have to get across the terminal in that time so this is going to be cutting it a touch fine. Turns out that airlines lie so badly about how long flights are that you can leave 45 minutes late and still get in 20 minutes early. A quick dash across O’Hare airport and I find my flight to KC is also delayed by 45 minutes, not because of the snow but because we’re waiting on 26 passengers from a flight from Munich and we aren’t leaving without them. This gives me the perfect opportunity to edge in on a conversation between a Broncos fan and Peter King. Had a great chat with the pair of them and it was well worth the delaying the flight for!
I don’t sleep much Saturday night. Despite leaving home 24 hours before getting to bed I still only manage 4 hours or so, but that’s fine, I’ll run on adrenaline today. And sugar. I’ll need the extra calories because it is Baltic out there. -12 celcius, I wear every item of clothing that I brought. We head out and it’s a glorious morning, today feels like it’s going to be special.
We arrive at Arrowhead not long after 9am. The parking lot is already full and it smells incredible. If you’re a Chiefs fan and you’ve never been to Arrowhead then go. Even if you don’t know anyone there, just go and wander around the parking, introduce yourself to some random people and tell them you’re from out of town. You’ll get the best feed you’ve ever had and more alcohol than you can deal with.
If you’re really lucky then they’ll have heard about barbecued glazed donuts. Yes, you read that right.
There’s a mixture of nerves and cautious optimism in the tailgating crew. We know we’re the better team, we know that if we play well we’ll win. Yet there’s still that nagging doubt there. Too many times we’ve made it to the playoffs and then found spectacular ways to screw up. Dee Ford offsides. Marcus Mariota passing a TD to himself. Andrew Luck fumbling himself a touchdown. The Chiefs are just destined not to get to the big one. Then there’s Big Red. He’s a great coach but he doesn’t quite have it to get over the line. The fear is real, you can feel it in the air, you can feel it in your stomach. Or maybe, just maybe, we have the tools needed to win. We have the better coach and we have Patrick Mahomes. That thought gives me a warm feeling, although that could have just been the 5th donut.
It’s time to head in, we’ve been here 3 hours and there’s still 2 hours to kick off, time passes slowly. I feel for you all back home that had to wait the whole day. We go for a wander around the Chiefs hall of fame. It’s cool to see but it’s also a reminder of years of not quite being good enough. Not really what I needed. About two lifetimes later, we approach kick off. The whole spectacle of the anthem, the flyover by the B2 and the players coming out just hypes the crowd, I’ve been here many times but this one feels different. The stadium is full and it’s still 10 minutes from kick off, that never happens.
The game kicks off and the first quarter goes off script straight away. The Titans move the ball with ease, we don’t. 10-0 down, we saw this last week and dug our way out but how many times can you do this? We pull back a score but they answer. Down by 10 again and there is a genuine nervousness around the stadium. We’re playing the game the Titans want to play, a way they can win.
But we have the reigning MVP and he changes everything. This team isn’t the one of the past. History doesn’t matter anymore. 5 plays, 63 yards. Touchdown and it’s close. I turn to Steve next to me and tell him that we’re going to stop them, then we’ll score before the half, then we’ll score to start the second half and we can relax. He tells me to deal with one drive at a time.
We force a 3 and out and get the ball back.
We march down the field and with 23 seconds to go Patrick Mahomes shows why he’s the real MVP. The volume level rises as he evades 2 tackles, turns up the sideline, cuts back inside, spins between 2 defenders than drags them over the line. The place erupts.
The Titans had given us their best shot in the first half and they went in behind knowing we get the ball to start the second half. My head was saying we were going to be fine, but there’s always that nagging doubt.
We didn’t score to start the second half, nobody scored in the 3rd quarter. The nerves increase. There’s a feeling that the next score is crucial. 6 seconds into the 4th quarter and Damien Williams runs in for the Touchdown. There’s the 11 point gap, breathing room for everyone. We have the momentum, the stadium is rocking, the defence forces another 3 and out.
I tell Steve I want us to go for the throat now, go score another touchdown and put this game out of sight. Short pass, run, short pass, run.
Andy, don’t do this to me.
3rd and 6 at our own 40. Mahomes drops back, has time. I see a flag thrown on our side of the field near the line. I’m thinking we’re getting called for holding. Mahomes winds up and fires deep, Sammy Watkins makes the grab, touchdown! But I know this is coming back. The referee steps forward. Holding. I knew it. Defence. WHAT??? The penalty is declined, the play is a touchdown. The stadium was loud before, it went nuts now.
I tell Linda that’s game over. She tells me I’m not allowed to say that. There’s still 7 minutes to go. The Chiefs can still Chiefs this up.
But I know they won’t. This team is different.
I message the lads on What’s App. Simply say Book it. They’re going to Miami to see the Super Bowl. I’ll not lie, I was in tears sending that. I have been on and off as I write this. You guys are Chiefs fans, you’ll understand.
The rest of the game is a blur. The overwhelming sense of relief has fogged the memory. I’ll watch the game again when I get home, maybe I’ll enjoy it more. But the nerves and the emotions are all part of the experience and you can’t beat being there.
The one thing that I clearly remember is Andy Reid getting 79000 people to join in with a “How about those Chiefs!” That was just special.
Headed home today, happy, the next two weeks will be the longest but as Travis Kelce said “We’ve one more job to do”
I can’t wait.