Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Mourning: I Want a Divorce

I remember a time when the concept of virtual impossibility stared me in the face. It was a beautiful early afternoon in September, a Sunday on which I'd cleared the sacrificial alter of every speck of dust, cleansed the archives of memory of every last chapter of pain and disgust. The yard already had a few of those season-changing leaves bunched in random corners, the breeze in the streets a hint of the cold months to come. I can remember that time as if it were less than a month ago. And that is possible only because it was. The year 2008 is the September of which I speak, and the contest was Raiders at Chiefs. Prior to kickoff on that day, I had no knowledge of how greatly the three hours in front of me would so greatly change this marriage. And when those 180 minutes had passed, I was left helpless as to whom I would turn to for healing and advice.

The marriage I speak of is not the one I share with my wife, but one to which I bound myself when she was but an infant, the one many sports teams has with its many fans and supporters. That Chiefs-Raiders game resembled the worst fight a married couple has in their eternal unity together, and it was one in which the primary stages of reparation don't occur for several days. But it was, nonetheless, a fight, and mending efforts were recognized, energy spent at picking up the many shards of despair and dismay. The following week, when the testing grounds of the relationship again sprouted, it was in the state of Georgia. The outcome of the trial wasn't much better; at best it had that "well at least it wasn't as bad as that one fight" feel to it, and the injuries, both physical and mental, began to heal at a much more rapid rate.

One week later, hosting Denver, the stage was set again, and in retrospect, that game reminds me of some advice our marriage counselor gave my wife and I as we prepared for our life together: "A marriage is like a bank account: to keep it open and functioning, there have to be just as many deposits -- and hopefully more -- than there are withdrawals."

So, yes. Beating the Broncos is always good. Great, even. Beating the Broncos when they're undefeated and the Chiefs have lost 12 straight contests is even better. Ultimately, though, that win resembled my checking account transaction tendencies before I married my wife, which too frequently meant scrounging for money to deposit simply to eliminate one or two (of many) overdraft and insufficient funds charges.

My marriage to the Kansas City Chiefs has, over the course of nearly 30 years, been a pretty stable account. When Marv Levy was around in my youth, our team was bad, but that account was like my Pops taking me to open my first savings account. We went. We made a deposit, and that money sat in there for a long, long time. The funds, you see, were too little to withdraw, and given that I had no source of income, they sat in there, accumulating morsels of interest for some time. That tiny bit of change compounded tiny bits of interest through the Mackovic/Gansz eras, and the dawning of the Schottenheimer era coincided with my ability to earn consistent pay, and things really got rolling. Mostly they were lucrative times: many a winning season meant many a deposit and salivating lips as the numbers grew larger. There were certainly some tough ones too, though. The sniffing of a Super Bowl appearance, the many early post-season exits, and of course, the awful, criminal-laden teams that took the field at the end of that era.

And it should be noted that for many of those later-Schottenheimer years, I was banking from enemy (Colorado) territory, thus the banking was more costly: successes for the enemy franchise and jeers from its fan base were like the endless and annoying fees attached to monthly bank statements. Things looked bleak at the beginning of the Vermeil era, and I wasn't sure how long I could keep my now-dwindling funds in this trust, but alas there were improvements in the market, and the advisors made extra efforts in reassuring me that this was where my money had always been invested, and this was where it should stay. That market eventually got real high, and subsequently had a crash, one in which the bank president stepped down, seemingly never to be replaced.

There was a time in the mid-Schottenheimer era where I didn't actually bank in real life. I had no account, but simply carried every dollar to my name in my pocket, the occasional stash in my sock drawer. It seemed wise at the time: no fees, I had my cash when I needed it, etc. Not a great choice, though, when it comes to needing credit, or a loan, or when the chore of purchasing money orders becomes too tiresome. Those are the things we want in a bank: convenience, safety for our funds, minimal hassles, and the occasional perk. And we want similar things in our marriages: security, a mutually healthy relationship, and of course, happiness.

Sometimes, in a relationship, though, it occurs to a party (or both), that the hassles have begun to outweigh the benefits, that the withdrawals happen more frequently than the deposits.

I can remember the days when, in the off-season, I'd eagerly retrieve my paper from the driveway, knowing that there'd be an article about the Chiefs. Even when the season was months away, I'd pore over every word, confident that the column inches devoted to that piece meant something positive for the season to come. I can remember my driven desires to collect every post-game sports page, longing for the day that I would compile the ultimate scrapbook of Chiefs clippings, photos, and ticket stubs that would all lead up to the end-of-the-book Super Bowl orgasm. I can remember the days where the occasional loss (Editor's Note: Yes, they did in fact used to occur at a rate more seldom than the present day.) was tangible in some regard, that the reason for it actually existed on a plane in this universe. I can recall times when things looked really bad, calculating how feasible it still seemed to win the division, to play football in January, and actually believing in it.

And I can recall that September day when the Chiefs lost 23-8 at Oakland when I felt convinced, never more certain of a thing in my life, that that was rock bottom, that it was physically impossible to get any worse than that. That was three weeks ago, and it isn't just a figure of speech to say that that feels like a lifetime ago. It does feel like a lifetime ago because yesterday's game in Carolina places the Chiefs in a spectrum so far removed from the present day that words cannot describe it. I did hit the driveway this morning, and I did turn to the sports page, and I sort of scanned all of the articles, but I didn't really care about the words in them, because there is no possible flash, no unseen stat or glimmer of hope that can transcend the reality of how bad this football team is. I am thankful, however, for the one writer that continues to be my endless well of Pepto, Joe Posnanski:

"Thing is, games like this should never happen, not if you're rebuilding, not if your rehabilitating, not if you're regressing, not if your redecorating, not if you're Regis and Kelly. Teams lose. Teams will get blown out. Teams will sometimes even get embarrassed. But what happened to the Chiefs on Sunday was something else, like something out of a kid's movie."

