Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Evening at the Sprint Center: NHL Exhibition: Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Enough with the gripes and complaints, already, people. The National Hockey League is not coming to Kansas City anytime soon, and that has nothing to do with Tim Leiweke or AEG. Really, it doesn't.

I tweeted Randy Covitz earlier, and in doing so, I was mistaken. Apparently, last night's NHL exhibition contest featuring the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins was a record crowd for Kansas City hockey. By 494 people. I sent that tweet, because I swear that announced attendance at that Blues/Blackhawks game was 18,000+, but I've been wrong before, and I'll certainly be wrong again.

What I'm not wrong about is that the dose of professional hockey Kansas City is currently getting -- in the form of the Central Hockey League's Missouri Mavericks, just down the road in Independence -- is all the metro area will be getting for years to come.

Eleven years ago, Paul McGannon formed the grassroots NHL 21, whose primary initiative was to bring an NHL club to Kansas City. At that time, it was a brilliant plan, and the organization continues to work hard to, as they say, "cultivate Kansas City for the NHL." But, at that time, the league landscape was much different.

The Dallas Stars had just won their first Stanley Cup, seven years after moving from Minnesota. The Colorado Avalanche, a mere five years relocated from Quebec, would win their second championship a season later. The following season, it was the one-time Hartford Whalers coming in as runner up, followed by the not-that-young-of-a-franchise Anaheim competing in the Finals, the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning winning it all, and then of course, the lockout.

In each of the previous four seasons, clubs with long-time tenures in their initial cities have been in the finals on both winning and losing ends. Thus, the days of significant franchise shifts are likely behind us. Sure, the Atlanta Thrashers just moved to Winnipeg, but Winnipeg had an interested buyer, and Atlanta -- a city mind you, that already failed once in its NHL endeavors -- was not supporting the club.

So, it's easy to get riled up about Leiweke's quotes, and even easier to point the finger at the Sprint Center's "failures" regarding event management. These, my friends, are not even small bones. They're microscopic.

A few people were caught outside while the game began? Big deal. The venue fixes that first with an anchor tenant. Long lines at concession stands? Didn't we hear those now-stifled gripes after Kauffman Stadium was remodeled?

What matters is what the people in and around Kansas City think about the sport (and thought about the contest) in a global sense. And for the most part, people are far from centered enough to comprehend the two-tiered concept that would make an NHL franchise successful in Kansas City for the second time: single-game and season tickets.

With the September the Kansas City Royals have produced, and with the start to the season the Kansas City Chiefs have not, folks on Twitter and on the radio are rolling out the old this-is-a-baseball-town carpet for the first time in a while. That's fine. It very well may be. Folks continue to purchase mildly significant numbers of season tickets, and, by and large, single-game tickets are something that many, many Kansas City families have always invested in and will continue to do so because this is a game on which our country was raised.

In the '90s, Kansas City was mad-scientist crazy for the Chiefs. The team was good, and fans had not had that experience in over two decades, if ever. Throughout most of the Herman Edwards regime, attendance at Arrowhead fell to talks-of-blacked-out-games for the first time since the '80s. And that's an American sport with a franchise with over four decades rooted in Kansas City. What, then, would make anyone think that, in the event the NHL grants Kansas City a franchise (Editor's Note: They're not going to, plain and simple.), this town would support it?

I'm embedded in the Kansas City hockey community. I know guys that run the youth programs, I know rink managers, I volunteer for the Mavericks, and I've played with the majority of adult rec-league skaters for over a decade. Even in that community, even in the form of a company owner who was a significant sponsor for last night's game, are people that think Kansas City has to continue to turn out large numbers, if not sell them out, for these exhibition contests because that translates to league awareness.

In the end, they don't matter. Not one bit. Mostly they don't matter because the league is not going to award the city a franchise, or even promote it as a locale for a club that's interested in relocation. There's simply not enough confidence to suggest that the city could support it.

So attendance last night broke the record by 500 heads. How many of those people were given free tickets? How many of those people were bombarded by package deals presented by NHL 21 and companies like QuikTrip who had the $99 four-pack (tickets, sandwiches, etc.)? How many people had die-hard NHL-in-KC fans buy tickets and take their friends free of charge in hopes of hooking them on the in-game experience?

The answer: a lot.

What's more, of the families in attendance, most of them, by both sight and sound, were cheering for the Penguins. These kids had signs and cheers and no, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a Sidney Crosby jersey. How many of these fans were aware (of the slim chance) that Crosby might not play again? How many of these kids are aware that team owner Mario Lemieux used this very venue as leverage for his own new building in Pittsburgh? And how many kids are aware of the surprise run that the Kings just displayed this past post-season? That club was the bigger (of the two) story in the playoffs.

The answer: not many.

Regarding the Crosby thing, it's of course good for the game that in Kansas City people know who he is, but what they don't know is that the clubs they saw on the ice last night were two and three tiers removed from those that the Pittsburgh and L.A. franchises will put out on the ice each night this season. For Dennis Dodd to call that a "thoroughly entertaining preseason game" is silly.

That game was mostly flat, full of turnovers, and bereft of true NHL talent. What's more is that there was zero appeal or investment to actually root for a team you come out and support 41 times a year. And the fans in attendance were representative of said lack of appeal.

They were there for novelty. They chatted with their kids and their friends, fiddled around with their phones, asked questions about the game to those around them, and blindly cheered on the Penguins. Since when do Kansas Citians cheer for eastern-conference teams?

While folks remain enamored with the new Kansas City-hockey-attendance record, the one truth that's been written is that many seats were empty. Folks were strolling around, perhaps waiting in lines for concessions -- an easy fix if a franchise actually did come to town -- perhaps trying to entertain their uninterested children, and leaving early in packs of significant numbers.

Last night and this morning, people were posting things of the following nature on Facebook: this pointless story, this dumb picture

I call dumb only because I'm sure thousands cheered the Pittsburgh victory, and my favorite photo caption of all, "Don't have a clue what I'm watching, but it's fun!!!"

As for ourselves, we left at the conclusion of the second period solely because of our nine-month-old in tow (Note: Yes, that'd be her pictured above the jump.), and the fact that it was over an hour past her bedtime. We went, though, because we wanted to see how good the Sprint Center ice-hockey experience looked. For the record, it looked great. The ice appeared to be in good shape, the event had plenty of intermission entertainment, and all the perks of a pro-sports event. They were each a touch rough around the edges, but like the entry lines and the concessions, easy fixes. In sum, though, The Sprint Center didn't blow it.

What's not an easy fix is the current state of possible NHL franchise relocation, let alone expansion. By and large, clubs are staying put, and none will soon call Kansas City home.

You may, if you choose, continue to direct your negative energy toward Leiweke and AEG, or you could look at the positive: Kansas City did not build a tax-payer-funded venue that sits empty and aging, and its downtown revitalization has not been a failure, both of which were distinct possibilities voters feared five and six years ago.

If you're going to crease your forehead over hockey in Kansas City, however, your energy is better spent being compassionate with the unchangeable facts about the National Hockey League, and even more so, recognizing that Kansas City might be a baseball town. It might be a football town. Heck, for all we know, it's a soccer town. One thing is for sure, though, and that's that a hockey town it is not.

If it wants to become one, there's a ton of growth that needs to happen first, and it's the kind of growth that has zero to do with chances and promises.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Evening at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park: The Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Club Kansas City

Last year, my buddy Vintage Pancho went out of his way to take me to a Kansas City Wizards game. He’s a season-ticket holder, a business proprietor, and trying to select a game that fit both of our schedules was the epitome of hit and miss. We made the October 9 contest against the Seattle Sounders work, and unfortunately the Wizards dropped the match 2-1.

I remember leaving Community America Ballpark a touch unimpressed, but in hindsight that feeling was two-fold: 1) I’d been to Kansas City T-Bones (then the Northern League; now the American Association) baseball games and, while I appreciated the antics at my first visit to C.A.B., I could never really bring myself to enjoy the experience or the baseball, or really even the park, because it simply wasn’t Royals baseball at Kauffman Stadium. Therefore, when I went there to see soccer -– a sport for which I’d developed a personal platform based mostly on boredom -– I sort of left feeling like I’d watched a lame matched crammed into a second-rate venue. 2) That said, it certainly did not detract me from rooting for the Wizards, and when they lost, I thought it unfortunate.

It’s plausible that these sentiments were rooted in two other categories: 1) My penchant for hating on the soccers made me almost want the experience to have a negative twist, and 2) this was one of those make-or-break games for the Wizards, wherein they get the points for the win, or see their post-season chances vanish, a theme all-too-common with sports in Kansas City.

Finally, another angle: I knew that the Wizards had ended their residence at Arrowhead Stadium, though I wasn’t certain why. I also knew that there was talk of building a new facility in south Johnson County, and that ultimately, Kansas City, KS was selected. What I didn’t understand was why there was significant interest in either, why there was this fascination with professional soccer in the Kansas City metro, when, for my money, the surrounding cities could never a) agree on taxes for a refurbished Truman Sports Complex vs. building a downtown stadium for the Royals, b) obtain another major sports franchise –- NHL or NBA –- for its touted Sprint Center, or c) realistically and perennially sell enough season tickets to support such a team while continuing to support the Chiefs and Royals.

Nevertheless, construction was underway at the time for the facility in which the Sporting Club Kansas City now calls home, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

In the spring, when the venue neared completion, and the franchise announced that they would become known as SportingKC, I found it peculiar. I then found myself surprised when they unveiled the name of the venue and felt somewhat surrounded by all of the buzz surrounding it. The season got underway, and the team played ridiculously well, or so the newspaper and radio kept saying by way of hyping an unbeaten streak.

Around midsummer, Pancho came to me and said, “We’ve got to get you out to a game.” Because of the aforementioned buzz, I was eager to attend one, but because he and I had both seen our first-born children come into the world since that game against Seattle, it made for an even trickier scheduling pinpoint. As I imagine most parents would agree, your calendars fill up mighty fast once little ones are in the picture.

