Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Morning Fracas: Chiefs Fans Visit a Familiar Neighborhood: Hell

Wednesday morning: I didn’t want to write about the Chiefs two days in a row, but after listening to Danny Parkins Monday morning/afternoon and Bob Fescoe yesterday morning, I was left with no choice. I think both of these cats do a good show and put out mostly quality SportsTalkRadio, but Fescoe’s program, on the drive to work yesterday morning, left me sick to my stomach. I mean, my guts were in such knots that I had to pop a couple of Tums, drink some water, chew some gum, and engage in some deep-breathing exercises all to avoid having to pull over. No exaggeration.

Understand, this had nothing to do with either on-air personality, rather the content of discussion, the alleged rift between Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, and Head Coach Todd Haley.

I texted Danny’s show Monday when he was talking about the “Monday Morning Quarterback” column by Peter King, and the Mike Silver bit from Yahoo wherein the fate of the Chiefs is variably addressed. To paraphrase, King said he doesn’t think the Chiefs can recover from this miserly start, and that it’s only a matter of time before Haley gets the ax. This supposition is based on the fact that, according to King, Chiefs Chairman of the Board Clark “Hunt and Pioli are close.”

Far more damning was Silver’s story, which said that tension between Pioli and Haley “is the worst-kept secret in NFL circles,” that if the former canned the latter, the top choice for replacement would be none other than Josh McDaniels, which is massive barf material, but...not now.

What I said via text to Parkins, though, was that it all feels like hearsay, that we should have some sort of direct evidence of such a claim of tension and unrest. After a few moments, he mentioned that several folks had texted in similar sentiments, and for lack of a better word, he lambasted the bulk of us, implying that we supposed that national figures such as King and Silver, as well as local writers like Sam Mellinger and Kent Babb, were all making this stuff up.

And this is where some clarity is needed.

I have not, for one moment, imagined that this stuff has been fabricated. I have not entertained, for even a nanosecond, the possibility of inventing these sorts of stories for ratings and readership. It’s much simpler than that:

I am physically and mentally incapable of believing it.

Wednesday afternoon: Okay. Some fantastic headway was made this morning when Fescoe and Josh Klingler had Michael Holley on the air to discuss his new book, War Room. Admittedly, it sounds like an awesome read. Arrowhead Pride published a post about the interview, and what’s not important are the controversial details, rather what the author had to say about the relationship between Pioli and Haley. In sum, it would appear to be a perfectly normal GM/HC coexistence.

Wednesday evening: Nick Wright had Silver on his show today, and I feel even better. Silver stayed the course with the assertion that Pioli and Haley don’t get along, but he also added key phrases such as, “I don’t know for a fact that Pioli’s (forcing Haley’s hand/being handcuffed by Hunt’s lack of interest in spending),” and it all resonated with me in one sense: speculation.

I'll say this one final time: I mean no disrespect to anyone locally or nationally when I say that; it's just my opinion.

Friday morning: With all of these layers, the entire notion is really pretty soap opera-y, and in essence, foolish, but if you strip it down, it really freaking matters. The brass trifecta of Hunt, Pioli, and Haley, has to get along; they have to be on the same page, or the thing won’t work. And at the core of it all lays the ultimate exposure to the pain threshold and tolerance level of Chiefs Nation. At least for my generation. In the early-mid ‘80s, it was a given that the Chiefs would field a crappy team every year, and it didn’t weigh too heavy on us. Our fathers and uncles would close their eyes and shake their heads with gentle disappointment, still not too far removed from the great Chiefs teams for whom they had season tickets at Municipal Stadium, for whom they hosted playoff parties in their first-purchased homes.

I used to hear my mom say, game after game, season after season that “they need to fire the entire front office.”

Then, one day, they did. Well, some of them, anyway. We had our run with Carl and Marty, and if you think back on it, Carl’s infamous five-year plan was pretty accurate; in his fifth year, we were a game removed from the Super Bowl. The problem was that it was mostly downhill after that, and, following the trend, ownership kept a regime in place far too long.