I usually make every effort to block out the three hours of Chiefs football so that I am available to watch. Sometimes, I have to work, and I'll take a radio, and the wife will tape the game for me. Yesterday was one of those days, and I didn't even bother with the radio. I just had a feeling. My wife taped the game for me, and I haven't watched one second of it. As I was getting ready for bed last night, I wrestled with the idea of needing to watch it before writing about it, but ultimately decided that there was no reason to bother. No study of the offensive and defensive lines will bring any new light to this team. I won't be able to figure out why Dwayne Bowe quit running his route that led to one of several Damon Huard interceptions. If Albert Einstein had handed me my dental floss, he wouldn't be able to even muster a guess as to how Larry Johnson had two yards rushing the ball yesterday. Two yards. No formula or equation will explain why DeAngelo Williams blew up yesterday with likely a career day. DeAngelo Williams.

So now, I've reached a crossroads where the withdrawals have overreached the deposits. This fight with my team is one in which the wounds will no doubt leave ugly scars once they've healed. Neither one of those is the problem, though. I could take my funds elsewhere, but I'm a pretty stubborn bastard, so that's not happening. And scars make for great stories. Sure, they require some TLC in getting them to that story phase, but no biggie.

The problem is this: Any and every Joe that knows anything about the National Football League will tell you that any team can rebuild and be competitive in a short time in this day and age. Teams have a rough season, maybe two, and they're back in the thick. I've been invested in this marriage for far too long to say that I can see that happening with this team. Clark Hunt, in the off-season, said that a new contract for Carl Peterson would hinge upon this team being a playoff contender. The truth behind that serum is that he won't fire Peterson, and frankly, I don't blame him for that. Peterson has done a fine job of getting talent signed, putting quality teams on the field and managing this franchise. Yes, his goals have fallen short, and yes, I'm probably the only person on the planet that doesn't want him gone like seven years ago. He hasn't drafted and developed a quarterback for the Chiefs, and the Chiefs haven't won a Super Bowl on his watch.

The larger issue is that Peterson will not fire Herm Edwards this year, and likely not until this point of next season. I can see the print in the papers before it's pressed: "Herm has worked too hard gutting the aged veterans of this club, and bringing in new, young talent, that we've got to give it time to see if it will pan out." And the problem at quarterback is only one piece. I still believe that Brodie Croyle deserves one more shot. And by "one more shot," I mean another chance to be the starter and stay healthy. He played a good first half against the Patriots, but he might very well be too fragile to play the position at this level. At this point, I'll concede and say that he might very well have been too fragile to play the position at the college level. The bottom line is, if the Chiefs crap away the rest of this season, and draft a quarterback next year, Kansas City will still be a solid three seasons away from getting that guy groomed into the skill and leadership required to take a team deep into the playoffs. And by "deep into the playoffs," I mean win it all.

It's a crapshoot to guess that the Chiefs get a good quarterback in the next draft. If they do, then what? In three years, most of Herm's new, young talent will be getting old. Larry Johnson will be past his prime. Tony Gonzalez will have retired. Who knows what the lines will look like. I just don't see any positive coming from this franchise for some time to come.

So what, as an invested partner in this relationship, am I left with? My ties to this partner run deeper than most anything in my life. How do you remove yourself from such a situation? Ignore football season? Give up on the sport in its entirety? Seek counseling? Hire a divorce lawyer? If any of those options are the right one, I'm not in a position of judgment to make the right call. The depth of my salted wounds have darkened the pigskin skies above, and the financial instituition in which I've invested and trusted in for almost three decades now appears prepped to charge me transaction fees that I can no longer afford.

It's like Posnanski's article was headlined today: "This Should Never Happen."


The Lone Reader said...

Oh Banky,

The Chiefs have sucked-balls in the past. These things, like most, are cyclical. I too missed last weeks game, but then again I am in Fredericton, New Brunswick staying at a house of non-sports fans. There is some young talent on the team, but management has made some awful decisions of late.

Carl was good for the 90s, but sticking with him through the Larry Johnson non-trade and refusing to recognize his inability to evaluate the QB position has cost the Chief dearly. I too fear Lil' Hunt won't have the balls to fire Uncle Carl. However, I think the pressure will be too great. They've got to get it done soon so they don't blow their early draft pick.

Things can change quickly (1-3 seasons), and for the better, with proper management from the top down (see the Miami Dolphins 2007 into 2008). Our boys just have to make a good hire.

I'm still pullin' for my GM, head coach, OC plan: Schottenheimer, Cowher and Green. It'll never happen, but I'm allowed to dream.

Take it easy, ol' man, and embrace the losing. I expected it last year and this year, so I'm pretty used to it by now. You're just overcoming a year or so of denial.

It gets better with time, and hey, there's always next year.

The Lone Reader said...

A side rant:

I'd like to submit article of evidence number 9,876,554 to support in my argument against MLB.

How fucking contrived are these divisional "championship" post game celebrations? Really? That would be like rushing the field and spraying champagne all over the place for a round 1 NFL playoff win ...even round 2.

The league demands these celebrations. They have plastic with team logos in the locker room all setup.

It's one of the most obnoxious and obvious marketing scams in sports history. PLEASE tell me you're not hittin' THAT bait, gents.



The Lone Reader said...

P.S. Dane Cook is about as funny as the notion of Sarah Palin running the country. That ain't funny ... just downright scary.

Dylan said...