But we settled on last night’s contest -- and, hey: free bobblehead! -- versus the Philadelphia Union, and I was not surprised by the traffic or the number of tailgaters outside of LIVESTRONG. Finally seeing the building’s exterior up close, I was amazed at how immaculate it looked, and the same would be said about the interior. From outdoors, Pancho pointed out the Members Club and the section in which the rowdy crowd sits, and I couldn’t’ve been more surprised at the amount of merch’ that had been slung this season. Jackets, hats, jerseys; you name it, they were wearing it.

On the other side of the walls, an abundance of cuisine choices zig-zagged across the middle of the room, and we settled on some hearty brisket sandwiches with Buffalo Mac ‘n Cheese for our sides. At our seats, which were nothing shy of rock star, we listened to Ashleigh, a cancer survivor, belt out “America the Beautiful” while some mid-song pyrotechnics nearly caused me to jump out of my pants. “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed, as did more heart-stopping fireworks. Strangely, a sequence of them were ignited mid-song, which made a line or two inaudible, and it made me curious if such a choice offended the same people who get peeved at Arrowhead for the local-fan version of the song’s ending.

Some in-game notes:

7:30 p.m. Game on. SportingKC with more ball control and scoring chances early.

7:35 p.m. Philly with a chance, offsides not called.

Both teams pulling, tugging a ton; young fans calling for resident Mexican star Omar Bravo to get the ball.

7:49 p.m. Serious collision at midfield; free kick awarded to SportingKC.

The “rowdy crowd,” or KC Cauldron (courtesy of Zachary Cobb) as they’re apparently called, is raging behind the Philadelphia net, chanting, “We want playoffs!” By my count, two handballs have gone uncalled.

(Editor’s Note: Why I didn’t start off with clock time, I don’t know, but appropriately changed.)

18:30: Philly with another chance; SportingKC with some solid D.

(photo courtesy of Pancho's iPhone)

23:00: SportingKC continues to have chances.

27:30: Our first dual-team-header injury; neither guy down too long, which is a good thing to see. I get geared up for Team USA during the World Cup, and this past tournament, there was no shortage of dramatic flopping and rolling, which simply looks bad for the game, in my opinion.

Shortly after, Kei Kamara is involved in a collision. The fans want a call, both coaches argue with the ref, and time ticks away, making me think the running clock/stoppage time format leaves something to be desired.

Random thought: One thing about soccer: that’s a lotta damn running.

33:23: Philly with a chance; Sporting D’s it up nicely again. It’s funny –- and the same is true in hockey -– when the opposition has a break, fans holler for offsides, but you hear zip out of them when the home team appears guilty.

Another collision with Kamara, and from my vantage point, it’s his fault, as he leaned in with raised arms against a defender as he pressed along the sideline. No call either way. He’s down for a while, and moments later, he’s up and fine.

39:00: Nice slide tackle/steal by SportingKC on the far side followed by a good scoring chance. It results in a corner kick, with Kamara delivering an amazing header that deflects off the crossbar.

(Note: I noticed, at the conclusion of the national anthem, that the young lady in front of me sat, and immediately opened up her iPad. From there, she launched into a Twitter marathon like none I have ever seen. I began to lean over and peer, hoping to catch her handle, so as to tweet her in some self-invented comedic fashion. She’s moving so fast, though, that I can’t make much out. When I think I’ve got it -– I_am_McBeth -- I fire out my tweet, and she doesn’t even blink. McBeth, however, is quick to respond, and I see the woman go to my page and, in a flash, follow me, before returning to her timeline. At this point, I’ve gathered that the McBeth person is actually tweeting so much, that the timeline of the woman in front of me -- who turned out to be Kristi Colvin -- is simply full of McBeth tweets -- which are *all/every-one-of-'em* -- good and embarrassment arises.)

Random back-to-the-action note: Something impressive about these guys is the curving trajectory they get on crossing passes, especially when they take them in full stride, steaming down the line.

Stoppage time: Sporting continues to dominate the attack zone, but we hit the midway point knotted at nil.

Philly begins the second half asserting themselves.

54:00: Sporting with their first resemblance at a chance.

55:19: Bravo hammers one home. One-nothing, SportingKC.

58:49: Philly’s closest opportunity of the evening.

59:49: An SKC player goes down, and there it is, the proverbial in-pain roll, and whether it was a surprise or not, I’m still undecided, but a delayed yellow card is handed out against the Union.

62:18: Philly nets an equalizer almost immediately after C.J. Sapong comes in on substitution.

63:12: Free kick for Philly in close and the keeper makes a nice save off of a redirected header.

Again worth noting: So. Much. Running. At least in hockey, you can occasionally coast if you have to.

Here’s Kamara now griping about a non-call. He abandoned the play at the moment of alleged offense, and I feel like I’ve seen him check out on a few developments when one particular or another doesn’t seem to go as planned. Not sure about his attitude.

67:54: Sporting with a good chance, but in hockey terms, there was nobody there to crash the net for a rebound opportunity. They did, however, on the ensuing attack, put together some nice give-and-go attempts.

80:13: Kamara with a golden opportunity blown.

82:05: For the most part, the ref has kept the calls to a minimum, allowing for the teams to play. At this point in the match, he’s starting to ruin things with incessant whistles, most of which are against the home team.

86:56: Half-ass chance for SportingKC. The teams are awarded three minutes of stoppage. Philly appears to be stalling, and the contest ends in a draw.

As we file out, I’m decidedly impressed with the facility, the atmosphere, and most everything associated with the franchise. I’m still baffled by the size and energy of the crowd, as there weren’t too many empty seats, and the noise level seldom decreased. My sentiment is that all of the buzz was warranted, and although I’m now 0-1-1 in Kansas City soccer games attended, I was able to leave my biases aside, and develop a natural appreciation for the game.

I have to take my hat off to ownership and management for their delivery of a fine product in an electric environment, and I admit:

I hope I’m invited back sooner rather than later.
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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.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Present to You, Apologism, and His Name is Brodie Croyle

Some seven or eight days ago, the 2011 NFL season commenced, and I'll be damned if it's not going to be a long one. Some two or three seasons ago, I never, in my wildest dreams, would've envisioned that a season worse than either of the Kansas City Chiefs' campaigns between 2007-09 could exist. It now appears entirely possible, but that's not what I want to discuss today.

Some six or seven years ago I joined my first (and last) fantasy baseball league, and while I’m tempted to bore you with how-not-to-run-a-franchise highlights, I’ll note the detail that is most relevant to this post: Our league jumped around from server to server for a few years, and that, friends, is a sad thing for one reason: Gone are some absolute message-board gems. You’ll have to take my word on that and stay with me as we move quickly from the humorous into matters of serious measure.

In the fall of 2004, I was accepted to grad school, slated to begin the following fall semester, which meant I had to get a place of my own. That February I did, and courtesy of the best sous chef schedule every heard of in all the restaurant histories of forever -– M-W (open), Th (close), Fri (mid), Sat/Sun (off) –- I suddenly found myself with free time on Saturdays. By the following March, the college-football season already over, I did manage to, by happenstance, get my fair share of ESPN footage of the quarterbacks entering the NFL draft class. I was most impressed with the arm and the accuracy of Alabama’s Brodie Croyle.

In and around the bubble of time in which I saw said Croyle footage, it didn’t occur to me that the Chiefs would seriously pursue him as a potential draft pick, but the thought of Kansas City nabbing him did cross my mind.

By the time draft weekend rolled around, I remember being on our fantasy-baseball Web site and seeing my boy Gerard Portmanteau post a message with the subject heading “Screamin’ Jay Cutler.” Obviously, when I clicked on it, I confirmed what I already knew to be true: The Vanderbilt signal caller had been nabbed by the Denver Broncos.

I immediately went into panic mode, ever fearful that Denver would ultimately find their Elway-throne heir, and given that Mike Shanahan was still at the franchise reigns, a sinking feeling came over me that this pick would be right on the money. I suppose that, until that moment, I’d not given much thought to a young quarterback being drafted by the Chiefs, but that was because Trent Green was still under center, and for the most part, playing pretty solid with decent consistency.

But now, the wager was on the table, and it was time to raise, or at least call our divisional counterpart’s selection. KC went with Tamba Hali and Bernard Pollard in rounds one and two, and then, in round three, opted for Croyle. And I was ecstatic.

Having never been a big college football fan, I was unaware of Croyle’s NCAA injury history until I did some digging. Naturally I discovered how much time he’d missed, and that he’d been an animal in high school, but missed his senior year by way of a torn ACL. A freshman redshirt, Croyle started for every contest in his sophomore season, but missed significant time the following two seasons via a shoulder injury and a tear of the ACL in the other knee. In the 2005 season, he straight lit it up.

Misguided as I might’ve been, I went all in on the Brodie Croyle bandwagon. Hell, I practically built the thing from scratch and drove it, at times alone, over terrain Oregon Trail survivors would’ve deemed rough. When Green went down and ultimately ended his time in red and gold, I was pumped for Croyle to step up and be the first legitimate Division I quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs had drafted and developed in my football-viewing lifetime. When I say that, I don’t mean to discount Todd Blackledge class of ’83, 40 games as a Chief –- but I do mean to say that I’m speaking of a quarterback that gets drafted, developed, and plays well over a significant portion of their career. Blackledge went 13-11 in Kansas City with a completion percentage below 50, threw 29 TDs to 38 picks and had a rating of 62. He was also drafted instead of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, and Elway.

Translated: I wanted this kid to be the man, the bees’ knees, and the predominant jersey seen on Sundays at Arrowhead. He turned out, to my chagrin, to be the glass man, the man with knees as fragile as bees’, and to date, I’ve seen one other person rock a number 12, other than myself.

Words cannot describe the pain I have felt, the pain my fellow Chiefs fans have felt, watching one of two types of Kansas City football teams over the years: 1) a drafted, semi-developed quarterback under center for a really, really shitty team, or 2) a decent-to-good team with a free-agent quarterback of sorts that, for varying reasons, can’t get the Chiefs back to the status of champions.

