by William Skink
I’ve had conflicted feelings about football for years, and for many reasons, like the absurd non-profit status of the NFL, the hoovering of public money to get flashy stadiums with corporate names built, the concussions, the off the field violence, and the obscene commercialism mixed with a gladiator-proud national militarism. I went so far as to question whether I would continue watching at all.
Part of what makes me conflicted is how much my oldest enjoys watching the game. I turned 40 this year and my wife surprised me with tickets to the Seahawks season opener with my dad and my son. It was a great experience.
And then along comes Patrick Mahomes.
I spent 5th grade to the end of of high school growing up in the suburbs of Kansas City. I was a huge Chiefs fan. I remember players like Christian Okoye, the “Nigerian Nightmare”, and defense greats, like Derrick Thomas. The Chiefs got Joe Montana at the end of his career, along with Marcus Allen. All the talent over the years never translated to playoff wins. For a taste of what became known as the play-off curse, here’s some of the more recent heartbreaks:
The 2014 playoff loss was a tough one and was the first Chiefs playoff game that really got to me. KC led 38-10 at one point and wound up losing 45-44.
The only playoff win that people my age had witnessed since that 1993 season was in 2016 (the 2015 season) when the Chiefs shutout the Houston Texans on the road in the Wild Card round. I remember watching that game and even though the Chiefs ended up winning 30-0, I still thought they were going to blow it. That’s what this curse has done to me, and I’m sure to other fans.
The next season they’d lose in the playoffs despite the opposition not scoring a touchdown. I remember I started crying when the Chiefs got the two-point conversion because I thought the curse was over, but nope. Eric Fisher was flagged and the curse lived on.
In the 2018 playoffs, KC was leading 21-3 and lost 22-21 after Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry ran all over that Chiefs D. I attended that game and when the Mariota touchdown happened, I turned to my brother and said, “Here comes the implosion.” It was the damn curse eating away at my confidence once again.
I hadn’t allowed myself to think the Chiefs could win for a long time, then Patrick Mahomes comes along and leads the Chiefs to a record breaking season for a young quarterback (he’s not technically a rookie, my son keeps reminding me), throwing 50 touchdowns and making even the losses memorable, especially the epic, high-scoring showdown against the Rams, who I hope DESTROY the goddamn Patriots in two weeks.
I say that because the goddamn Patriots ended the miracle season for Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday. It’s been at least 2 decades since I acted like the raving maniac who hijacked my body on Sunday, causing it to leap around the room while making guttural noises like a wounded animal. I may have to convince my mom to destroy the evidence of my regression.
I’m not back in the saddle to support the NFL by any means. My kids will not play the sport competitively, and that reality, combined with the increasing difficulty of schools to get insurance, means the sport is still in serious trouble. Here is the stark, succinct lead in to the NPR interview with Steve Fainaru:
The NFL has, over the last decade, been rocked by lawsuits over traumatic brain injuries, allegations of player domestic violence off the field and rule changes of their own. But according to an ESPN investigation, the sport is facing a problem that could threaten its very survival – lack of insurance. The NFL no longer has general liability insurance covering head trauma. And only one carrier is willing to cover teams for workman’s comp. In short, if there’s no insurance, there’s no football.
That’s a pretty bleak prognosis for our national pastime.
Next month, when Super Bowl whatever goes down between the most dominant football dynasty of all time (pause to spit on ground) and the Rams, I’ll be thinking about the lifespan of football in between hurling insults at Brady, TidePod Gronk and Darth Belichick.