I say mostly downhill because coming off the heels of that fifth year, Kansas City entered a span where within nine years, the Chiefs thrice went 13-3, had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye, only to get bounced in their first post-season contest. These contests, of course, would be: the Lin Elliot game, the lone post-season meeting with the Denver Broncos where they came in as a Wildcard, greased in road-cooking officiating, and cheated their way to victory, and the Colts game under Dick Vermeil in which there were zero punts.

Vermeil’s retirement was inevitable. Hell, he didn’t want to come out of it in the first place. Rather, it appeared he was doing his ol' pal Carl a favor. A favor to save Carl's ass. A favor that came with a big giant paycheck. And it almost worked, too. Almost. I thought he was a great coach. Unfortunately, the defense was way too neglected, the essential opposite of Marty (Editor’s Note: We’re not forgetting you, Coach Cunningham. We’re just in a hurry, and your .500 record over two seasons is, frankly, small beans in the massive chili pot.). And I’ll never forget Carl’s press conference when he hired Vermeil’s successor.

Verbatim (or at least very close), he said, “I believe this young man to be the premiere coach in the National Football League. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Herman Edwards.”

You could not hire the most talented team of script writers in all the Hollywoods to come up with famouser last words than those.

The point of it all is this: In the ‘80s, we channeled our inner Andy Dufresne, and “crawled…through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards... that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.”

In the ‘90s, we saw the first of two biblical passages replace The Shawshank Redemption, the initial one being the story of Abraham, where Chiefs fans and all of their long-term suffering finally saw a plant bear fruit, only to be asked by a higher power to sacrifice its bearings out of faith. Next, we became Job, quiet in our hope that righteousness would prevail even as God destroyed our flocks (made us suffer through Greg Robinson defenses), burned our herds (gave us Larry Johnson), stole our camels (Willie Roaf, Will Shields), knocked down our homes (hired Herman Edwards), killed our offspring (kept Carl in the fold), and cast our faces with boils (most of Herman’s draft picks). Yet, in faith, we sat. And waited. And waited.

And finally, with Clark now in charge, a ray of sunlight forced its way through the thick den of clouds, and we were given Pioli, who begot us Haley, who doubled the win total of Herman’s final campaign and showed improvement en route. And our perseverance was rewarded with a 10-win campaign (easy schedule, albeit), and a playoff berth. It didn’t end pretty, but it was as though we could smell the abundant crops in our fields, hear the echoing laughter or our dozens of healthy children playing in the pasture, our gorgeous spouses by our sides, our bank accounts flush with cash.

In a flash, though, a storm in the form of 89-10 rumbled in and lingers, booming and cackling overhead, all of us aware that in one fell unleashing, all of our everything could be destroyed. So we sit, and we wait once more.

I can do this no longer.

I have no patience left in me to wait, season after season, for all the chips to fall in line. It’s a bad front office, it’s a bad coach, a tough schedule, a season full of injuries, an unbalanced team, poor personnel, stacked competition. It’s always something. For, literally, decades, we’ve been putting on our dunce caps and our donkey ears, squinting our eyes and sticking out our buck teeth as we, in unison, say, “Next year…”

This was supposed to be it. The Pioli. The Haley. The Clark that made both happen. Winning championships. Starting now. No more shenanigans.

And now what? Pioli and Haley don’t get along? How can that be? How can you be stamped as the top general-manager prospect in the nation, and make your first hire a guy with whom you might not coexist well? You’re surrounded by football people from several generations that have histories of working with him. I find it impossible that the homework was not done in this situation. I find it preposterous that Haley’s job is in jeopardy.

I find it ridiculous that this rumor’s wings bear such strength, and even more, I find it insufferable should the wait for a Lombardi have encountered yet another obstacle. I can’t do it. I can’t wait for another hire, sit through another rebuild, and wait for draft picks to pan out (or not) once more. This run had the silver lining. It had the young blood in charge, the new face running the show, the jerk (My pal Old No. 7, when I said, “I don’t know if I like Haley; he seems like a jerk” upon his hiring, replied, “Dude, jerks might be jerks, but they win championships.”) with the headset, the perfect match to assemble talent.

I can’t wait around for a reload, and I certainly can’t pick a new team. If this thing blows up, I might have to walk away from football, which means, in a sense, I’ll have to rewire a serious portion of my life. And believe me: I don’t know the first thing about electricity.