All that said, my friends and colleagues have listened to me rant and rave about Croyle, obnoxiously be his biggest supporter since that fateful April day that occurred more than five years ago. Like my pal Old No. 7 said, “that body of work appears to be incomplete,” which meant, in precisely this many words: Croyle couldn’t make it through high school or college without injury, so why would he suddenly be able to do so in the pros?

I just thought he would. I thought it’d be that kind of situation where the wounds heal and you come back stronger. I thought those Beowulf forearms would be launching lasers into extra-padded receiver gloves for, at minimum, eight or nine years. I thought that, shitty as the team was -– and make no mistake: The Chiefs were nothing shy of shitty from tick one of the Herman Edwards regime until the batteries of that watch expired -– that Croyle would be the foundation upon which the house of greatness was built.

I thought the Crimson Tide alum would be the end to one of the most awful sports-fan droughts imaginable. I thought he would become a Kansas City icon, that his hot wife would have five-star service for evermore. And yes, I thought that many a friend and colleague would have a touch of crow on their collective dinner plate, that in the end, it wouldn’t matter, because we’d forget about it (Editor’s Note: At least until I got drunk enough to obnoxiously remind everyone) as we feasted on smoked meat at each other’s Super Bowl parties.

And as this abbreviated 2011 off-season started and stopped, the writing was all but on the wall. The Chiefs, having selected Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the draft, eventually signed him to a deal, and then signed Tyler Palko as well (Note: The latter of which was, in my opinion, a mistake, but my opinion, as I’ve just addressed, is faulty at best.), meaning that the free-agent Croyle would not be resigned in Kansas City.

As the pre-season began and progressed, the play of Palko began to suggest that my opinion might hold a Dixie cup of water after all (Note: For the record, I still think the Matt Cassel signing was a Band-Aid, one with little adhesive at best.). And then, the Arizona Cardinals made news, signing Croyle to their club. There it was, then: my new billboard for the ’11 campaign. Kevin Kolb goes down for the season; Croyle comes in and mops up the NFC West competition. The latest version of my Croyle bromance, however, was terminated 10 days into its existence when the Cardinals released him.

It must, then, be stated that this looks like the end of the NFL road for Croyle, that he’ll probably move back to Rainbow City (Note: What a terrible town name.), and do some kind of Alabama football-related work, perhaps in pee wee, or at the high school level. The only thing that’s certain is that he will not be the leader to take Chiefs Nation back to the Promised Land, a region they’ve only been close to once in the last 40-plus years.

Let’s then have a look at the snaps Brodie Croyle took in his Kansas City tenure:


October 1 vs. SF, week four, 0-41 W

Stats: three attempts for -3 yards, no scores, long of -1

The deets: This was Croyle’s first NFL action, and by “action” I mean presence on the field in an in-game situation.

Interpretation: He took the final three snaps of regulation –- all clock-draining knees –- to finalize the 49er dismantling.

October 15 @PIT, week six, 7-45 L

The deets: With 6:49 left in the contest, and the Chiefs trailing, Croyle’s first sequence of plays was perhaps a harbinger of things to come: run, incomplete (Jeff Webb), sack, punt. Although Pittsburgh punted on the ensuing possession as well, it only got worse for Croyle next time out: incompletion (Eddie Kennison), interception (intended for Kris Wilson) returned for a touchdown.

They get the ball back, obviously, and go completion, run, completion headed into the two-minute warning, and on the other side of it: completion, run, and deep ball for another pick.

Interpretation: So you hang that first turnover on the kid, and you wave the late-game Hail Mary one, as those happen all the time. The biggest thing to note about this game, though, is that it was the day after the infamous Passion Party, which you can Google if you like; I’m too ashamed to link to it.

For my money, this should’ve been a sign of what would come with Herman Edwards captaining the ship. He should’ve been canned after this game.


September 16 @ CHI, week two, 10-20 L

Stats: 4/4, 55 yards, long of 32

The deets: This is the first game in which Croyle would get legitimate live action, and this is a fresh reminder of how terrible this Chiefs team was: Chicago players of the game: Cedric Benson, Bernard Berrian, and Rex Grossman. As for Croyle, he again came in late in the fourth, and was immediately sacked, just like Huard had been all day. The play was nullified, though, when sacker Tommie Harris was flagged for a facemask penalty. He then hit Michael Bennett for a short loss, Samie Parker for a 10-yard gain, Jeff Webb for a 32-yard gain, Bennett for five more yards, then Bennett again for 10 yards, who fumbled, turning the ball over to Chicago on their own 14 with two and-a-half minutes left.

Interpretation: A score there puts the Chiefs –- albeit with little time -– within a field goal, and had they won, Croyle would’ve been 1-0 in games played.

October 7 vs JAX, week five, 7-17 L

Stats: 6/13, 83 yards, 1 TD, long of 35

The deets: Croyle comes in –- again, late in the fourth -– to try to change the fate of his trailing squad, one that’s down this time 17-zip at home. His first play is an eight-yard gain to Tony Gonzalez, but it’s followed by successive incompletions to Larry Johnson and Webb; Chiefs punt. His second drive begins with an 11-yard gain to Kolby Smith, and incompletion to Parker, and a completion to Gonzalez.

On the next play, he’s sacked, and fumbles, but recovers it himself. This is followed by a 10-yard gain to Smith, a clock-stopping spike, a 35-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe, three incompletions (Bowe, Webb, Gonzalez), and a fourth-down touchdown to Parker with only enough time left on the clock to kick the point after touchdown.

Interpretation: The Chiefs couldn’t score for three-plus quarters, and only did so once Croyle entered the game.

November 11 vs. DEN, week 10, 11-27 L

Stats: 17/30, 162 yards, INT, long of 18

The deets: Brodie’s first third-quarter appearance finds the Chiefs down 20-8. The second-year QB leads the Chiefs on a 13-play drive that results in a field goal. KC’s defense holds the Broncos on the ensuing possession, and Croyle marches the Chiefs from their own 10 to the Denver 35, where a field-goal attempt sails wide left. Croyle returns, this time to run his first no-huddle live action, and, as was frequently the case under the wizardly Edwards/Solari regime, a run play was called on first down. A sack, incompletion, and punt soon followed. Croyle got another no-huddle opportunity, which resulted in two short completions to incompletions and a Champ Bailey interception when Croyle targeted Bowe on third down. Denver, simply trying to burn the clock, turned the ball over on four downs, and still another no-huddle go for Croyle and company.

The drive started on the Kansas City 26, and ended on the Denver 15 when Croyle was sacked for a significant loss.

Interpretation: Brodie made his share of errors on this day, but a few more interesting stats for that afternoon look like this:

• The Chiefs rushed for 67 yards on the day while Denver put up 141.

• The Broncos surrendered one sack for a loss of six yards; KC 4-28.

• Denver turned the ball over once, while the Chiefs coughed it up four times.

November 18 @ IND, week 11, 10-13 L

Stats: 19/27, 169 yards, TD, long of 21

The deets: Brodie’s first start, at the RCA Dome no less. Opening drive starts at KC 33, features four runs, two Croyle completions before a punt. Drive two: two runs and an incompletion. Drive three (still scoreless after two missed Adam Vinatieri field-goal attempt misses): starts at the Chiefs 36, features five runs, four Croyle completions (one incomplete), and goes to the IND 25. Chiefs miss a field goal, but get an ensuing Peyton Manning interception on the first play of the drive, leading to two runs, one Croyle completion, and a KC FG.

Colts punt, Croyle goes 2/4, hands off once, Chiefs miss another FG. This, by the way, was Dave Rayner missing these tries. Rayner of the replaced-Justin-Medlock fame. The Medlock the Chiefs drafted in the fifth round of that year’s draft. The draft in which Mason Crosby was still available. The draft in which defensive-unit and offensive-line needs were much higher than kicking. The year in which former Chiefs place kicker Lawrence Tynes won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. The Super Bowl in which, yes, Eli Manning connected with David Tyree for the catch, but the final score –- 17-14 –- featured the difference of Tynes first-quarter field goal from 32 yards out. Rayner, through two quarters missed from 43 and 45. In a dome. But I digress.

Colts punt again. Ensuing Chiefs drive: Run, run, sack from the shotgun formation. Colts tie. Chiefs, with over a minute left, run two rushing plays and let the first-half clock expire. Colts punt on their first drive of the second half. Croyle completes, scrambles for four (nullified by holding), hands off, throws incomplete, and Chiefs punt.

The Colts march down the field for a touchdown.

Kansas City’s next drive starts at the 23. It features four runs, six Croyle passes (four caught, two not) before Croyle hits Bowe for 19 yards and a score. Colts punt; Chiefs go three and out (negative rush, one incompletion, and one 11-yard pass-and-catch). Colts punt. Chiefs -– three rushes, two Croyle completions and a sack –- do, too. Colts kick a field goal, leaving the Chiefs three seconds: Croyle completes a pass; Chiefs try shenanigans via lateral, fumble. Game over.

Interpretation: Chiefs lose by a field goal to the defending Super Bowl champions. At their house.

November 25 vs. OAK, week 12, 20-17 L

Stats: 12/23, 145 yards, INT, long of 24

The deets: Chiefs get the ball to start the game, and surprise –- they run on first down for a two-yard gain. Croyle scrambles on second, completes, but is then picked off trying to find Bowe on third down. Raiders kick a field goal. The Chiefs shock the world with a run play on their next first down, and Croyle connects with Bowe on second for a first. This time they actually do shock the world and call a pass play on first but Croyle, unable to find anyone open, throws it away. Clearly paranoid after that, the play calling then features six runs on the next seven plays, the lone pass attempt incomplete as Croyle again sought Bowe. The seventh play of the drive is a rushing touchdown for KC.

Raiders punt, Chiefs retaliate with vicious run-run-pass-punt ensuing drive. But wait -– there was trickery involved: That pass play on third down was a draw play, so -– shocker -– it was a run, too. Kansas City punts. Oakland gets a field goal. Solari calls a first-down pass play again, and it’s incomplete. Two Croyle completions then precede four runs and another incompletion. One more run and a Croyle scramble set up a Chiefs FG.

Raiders fumble on the third play of their next drive; KC recovers. The Chiefs, with the ball again, pass on first, but see the completion negated by a penalty. Two incompletions follow, and on comes Dustin Colquitt. Raiders stall, punt, and leave the Chiefs with 32 seconds in the half. Croyle is sacked, they rush for four yards, and the QB takes a knee.

Raiders punt to open the second, Chiefs call three rushes, earn two penalties, and Croyle throws incomplete, looking for Bowe (thus far every incompletion of his has targeted Bowe, Kolby Smith, or Gilbert Harris). Raiders start on their own 35, assemble a touchdown drive. Croyle scrambles on first (Chiefs get a first down via penalty), is sacked on first, and the Chiefs call a run on second. He connects with Gonzalez for a first down, is sacked again, hits Parker, hands off twice, touchdown Chiefs, capping a 63-yard, nine play drive.

Raiders punt, Chiefs call three run plays (one of which nets a first), and Croyle connects with Bowe. Two more runs (and another penalty) precede a Croyle completion, a Croyle incompletion, and yes, another Rayner miss, this time from 33. Daunte Culpepper throws two passes for 63 yards, and Justin Fargas runs one in from 14; Oakland takes the lead. The Chiefs, at their own 25, start with a penalty, go Croyle complete, rush, Croyle incomplete (Kris Wilson), Croyle complete, rush, Croyle incomplete (Webb), rush, Croyle complete, rush, Croyle complete, Croyle complete, fall one yard shy of the first-down marker, and lose the spot challenge.

They then, in their infinite wisdom, lose one yard on an actual Herman Edwards fourth-down attempt, and turn the ball over on downs, leaving the Raiders to rush and kneel to end it.

Interpretation: This, as many Chiefs-Raiders games are, was a sloppy, highly penalized contest with mostly poor play calling, but a fair amount of execution. Too many drops, too many sacks, and all in all, a game Kansas City should’ve won on more than one occasion.

December 9 @ DEN, week 14, 7-41 L

Stats: 15/29, 132 yards, TD, INT, long of 22

The deets: Damon Huard returned as the starter in week 12 and the Chargers easily handled Kansas City, but it was back to Brodie for this lovely trip to Colorado. Denver started the game with the ball, and four plays, one and-a-half minutes later, they were in the end zone. Drive one for the Chiefs featured one short pass, two tiny runs, and a punt. Denver took just under four minutes to go 84 yards and make it a two-score lead. Kansas City’s next drive included two penalties, two Croyle completions, one rush, and a punt.

Then Denver punted, and Kansas City went three and out with one rush and two Croyle incompletions (Wilson and Gonzalez targeted). Denver punted again. Croyle incomplete (Bowe), one-yard rush, Croyle incomplete (Bowe (but penalty on Denver)), Croyle complete, four rushes, Croyle sacked. Croyle complete, rush, Croyle incomplete (Bowe). Another penalty followed, as did a Croyle completion, another QB sack, a completion to Bowe, another penalty, and a 15-yard strike to Gonzalez for a touchdown.

Denver needed just over four minutes to go 79 yards and score again. Inside the two-minute warning, a short rush preceded two Croyle incompletions (both Webb), and a punt. Denver needed one minute, 11 seconds to get from their own 15 to within range for a 37-yard field goal. Kansas City started the second half with a three and out (two poor runs and a Croyle incompletion (Wilson)). The Broncos chewed up six-plus minutes in obtaining their next field goal. KC retaliated by throwing an incompletion, and then an interception, which resulted in another home-team touchdown.

Chiefs with the ball again go complete pass, sack, sack/fumble: Denver ball. This time the Broncos only needed 42 seconds to get in the end zone. Every good coach knows, though, that down 41-7 in the third, you line up in the shotgun and run a draw play on first down. That was followed by a penalty, two Croyle incompletions (Gonzalez, Bowe), and a Colquitt punt. The following drive looked familiar: incomplete (Bowe), negative rush, negative-pass play from shotgun, punt. It got crazy after that, though: incomplete pass (Boomer Grigsby), two rushes for no gain, punt. And the final drive: incomplete (Gonzalez), five straight completions, sack/fumble. Denver ball, victory formation.

Interpretation: It’s tough, without the game tape, to use stats to say what happened in this game. (Note: Actually, it's not. The Chiefs got pounded by Denver in this contest.) Educated guesses, however, would say that a) the Chiefs were now on a seven-year streak of never winning in this building, b) this team was too undisciplined, evidenced by numerous penalties in each game examined in the ’07 season, c) the defense –- looking at you, Herm I’m-a-defense-guy Edwards –- was despicable, d) Kolby Smith might’ve had a nice 150-yard-game in his first NFL start two weeks prior, but that was at home and against a shitty Raiders team. You don’t feature Smith up the middle (13 rushes for 12 yards) on the road in Denver, and e) the passing game sputtered at best. It looked like Croyle was trying to spread the targets around, but there were way too many incompletions, be they the fault of the receivers, quarterback, or both. Either way you slice it, that was a ridiculously terrible display of professional football.

December 16 vs. TEN, week 15, 26-17 L

Stats: 25/43, 217 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, long of 23

The deets: Tennessee opened the game with an eight-play, three-and-a-half minute touchdown drive. Kansas City responded with incomplete (Bowe), incomplete (Kennison), complete but short, punt. Titans punt, Chiefs feature three completions, one incomplete pass (Bowe), punt. Titans punt. Chiefs: three runs, Croyle completion, three straight runs, Croyle incompletion (Bowe), penalty, Croyle completion, run, Croyle incompletion (Smith), Croyle to Parker for a touchdown.

Titans punt, Chiefs fumble the punt, Titans recover. They kick a field goal to go up three. Chiefs: incomplete (Wilson), run, end around, two completions, penalty, incomplete (Gonzalez), two completions, incomplete (Gonzalez), run, completion, run, incomplete (Gonzalez), Croyle to Wilson for a touchdown. Tennessee punts, Chiefs go completion, run, run to end the half.

To start the second it’s complete, complete, incomplete (Bowe), punt. Titans kick a field goal. Chiefs with the ball again go three runs, two penalties, three straight completions, penalty, two completions, incomplete (fleaflicker to Webb), complete, incomplete, field goal. Titans use one and-a-quarter minutes, three plays to score a touchdown. Croyle, targeting Gonzalez, is picked off on the first play of the drive, and the Titans kick a field goal.

Chiefs go four runs, two incompletions (both to Webb), and punt. Titans kick another field goal. Chiefs: incomplete (Kennison), complete, run, complete, then Croyle (again targeting Gonzalez) is picked off. Tennessee kills the remaining four minutes and change.

Interpretation: This does not look like a great game for Croyle, but it’s not a bad one (three early scoring drives), either. It’s tough to imagine defenses struggling to scheme when Kolby Smith is your running back, and when you’re passing, you’re either looking for Gonzalez, Bowe, Webb, or Smith. Special teams appeared to have been pretty unspecial as well.

December 23 @ DET, week 16, 20-25 L

Stats: 9/12, 69 yards, INT, long of 29

The deets: Lions punt to open, Chiefs go complete, run, complete, run, penalty, two completions, run, two completions, incomplete (Jackie Battle), punt. Detroit scores a touchdown; Kansas City goes two short completions, incomplete (Gonzalez), punt blocked for a safety. Detroit follows up the safety with a field goal.

KC goes complete, run, Croyle (looking Gonzalez) intercepted for a pick six. He was penalized on the play, and replaced (via injury) by Huard, who went 24/36 for 305 yards, 2 TD, and a long of 34. In relief, Huard led three touchdown drives (the third with a missed two-point conversion. Detroit mustered only six points via two field goals after the Chiefs made the substitution.

Interpretation: Kansas City was down 19 when the QB switch was made, and this one looks much worse than it actually was. Kansas City’s defense and special teams had allowed a touchdown, a field goal, and a safety -– also known as every possible way you can score in football -– prior to Croyle’s pick six. That Huard came in and was able to rally is a high mark for him and a negative for Croyle, but when Croyle was in, the defense wasn’t helping keep Detroit off of the scoreboard, and, in my biased estimation, this pick six can be lumped into the rookie-mistake category.

December 30 @ NYJ, week 16, 10-13 L

Stats: 20/43, 195 yards, TD, long of 26

The deets: The Jets turned the ball over on downs on the first drive, and the Chiefs responded by going three and out: two Kolby Smith runs and one short Croyle completion (also to Smith). Jets punt. Chiefs go run, Croyle incompletion (Gonzalez), penalty, sack, punt. Jets punt. Two-yard rush by Jackie Battle, Croyle complete, Croyle incomplete (Gonzalez), punt. Jets score a touchdown.

Croyle goes incomplete (Battle), complete to Gonzalez but for no gain, incomplete (Jason Dunn), Chiefs punt but get the ball back for roughing the kicker. Two runs get the Chiefs seven yards, and a Croyle pass to Webb goes for no gain. Chiefs line up in punt formation, but fake it and get a first. Croyle throws three incompletions (two to Gonzalez, one to Battle), and this time they really do punt. Jets go three and out.

Croyle completes a pass, two running plays are called, Croyle goes incomplete (Webb), and the Chiefs settle for three. Jets chew up nearly five minutes, answer the field goal. To start the second half, the Chiefs see Croyle complete a pass, call a run, another completion, an incompletion, a penalty on Croyle for intentional grounding, and another imcompletion (Bowe), then punt.

The Jets go three and out. The Chiefs see a Croyle incompletion, a penalty, and two Croyle incompletions (Gonzalez, Webb). Chiefs punt. The Jets turn it over on downs again, and the Chiefs go run, penalty, run, sack, but via another penalty, see the play expunged. What followed: completion, run, incompletion (Parker), incompletion (Gonzalez), punt. Jets punt.

Chiefs go Croyle completion squared, run, Croyle incomplete (Webb), run, Croyle incomplete (Wilson), punt. Jets punt. (Note: Thrilling game, huh?)

Run, Croyle complete, Croyle scramble, Croyle incomplete (Bowe), Croyle sacked, punt. Jets punt.

Run, Croyle complete, Croyle incomplete (Gonzalez), Croyle complete twice, Croyle incomplete (Webb), Croyle complete twice, Croyle to Webb for a touchdown. Jets punt.

Croyle incomplete (Webb), Croyle complete twice, Croyle incomplete (Gonzalez), Croyle complete, Croyle sacked, Chiefs punt.

In overtime, the Jets go from their own 30 to the Chiefs 15 in five minutes, and kick the game-winning field goal.

Interpretation: This game looked much worse for Croyle than the previous contest, in that there were way too many incompletions. More specifically, there were way too many incompletions to the best tight end to ever play the game. In his defense, he was sacked too often, and had ridiculously poor play calling from lifetime-offensive-line-coach-turned-coordinator Mike Solari, and really, zero talent (aside from Gonzalez) around him. John Welbourne must’ve been flagged 20 times for false start that season, and he was one of the veterans. Casey Wiegmann and Brian Waters hold their own, but Will Svitek and Damion McIntosch at tackle were just atrocious.

So, Croyle gets next to no protection, has Jackie Battle and Kolby Smith in the running game to balance out his “passing game,” and when he drops back to throw, he’s got: Samie Parker –- after being cut by the Chiefs was cut by four teams in one year, got bounced from the UFL, and last year played in the AFL; Jeff Webb –- one touchdown in three years with the Chiefs before getting bounced from the CFL and landing in the UFL; Dwayne Bowe –- basically a complete knucklehead until Todd Haley got here; Kris Wilson –- 52 catches in seven seasons; Jason Dunn -– who, at the time was playing with crushed soda cans for knees; and Gonzalez to look for.

That’s some fantastic personnel, there, Herman Edwards. Add to it that the play calling is either so unimaginative, or so terrified for Croyle’s life, that they next to never sniff out a decent-sized play. Critics and fans will always say that great quarterbacks will rise to the challenge in the face of adversity, but at what time do you make the adversity last call?


September 7 @ NWE, week one, 10-17 L

Stats: 11/19, 88 yards, long of 20

The deets: A strong start for the Chiefs as they open the season against the Patriots in a game that featured Matt Cassel as the leading passer (for New England), Larry Johnson (allegedly resigned by Miami) (Update: Nevermind!)as the leading rusher, and Randy Moss (staring at retirement) as the leading receiver. New England fumbled on the opening drive, resulting in a Johnson run, a Croyle completion, and a Croyle incompletion (Webb) followed by a punt. Bernard Pollard knocked Tom Brady out for the game/season courtesy of a totally legit hit, and Moss fumbled, resulting in another Chiefs turnover.

KC’s drive: Two runs, penalty. Two runs, Croyle completion, run. Croyle completion, run. Two Croyle incompletions (Mike Cox!, Jamaal Charles), and another punt. Patriots score a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

KC with the ball again: Run, run, Croyle complete. Punt. NE with the ball again, and they punt. KC gets it back: Croyle incomplete (Bowe), Croyle complete (Bowe), Croyle incomplete (Bowe), punt. NE punts again.

KC one more time: Run, run, Croyle complete, Croyle incomplete (Bowe). Croyle complete, run, run. Croyle completes two to Gonzalez, then incomplete to Bowe. Run, incomplete (Bowe), Chiefs kick a field goal.

First drive after the half: Run, two completions, five runs, Croyle sacked and hurt. Chiefs punt. Patriots score a touchdown. Huard in at quarterback for KC, 10 plays, five minutes, touchdown strike to Bowe (after connecting with Bowe twice on the drive).

Interpretation: It’s clear now, that things are not looking up for Croyle. He’s frequently hurt, and while he occasionally puts together scoring drives, passes seem to fall incomplete with receivers when other passers hit those same receivers in the same game. The chips are not falling in his favor.

October 19 vs. TEN, week seven, 10-34 L

Stats: 9/10, 63 yards, long of 22

The deets: Croyle complete, run, Croyle complete, punt to start the game. Tennessee, with their first shot at it, splits the uprights. KC, take two: Run, run, penalty, incomplete (Mark Bradley), punt. Tennessee retaliates with a touchdown.

Croyle complete twice, penalty, Croyle complete, run, complete, complete, penalty. Croyle completes two, and on the second, gets pancaked by Albert Haynesworth; does not return. On the next play of the drive, Nick Novak missed a field-goal chance. Tennessee scores, Huard fumbles, recovers, Novak misses again. (Note: Nice sign, Herm.) Huard looks terrible, gets sacked, hurt, in comes Tyler Thigpen. (Note: Nice O-line, guys.)

Interpretation: This team is an absolute disaster. There’re penalties on nearly every offensive possession. The run game is a joke, and there’s still no talent at wide receiver outside of the potential in Bowe. There’re days when Huard can make things happen, and there’re days when he cannot. He’s old, and like Croyle, had already taken a beating through six weeks of the season.


September 13 @ BAL, week one, 24-38 L

Stats: 16/24, 177 yards, 2 TD, long of 50

The deets: Another season, another opener, another three and out to start. The drive featured two runs and a Croyle incompletion (Sean Ryan). Chiefs punt, Ravens get a field goal. Croyle complete, Croyle sacked, Croyle incomplete, Chiefs punt. Ravens score a touchdown on their ensuing possession.

Chiefs again: Run, two Croyle completions, punt. Next possession: three runs, featuring Johnson, Tyler Thigpen, and Charles. Then a punt. Baltimore with a three and out of their own, but the punt is blocked and the Chiefs score a touchdown. Ravens miss a field goal at the end of their next drive.

Kansas City with the ball: Penalty, run, run, Croyle completion, run, run, Croyle completion, run, Croyle completion, and the first half expires.

Ravens marching to open the half. Derrick Johnson with a Joe Flacco pick, and a healthy return. Run, penalty, Croyle to Bowe for a touchdown. Ravens answer the touchdown.

Chiefs’ turn: Run, run, Croyle complete, penalty, punt. Ravens punt, too.

Next drive: Run, run, Croyle complete, run, Croyle incomplete (Ryan), Croyle incomplete (Bradley). Chiefs get a field goal. Ravens answer with a touchdown.

Here we go again: Croyle complete, Croyle incomplete (Bradley), three straight Croyle completions, Croyle to Ryan for a touchdown. Ravens answer with a touchdown.

One more time: Croyle sacked, incomplete twice (Bowe, Ryan), sacked again, KC turns it over on downs. Ravens score a touchdown, and on the final drive, Croyle throws two completions, one incomplete (Ryan) as time expires.

Interpretation: There is no mistake that this was Brodie Croyle’s best game as a Kansas City Chief. And it was opening day, on the road, in Baltimore. Tough crowd, very tough team. He was far from perfect, still throwing too many incompletions, but he didn’t turn it over, either. Without looking at the tape, it’s tough to say whether or not the sacks were because he didn’t recognize the pressure, or because the protection wasn’t there. The likelihood is that it was a combination of the two. Every quarterback is going to get sacked, and you’re only better if you can at least attempt to gauge when that’s about to happen. On the other hand, it’s the Baltimore Ravens. Give the man some credit, and know that he put up 116.1 passer rating on that afternoon.

What’s more: New regime, new coach and coaching staff, slightly improved personnel and new a new mentality, and look at what the boy was capable of.

November 29 @ SDG, week 12, 14-43 L

Stats: 1/2, 3 yards; I'll bet you can guess the long.

The deets: Late in mop-up duty, getting smoked by San Diego, some backups come in, and as the Matt Cassel era had long since been ushered in, it was time for some Croyle action: Run, incomplete (Bobby Wade), complete, punt.

Interpretation: Does it matter when it’s clear that the game is out of hand?

December 6 vs. DEN, week 13, 13-44 L

Stats: 6/14, 50 yards, long of 13

The deets: First drive in the third quarter, Brodie Croyle suddenly comes into the game and lines up in the punt formation. He throws incomplete to Tim Gafford on fourth down, a would’ve-been first-down play. I don’t need the game tape for that one. I was right there behind him. He was under some pressure, but got the throw off. Receiver should’ve had it.

Croyle back in late in the third, and completes a pass. Charles scores a touchdown on the next play. On their next possession, however, he throws three straight incompletions (Quinten Lawrence, Lance Long, Wade), and KC punts.

Next possession: Croyle complete twice, run, incomplete (Wade). Complete, complete, three incompletions (Long, Wade twice), complete, Chiefs turn it over on downs.

Interpretation: One of the biggest shitholes of a game I’ve ever attended or watched. Not even a top-10-of-all-time QB’s going to save your team from defeat when the team lets a sorry Denver team run all over them at home.


December 12 @ SD, week 14, 0-31 L

Stats: 7/17, 40 yards, long of 16

The deets: Chiefs start with the ball first: four runs, a Croyle completion, and a punt. In seven plays, six minutes, San Diego goes for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Chiefs: Run, Croyle completion, Croyle incomplete (Terrence Copper), punt. Chargers punt, too.

Croyle sacked, Chiefs run, Croyle complete, punt. This time it’s nine plays, five minutes, 69 yards to a Charger touchdown.

Chiefs: Run, run, Croyle complete, run, Croyle incomplete (Bowe), Croyle complete, punt. Nine plays, less than three minutes, and 80 yards later, San Diego has their third touchdown of the half.

Croyle goes incomplete (Bowe), complete, complete, incomplete (Bowe), is sacked as the half expires.

To start the second, San Diego marches, but Philip Rivers is ultimately picked off by Eric Berry. KC retaliates by going run, run, incomplete (Bowe), punt.

The Chargers are putting together another drive, but Rivers is sacked by Tamba Hali, and he fumbles, which is recoverd by Wallace Gilberry. Chiefs with the ball: run, run, penalty, incomplete (Bowe), punt.

Chargers punt, Chiefs go sack, incomplete (Bowe), incomplete (Charles), punt. Chargers answer with a field goal.

Chiefs go penalty, two incompletions (both to Verran Tucker), sack, punt. San Diego has a big return, and on the ensuing drive, scores with ease their fourth touchdown of the game. Chiefs bring in backups, kneel.

Interpretation: Anybody that watched this game and decided during it or afterwards that Croyle was garbage and solely to blame for this loss was delusional. Make no mistake: This was Croyle’s worst start as a pro. By far. But the way the team as a whole played was a joke. I said it then, and I say it again today: When Matt Cassel didn’t get on that plane, it was like the rest of the team didn’t either. And that’s not to take anything away from San Diego.

They’re a good team, they’re at home, and they’re looking to get back at the Chiefs for the season-opening loss to them in Kansas City. Add to that they’re finally -– in typical Charger fashion –- firing on all late-season cylinders, and wholly aware that the Chiefs will be starting their backup. But the running game for KC never got going; the offensive line couldn’t protect Croyle, and frankly –- save for the two turnovers created by the defense –- the whole team looked terrible.

More often than not, it’s up to your quarterback to make something happen. He has to be the spark plug to get points on the board, especially when the whole team is struggling, and Croyle, in this contest, didn’t do that. He didn’t come close, really. You blame the offensive line and scheming for lack of protection, but you also blame him for not sensing pressure and getting rid of the football. Again, without the tape, it’s hard to imagine why there were so many incompletions, especially five to Bowe, who was having a monster year.

I put some of the onus on him. Going through each of these games, there are so many Bowe drops, that it’s like his confidence in Croyle checked out months and months ago, yet the guys that are barely hanging on to a roster spot are catching most balls thrown their way. All in all though, it was a team loss, and anyone that places it solely on Croyle is being unfair, deliberate or not.

December 26 vs. TEN, week 15, 14-34 W

Stats: 1/2, -2 yards; Again: You got the long.

The deets: It’s 34-7 Chiefs when Croyle comes in late in the third quarter. Run, completion, intercepted (intended for Bowe). Cassel back in to finish the game.

Interpretation: Not a good sign for Croyle, but it’s no surprise that Bowe was targeted on that pick.

Not a pretty picture for a guy that was, in my mind, going to lead us to salvation, but as I said: pretty shitty football team all around. The point of it all, though, was to announce my misguided man crush, to briefly address my reasons for having them, and to admit the erroneousness of their existence.

There, then. It has been shouted from the mountaintops, decreed from the balconies of edifices, echoed across the plains and in and out of forests.

I was wrong about Brodie Croyle. The next time the Chiefs serve me pudding, I’ll wait for the proof.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Untimely Reviews: Phish, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 09/04/11

Sunday was a lazy, lazy day, and as you looked around, the strewn bodies roasting in the sun, and sizzling inside E-Z-Bake-Oven tents were evidence of the hard-core raging a lot of folks did Saturday. Sunday was a time to relax, gather yourself, and make the walk for one more show. One final evening of Phish until who knows when.

Things around our campsite were tiredly entertaining, like the eight quarts of lotion Surfer Steve put on his face, or the fact that Dakota Fanning was still alive, or even the story from Ari about the dude at the Bonnaroo Radiohead stage. If you want the details on that one, hit me up in the comments, and I’ll attempt to do that doozy justice. The day seemed to flash past, though, and before long it was time to get your drink on and mozy back toward the hole-punchers.

My stub assistant this time was Ben, who was dressed like the gayest man I’ve ever met. He had on a skirt with some kind of sequined, feathered-sash belt, a tiara, and about 10 other things that had fallen from the gay tree, but -– even though he talked like he preferred men -– he was moving (two weeks from show date) from Crested Butte to Durango because he couldn’t meet any ladies. I told him good luck with that one; he swore the odds in D-town had to be better than in the Butte. Nevertheless, I got Ben a Bud Heavy for his troubles, and he told me to meet him in the far corner Page Side.

Once again, I’d lost my people, and once again, I wouldn’t find them until set break. The show, nonetheless, was stellar.

“Maze” was the opener and it’s another soft-spot track for me but I’m gonna go the jaded-vet/Mike-on-KBCO route on this one: The jam of this tune belongs to Page and in the days of old, it felt like he was given free range to go bananas on the keys in it. He gets after it in this rendition and in most, but the darker, slow-building organ rolls that led into two-to-three-minute lightning-fast solos seem so rare, or diminished, and this is almost always because Trey is getting in his space. In this particular “Maze,” it feels like Page is typically just building steam and Trey comes in with these atrocious, high-pitched chords that just ruin the aura of McConnell.

“Back on the Train” was one of my first favorites on Farmhouse when it came out. Live, though, I think it tends to be a dud. It’s not a bad song and never will be and there’s always the gotta-fill-a-set argument, but I find most versions of “BotT” uninspiring, full of Trey noodles, and with the drumming too much in the foreground. This led into “Rift,” and as the terminology goes, it’s a suitable "type-one jam." Nothing not to love, but I doubt it will ever be an agency for experimentation.

Phish carried the segue into “Bathtub Gin” and it featured some Page insanity at the beginning.

Phish - 9/4/11 "Bathtub Gin" from Phish on Vimeo.

As the song develops there was some nice patience from Trey, and once the whole thing got going it was electric, the perfect example of all four being conscious of what one another was doing.

For a song I’d never previously heard, “That’s the Way That It Goes” was magnificent. I didn’t know anything about Gillian Welch prior than this show, save for seeing her name making the occasional music-venue round. But, if her version is half as good as Phish’s was Sunday night, she’ll be on my iPod sooner rather than later. I thought it was an interesting choice to go with two consecutive rarities, and “Halfway to the Moon” was a wonderfully calm jam. I’m excited to hear it again.

“Gumbo” used to be something I’d long for in setlists, but I think not long after A Live One came out, the novelty of it wore off. I was glad for homeboy camped near us that rocked the Mexican poncho all weekend; it’s all he said he wanted headed in Sunday evening. I’ll always love the amount and the variety of Page on this cut, but I think he could stand to take it up even another notch.

Two things: 1) Remember back when Phish had shelved a ton of songs and people felt starved for tracks like “Destiny Unbound” and “Halley’s Comet”? I know it’s a grass-is-always-greener deal, but I kind of miss those days, the days of passing out flyers at Red Rocks that would attempt to coerce the entire crowd to sing the opening verse to “Destiny.” I still love “Halley’s Comet” but it used to be a bit of a mystery song –- or at least a song a lot of folks were chasing -– and now it’s become, with its more frequent setlist appearance, a few cool verses smashed between bunches of lyrical repetition.

2) Right when "Halley's" started, a kid walked past me with a shirt that said “What is the truth to this everlasting spoof?” on the back, and that put a huge smile on my face (Editor’s Note: Dickie V. voice…Serendipity, baby!). Still dig “Halley’s” at the end of the day.

“Tube” has always been a funny little number to me but it always goes into some kind of dirty stutter-reverb jam, which makes me dig the shit out of it. Can’t get enough of the Mike slap/Page clav/Trey scratch. calls Trey’s tease in this version “Charlie Chan,” but it made me think of the old Kung Fu game on Nintendo. As far as “Timber (Jerry)” goes, I don’t dislike it, but it’s never done much for me. A little monotonous.

I was super-stoked for my first “Roses Are Free.” Goose bumps galore. If Ween’s ever heard Phish do this, they’d have to admit that the original is inferior, no? Nothing negative to say, really, about the song, save that the jam didn’t necessary get a chance to build, but it served as a segue as they took it into “Chalkdust Torture,” a tune I could do without for a solid dozen shows. So, I guess I am griping about “Roses” in a sense. I’d take a long version of it any day, but you gotta please everyone, in this case, all the dorks that still get off on putting both arms up and screaming “Can’t I live while I’m young?”

“Rock & Roll” opened set two and I was pumped to catch this. I feel like the development potential is massive, and Page’s vocal work was great. This blended into “Come Together” which was a complete mind scramble. I’m never expecting Beatles covers out of these guys and they always manage to slide one in under the radar. It slipped right into “Twist” which was a fun way to tie two covers into original material, and “Piper” followed. “Piper” usually leaves me feeling blah, like get it over with and stop playing it, but the jam in this version was nice and inventive. I had no idea what Trey was hollering towards the second half of it, but it was groovy, and the thing melted first into a nice space jam, then right into “Harry Hood.”

“Hood” featured the sounds of Mike Gordon having a light-saber war with himself, as well as some of Trey’s most patient work all weekend. Really just lights out. Still pauseless, and into “Roggae,” and I hate to keep dipping into my galactically themed bowl here, but that was cosmic. Great sound spectrum.

More segue: “Ghost.”

A while ago, the great Joe Posnanski put up a poll on his blog, as he is wont to do, and this particular poll asked the question: “Who is the best current rock band in the world?” Before existing as a poll, though, it was a brief blog post that instructed brilliant readers to nominate bands via comment with a brief synopsis of why they should be included. It was one of those situations where, when you see it, you want to act so fast you nearly freeze.

I managed to get to the post, though, and naturally, I nominated Phish with what I deemed a solid description. A few comments popped up -– all told there were 308 comments in 15 hours, which, if you’ve never blogged: that rocks –- and one or two of them supposed that Phish is not really a rock band. These things were supposed for reasons indescribable. So, to anybody that wrote that or feels that, I present to you this “Ghost.”

It of course segued into “Guy Forget.” And when I say “of course,” I’m being facetious. I have no idea what the deal with this tune is, but I do know that to be sandwiched between two “Ghost” segments it must’ve first been dipped in a golden batter of badassery. Back into “Ghost” and “now you all know who the ghost really is…”

“Walls of the Cave” was the second-set closer, and I’m not going to pretend to know the metaphor of this song but I should probably retract my statement from the Friday-night review wherein I claimed that “Seven Below” is the best song from Round Room. I suppose “Walls of the Cave” is, or maybe even “Waves.” “Seven” definitely had the most potential as an authentic Phish jam, but as I said, where it goes beyond about the seven-minute mark is crappy. (Note: “Walls,” during the re-listen, got huge, huge points in my book via sheer coincidence: The wife brought our eight-month-old daughter down to review headquarters and I put my headphones on the baby just for shits and grins. She rocked out some seven minutes of this “Walls” and appeared to absolutely love it.)

Anyway, the song reminds me of some kind of alien after-human-life revelation or some kind of coded what-Phish-was-all-about explanation for later generations that are maybe too technologically advanced -– “listen to the silent trees” -– to get what we, as live-music lovers used to do in a general sense, and more specifically with regard to seeing the same act time and again. Also, it makes me think of John Locke and the whole final season of “Lost,” but that’s neither here nor there. In essence, this was one heck of a weekend closer, and tour closer for that matter. Probing lyrics, high-energy jam, and the crowd seemed to really dig it, too. One of those moments where you not only have to take your hat off to Phish, but genuinely thank them, too.

In these reviews I’ve spent a fair amount of time mentioning the goings-on in TypeIIcast and they deserve some kudos here, specifically Stephen Olker. He, and other panelists (I think) have criticized set-closer choices, which, upon first hearing that, I found a bit trivial. For the final piece of irony regarding my own opinions, I was absolutely stunned that “Backwards Down the Number Line” was chosen, not only as the show/weekend tour closer, but that it was the only song in the encore.

A one-song, “Backwards” encore to close out what was arguably one of the tightest Phish tours in a decade. Stunned, I tell you. Stunned. And in all honesty, I love the tune. I thought it the perfect lead-off hitter for Joy when Joy came out and I haven’t wavered there. In spite of my criticism of Olker and company though, I think songs have a place in a setlist, and if “Backwards” has one, I’m not certain what it is. I do, however, know that if you’re gonna drop it in an encore, it had better be first in a three-spot.

I mean, they didn’t even do anything special with it. They just mailed it in. Mailed in the one-song encore to close out Summer Tour 2011. And that was it. It’s possible that it was significant to include the one song that has the lyrics “all my friends,” to use the song to talk about aging and spending time together. It’s possible that they were just messing with people, as they’ve done in the past.

All things considered, it was a great three-show run, and a heckuva night and setlist to wrap it, and the only afterthought I had was that it was a long walk back to the campsite, an even longer drive across Kansas the next day, and longest of all was the Tuesday back at work. Like Uncle Jake said, “Tuesday reminded me of one thing: “I’d rather be on Phish tour.”
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Untimely Reviews: Phish, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO, 09/03/11, Part II

With my people still gallivanting around the Front Range and my interviews complete, it was time for some leisure, which I obtained via the company of the following: Lorin, and her pals Lara and Ari (Viking horns), a couple of other Connecticut-ers, Thomas and Adam (a.k.a Surfer Steve) from the University of Arizona (who Lorin adopted for the weekend), Mean Guy, BizarroJeff -- not to be confused with DiscoBiscuit Jeff -- and Dakota Fanning’s doppelganger. It’s ridiculously unfortunate that I did not seize the group-photo opportunity, but what’re you gonna do.

BizarroJeff and I made the nine-foot trek over to their shelter, and there was no shortage of comedic gems offered in the two or three hours hanging with them. For starters, Lorin, Lara, and Ari had shirts made with the Phish logo, and below it, two phrases: “Girls Gone West 2011,” and “Dude, You’re Gettin’ a Dell.” I didn’t get the Dell part, but now I do. Apparently, these dude-you’re-gettin’-a-Dell commercials ran all the time back in the day. I missed out on that, but what I did not miss out on was the approximate 1,376 times the phrase “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell” was uttered.

If you’re confused, here’re a few examples:

Surfer Steve: “Do you think that guy could possibly be any more fucked up?”

Ari: “Dude, he’s gettin’ a Dell.”

BizzaroJeff: “I can’t really remember the conversation which led you to begin calling me Fake Jeff (which later became BizarroJeff).”

Lorin: “It doesn’t matter, man. We’re all gettin’ Dells.”

Pick your own variation. It happened.

Anyhoo, we sat around and swapped stories, such as the pig-roast benefit turned chicks-with-dicks oddity that Ari got conned into attending or the best-hurricane-party-ever gathering Lorin had (everyone got Dells). Best of all, however, was the sheer presence of Dakota Fanning. Picture Dakota Fanning dressed in ‘90s grunge attire with an inside-out Vans baseball cap, mirror sunglasses, a straggly beard, and the dingiest, scarecrowiest dirty-blond hair you can imagine. Now insert 17 kinds of psychedelic drugs into his system, and if you’re not equal parts entertained by the words coming out of his mouth/concerned for the functioning level of most of his major organs, then there’s something the matter with you.

His presence in the shelter tent kicked off with a scary attempt to walk across the circle of chairs and sit in one; here was not much to be said for Dakota’s coordination on this fine afternoon. Once he was seated, though, he began uttering one-liners while clutching his hat and laughing hysterically. Some of the more token of his statements were:

“Dude, you guys are so crazy. How is it possible that this is all happening?” After this he probably tore his abdomen with a three-minute laugh. There was also:

“Do you guys have any idea how the world made this all work?” And:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep with the commissioner’s wife that night in St. Louis, but it is how I became the commissioner.” Finally:

“Man the only way you can figure out what’s goin’ on is to hide under cars and jump out as people are coming so you can look into their eyes and see if they’re lookin’ into yours.”

Dakota claimed he’d never seen Phish, and didn’t have tickets to any of the two remaining two nights. He continued to ponder the likelihood of “making it all happen” and I foolishly tried to explain to him that he needed to get to the box office and buy one, but he wasn’t interested.

A collection of substances circulated throughout this shelter, and while initially Dakota was skipped in the rotation, it was ultimately decided to include him when he kept reminding everyone that sometimes people tell him he looks like Gary Sinise. It was then protocol to get a Sinise line out of Dakota every time something was passed to him, which was nothing shy of priceless.

Finally, someone mentioned that their mother had Restless Leg Syndrome, and he probably laughed for two straight minutes about how much that would suck. He then bent his legs at the knees and raised his feet above his waist and flailed his legs about as an interpretation of what RLS looked like. He physically could not keep his arms from flapping, though, and about a five-minute ordeal was made trying to get him to keep them still. Not a dry eye in the house.

Anyway, we had a few more drinks, heard some random songs from Ari’s iPod -– which was attached to this mini, handheld stereo –- and she imitated this girl she saw at a wedding who carried one around above her shoulder, pressed to her ear at a wedding reception while hired music was played for attendees. We were led to believe that that girl had already gotten a Dell.

As show time approached, we separated back into our appropriate troops, and headed towards the venue. Hanging out with that pack, though, on that Phish-weekend Saturday, was one of the best times I’ve had in ages.

More shenanigans at the entry, as the staff had figured out the hole-punch catastrophe from Friday night, and folks with seats were angling to get their floor wristbands. In one of my efforts, my phone flew out of my hand and broke into three pieces on the sidewalk, which always makes for some good, embarrassing times. Device reassembled, I made a beer-inside deal with the dude –- name escapes me -– I stood behind, and voila: wristband. While procuring said beverage, however, I lost my people, and was again solo on the floor for first set.

I made it a point to stop moving forward where the crowd thickened, and stood behind a pair of gents who, at lights, retrieved some of the contents of what appeared to be an entire cigarette pack full of doobies. They were select about sharing, but not shy about it.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to TypeIIcast since they began (Editor's Note: If you haven't checked them out, do so. Now.), but it’s done a weird thing to my head in terms of Phish criticism. I tend to love what gets hated, and get a little too meta overall when setlists are developing. There’s probably not more hate for one particular song than “Possum” right now, largely due to the frequency with which it’s been played this tour, and most of it comes from Stephen Olker. When the first notes of “Possum” rang out I thought of his commentary, and made a fleeting effort to be open about the band’s selection.

Frankly, I thought they crushed it. It’s only been two years since my last “Possum” and based on my commentary from Friday’s show, I should’ve been agitated at getting another one so soon, but this version had great energy, and for my money, was a fine second-night opener.

“The Moma Dance” had some nice Trey funk/Page clav, and, on the whole, admirable syncopation amongst the four. It segued right into “The Wedge.” I was super-stoked for this number as, at its roots, are some down-home, feel-good vibes that come out of -- at least in this version -- a studio-similar beginning. Phish did an excellent job of building into a mellow-yet-high energy jam in “Wedge” and returned, spot on, to the melodic refrain just a few beats before its end. Loved it.

I had the same feeling I mentioned with “Stealing Time,” that I do for “Ocelot.” It’s a little hokey, but still a very digable song. This segued into “The Divided Sky.” Forget the Eric Wyman hate. This song has its place, and its place was as sandwich meat atop the bread of “Ocelot.” The crowd was rewarded with a great solo, and again going against the grain of my feel for Friday night, I’ve seen “Divided” eight times, but I can’t recall a version I didn’t enjoy.

“Funky Bitch” is never a letdown in my book. Gotta love Mike on vocals in this one as well as the way they undeniably shred it nearly every time out. Page destroyed his early solo, and he was also lights out during Trey’s end-of-jam segment.

Up next was “Axila.” In the relationships-with-songs vein, I feel inclined to mention that Hoist has always had an odd flavor on my palette, as, having really developed relationships with the first four studios by the time it dropped in ’94, it totally through me for a loop; it was definitely not what I expected. This is always a good thing with Phish, and I dig the album, but it still caught me off guard, even though, album-to-album, the previous four were completely different from one another.

“Axila, Part II,” to me, has a place between “Riker’s Mailbox” and “Lifeboy,” and little elsewhere. I’ve never seen it live, and probably wouldn’t be all that moved by it if I did. That said, this was my third “Axila” and I always equate hearing it to giving one’s self the Stranger. It segued into “Llama” with a wicked-high energy right out of the gate. It’s never been one of my favorites, but I was getting into it and then the jam went atonal/stupid-fast for a few, which threatened to mess with me bad. Luckily, it was short-lived.

This was probably a good time for a slow song, and “Fast Enough for You” is one that’s –- along with “Horn” -– always been highly crankable when rocking my copy of Rift. “Wolfman’s Brother” is another one of those Phish-criticism conundrums in that I’ve heard a bunch of them, it’s never been one of my favorite cuts, but it always seems to be solid live. This version was no exception as Mike, Trey, and Page dug deep and early into their disco pockets for a filthy tube of Soul Glo. I mean, I actually heard the high-pitched cavitation of propellers from afar. Trey did some crazy picking after the halfway mark; it sounded like he was running a broken comb across the high end of his fret board, and it all culminated in a fantastic finish. A really solid close to a really solid first set had me amped for second set, and to top it off, I reunited with my people at intermission to finally actually be at the show with them.

Before moving on to set II, though, I have to share a brief story. It's the story about a couple positioned directly to my right throughout set I, a couple by the names of Zach and Danielle. Zach looked like your typical middle-of-the-road male Phishhead. He had the backpack, the baseball cap, the gleam of party time in his eye. Danielle looked like she'd left the house anticipating White Zin and sushi, but instead got a night full of Dick's. The short-and-sweet version was that she looked bitterly unhappy to be there, and I kept trying to ignore her energy. I could do so no longer, though, when I heard them talking in almost-arguing fashion.

"I mean it," Danielle said. "They. Suck."

I decided not to look back at them for a while because this was troubling. She could've meant any number of things, but the most obvious prevented me from ignoring any longer.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Who did you mean when you said that someone sucked?"

"Phish," she said, without hesitation. "They suck."

Now, she kind of smiled for a millisecond when she said this, but I felt like she was serious.

"How many times," I leaned back in, "have you seen Phish?"

"This is actually my first time," she said.

"I was gonna guess that," I said, "but then figured you'd correct me with some larger number."

I went back to successfully ignoring the energy, but couldn't help but look over as Zach made multiple attempts to cuddle-dance with Danielle and smooch her. She returned the efforts with deadpan denials and sidesteps to get out of his backpack-encumbered reach. A few minutes later, Zach tapped me on the shoulder.

"Dude," he said. "My girlfriend thinks you're pissed at her for saying Phish sucks."

"Whatever," I said. "To each her own."

"No," he said. "You don't get it. She doesn't hate Phish. She likes listening to them, but wanted to see what their show was all about. Really, though, she likes listening to (Note: He listed two or three electronica bands, each of which name escapes me. For all I know they were Swimming with Dolphins and Love is Electric.)

Danielle quickly interjected.

" I do not like Love is Electric," she said in my ear, then murmured something at Zach through gritted teeth.

For the next six or seven minutes, she incessantly texted people from her BlackBerry, as though she were making plans, letting them know how the show could not end soon enough. One thing that was cool, though, was that she had this inflatable pig with her, and at one point I told her I wanted to get a picture of her pig at setbreak so I could send it to my wife.

"My wife loves pigs," I said.

"Great then," she said. "We'll get a picture of the pig so you can send it to your wife."

"If you're still here," I said.

"I will be," she said.

This was the perfect indicator that she would not be, but nevertheless, after a while, some dude turned around and began dirty dancing up close on Danielle's nice jeans. She kind of shoved him away and he came back for more. This repeated a couple more times.

"Do you know him?" I was curious.

"Yes," she said. "He's a friend of my boyfriend's."

The friend reappeared for a quick grind on Danielle's clean jeans, and she tilted the pig, which was vertically positioned, its back to her chest, hind side up, fingered its anus and pointed at the friend.

I didn't know if this meant that Danielle wanted her boyfriend's friend to later sodomize the pig, if he'd already done so, if it meant that she was looking forward to some post-concert double penetration, or if she simply thought the friend was an asshole.

Zach and Danielle then stood face to face for five or six minutes, clearly, based on the intermittent flapping of Zach's arms, arguing. I'd finally had enough of them, when Zach put a hand on my shoulder.

"Man," he said, "it's my birthday, and she bought me these tickets last minute, and wanted to make me happy."

"She should've suggested you bring a friend, then," I said.

He shrugged, and when the house lights came on for intermission, Danielle was nowhere to be found.

“Down with Disease” started off the second half of the evening, and starting set two with a “Disease,” even though set one left me feeling high, was a bit curious to me. It seems to be getting a ton of play lately, and, like I said about the previous night’s “Sneakin’,” I didn’t imagine they could do much better –- ever, really –- than the “DwD” --> “What’s the Use?” from last year’s first night at Alpine. And then, not too long into it, they dropped the tempo big time, went into this space groove, and took that right into “Tweezer.”

It’s no secret that this is one of their -– pardon the Phish cliché –- big jam vehicles right now, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. Gone, it seems, are the days where “Tweezer” would go into the atonal abyss and destroy the minds of youth, and here –- hopefully to stay -– are the days where “Tweezer” can channel its inner “ground control to Major Tom” and go deep in the oddity of space.

This “Tweezer” promised to do just that as it featured some fat, bubbly Mike plucks while Page rode a rickety tricycle that had untuned xylophone planks for spokes. Crazy good. It ranked up there with the most beautiful of "Tweezer"s I've ever seen, and near the end, made its way into a dance-with-your-wife kinda groove.

I’m not familiar with TV on the Radio, but the TypeIIcast crew played a portion of a “Golden Age” jam a few episodes back, and it sounded like a mess of psychedelic wind chimes in a tornado. They hyped the shit out of for reasons I could only deem as that it was unique. TotR was in Kansas City a few Friday nights ago, and it seemed like a lot of folks were pumped for that show. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, but this was another one of those song beginnings where I was plain-faced and limply dancing, a la "Sparks" on Friday night.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t not enjoy it; it simply surprised me as the segue spot that began with “Disease” --> “Tweezer.” It did have a good energy about it, though, one that appeared Trey-inspired, and in all honesty, live music doesn’t get better with the Chairman of the Boards laying a bed of bloated-organ riffs. Well, it actually does when it’s followed by a quaint solo from said Chairman, but who’s counting.

I’ve talked about relationships with songs a ton, and in this series of reviews, Hoist songs have been a theme, but now it’s time to give The Story of the Ghost a little attention. “Golden Age” went into “Limb by Limb,” which I love. As a matter of fact, there’s probably not a Tom Marshall-penned lyric that I don’t love, and probably not a cut from Ghost that I don’t highly admire either.

This “Limb” featured a heavy-noted-but-gorgeous Trey solo with Fishman thundering away at the kit. I typically don’t have much to say about Fishman but this has always been a strong song for Greezy Fizeek. I’ve also never dug “Kill Devil Falls.” In fact, if I’m listening to Joy, I’m prone to skip it. I was bummed when they opened with it at Toyota Park for my first show in over six years. My sister loves it, though, thinks it reminds her of “old-school Phish,” which is a baffling notion to me. I did, however, love that it got play at the 2020 Winter Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Games and during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs (all occasions at Rogers Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia), and the TypeII crew did play a clip of it recently that had some impressive jamming in it, so I tried to be open-minded about it when it began.

That said, some delicious Page tickling opened up a nice “Falls” jam, and when things are firing on all cylinders for these guys, it’s hard to go any direction but heavenly. The solo that Page so succinctly started levitated this jam and propelled it into the night Colorado sky. One of the eight billion reasons I love Phish: They can make you an instant lover out of a song you’ve previously avoided. always lists it as “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” but to me it’s always going to be known by its moniker: “2001.” I could write 5,000 words about the awesomeness that is this jam, what it does for sets regardless of placement, and how I’ve never met a version I didn’t like. Instead, I’ll keep it to two: dancin’ shoes.

I lied. More meatballs from Mike, Trey skankin’ like he’s trying out for a ska band, and Page warming up the rocket boosters really got this one moving in a booty-shake style that segued nicely into “Light.” This track, as the TypeII kids say, is another new jam vehicle for the band. One day it might move me, but a) it’s one of my least favorites from Joy (maybe tied with “Falls”), and b) this version was almost over before it did anything –- Page synthing out -– for me, which is fine, really, as it served as a stepping stone back into “Disease.”

The return to “Dw/D,” however, was here one second, gone the next, but it stayed Hoisty and went into “Julius.” I heard the opening and felt an immediate 50/50 split: one part –- really?; one part –- could be badass. It was the latter. Very dancehall, massive energy, one of those picture-perfect studio-to-live translations of which other musical acts can only dream. Phish, of course, added an even larger momentum push and extended jam to this studioesque rendition.

“Julius” bled into “Cavern,” and I’m not sure any cut from the band’s archive has ever left me so opinionless. I did dig the rubber-band slaps from Mike, though, and it’s usually short-lived, in this case, a segue into “Run Like an Antelope.” “Antelope” is up there with “Split Open and Melt” in terms of always wielding a heavy might-scare-the-shit-out-of-you sword. When I hear it start, there’s a part of me that wants to hide. There’s also a part of me that wonders if they’ll go fun and face melt with it. I thought I’d stick around and find out and the end result was that I must apologize for what is heretofore emitted from my keyboard as I’m still trying to piece together the remnants of my melted eyeballs.

It’s possible that this “Antelope” was the perfect mix of not-too-long (therefore lower end of the potential-danger fulcrum) and spewing-lava intensity. Chris Kuroda (Editor’s Note: Sorry to quote The Social Network here, but…) –- “you better lawyer up” because I’m holding you responsible for these two jars of liquid retina I brought home from Dick’s.

For the encore, it was “Sleeping Monkey” – soft spot; ‘nuff said, and “Tweezer Reprise,” which is always fun, and as a few of my friends who no longer prioritize seeing Phish used to say: “Crescendooooooooooooooooo!”

Amazing night. Two strong, strong sets. Left the venue feeling very happy, already sad that it would end tomorrow.
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