View Full Version : Posnanski: Tamba makes his mother proud

10-02-2006, 06:08 PM
CHENZ A! mentioned this column, and I can't seem to find it posted anywhere. If I missed it, have mercy on a n00b.

The Kansas City Star
Mama Rachel watched the quarterback because that’s what her son told her to do. Everything around her felt curious and alive and strangely beautiful. Nobody would confuse Arrowhead Stadium with a fairytale land. And yet, on this day …

This huge stadium smelled like beer and pretzels. Mama Rachel had not been in a stadium with so many people. Music thumped. Pretty women in bright red shirts and long white boots danced on the grass below. On the field with white stripes, men in black stripes threw yellow flags. In the stands, people wearing jerseys with other people’s names — Holmes, Johnson, Green, even Hali — stood up and sat down and stood again. They cheered at odd times and then fell silent. They slapped hands and hugged.

All the while, Mama Rachel watched the quarterback.

Her son Tamba Hali had told her that his job was to hit the quarterback.

“How can I explain my emotion?” Rachel Keita asked, and she shook her head because she could not explain. A week ago, she came to America. She saw her son, Tamba Hali, for the first time in more than 10 years. When she saw him last, Tamba was a small boy and war raged all around them. Now, he was grown, a large man, 260 pounds. He looked so much like his father, Henry. He spoke with an American accent. And he was famous.

“Watch the quarterback,” Tamba had told her. “I’m going to get the quarterback.”


Mama Rachel had never seen a football game before. She had seen a few moments of her son playing on television — highlights, Tamba called them — but these highlights only made football seem more mysterious and confusing and dangerous. Helmets crashed. Bodies flew. Face masks twisted. What was this game?

This game, Rachel knew, had made Tamba Hali rich and admired. She praised God for that. Tamba and Mama Rachel had been together in Liberia on Christmas Day 1989, when the first civil war in Liberia broke out. They hid from soldiers. Danger buzzed everywhere. Tamba was only 10 when he was given a chance to escape to America with his father, Henry Hali. He was 10 only in age. He had seen many people die. He had heard the hiss of threatening bullets. Mama Rachel knew he must go.

Rachel Keita had to stay behind. She lived through the horrors. Her son Jason was found dead at the bottom of a well. A second civil war broke out, and Rachel was shot in the leg when caught in a firestorm in Monrovia, the Liberian capital. In the darkness, she held firm to her faith — Mama Rachel is a minister. She also clutched photographs of her oldest son, who called and promised that he would make money playing football and he would bring her to America.


When the Chiefs drafted Hali in the first round, Hali had the money to bring Mama Rachel to America. He left during training camp to become an American citizen. He worked hard with immigration people to get her a visa. He set up everything for Rachel to come to Kansas City and watch him play his first professional football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mama Rachel missed her flight.

No matter; two weeks later, she made her flight, and she arrived in Kansas City. On Friday, Tamba Hali rushed into coach Herm Edwards’ office and said, “My mom’s coming to the game.”

“He just looked so excited,” Edwards said. “We all know that feeling — that feeling of having our mother and father in the stands. But this was so unique because she had never seen him play football before. I looked into his eyes, and I knew. I said, ‘Oh, boy, Tamba is going to have some kind of game.’ ”

Sunday, in the moments before the Chiefs played the 49ers, Tamba Hali felt a certain energy and anticipation he had never quite experienced. He did not say anything at all about it to teammates, but they noticed that he seemed different.

“It’s like something kicked in,” his fellow defensive end, Jared Allen, would say.

Hali said: “I’m not going to lie, this was not just another game. I felt a little emotional at the beginning of the game. I kept thinking about my mother watching me play for the first time, and I wanted to show her.”

Show her what?
“I wanted to show her what I am,” he said.


Rachel sat in the Arrowhead Stadium end zone next to Henry Hali. When the wave rolled around to her section, she instinctively threw her arms up in the air. When music played, she danced. She constantly asked her family what was happening. She held hands with strangers when the Chiefs made a big play — and on this Sunday, there were big plays. Rachel jumped to her feet when Kansas City’s Dante Hall caught a punt in the fourth quarter, zigged and zagged, eluded defenders and raced into the near end zone. He was so close, it looked as if Hall would run right up into Mama Rachel’s lap.

She did not need to understand the football rules to know that something wonderful had happened. She stood and cheered and raised her arms above her head. Then, to Rachel Keita, the whole game was wonderful. The Chiefs won 41-0. Maybe the 49ers are awful. Maybe the Chiefs were due for a breakout game. On this one day, the Chiefs played something close to a perfect game.

“It’s just so exciting,” she said. “I do not have the words for it. I’m just so happy to be here, in this big place, with all these people. I would dream about it, but I never dreamed of anything like this.”

She will stay in America for a couple of months. Tamba hopes to bring her to America permanently — but for now, she is on vacation, and she wants to learn more about this football game. She learned Sunday. She watched the quarterback, like her son advised, and she saw how the Chiefs defenders hounded San Francisco’s young Alex Smith. They sacked him five times, forced him into two interceptions and bullied him into submission.“

My favorite part is watching them stop the other team from scoring,” Rachel said. “That is how you win games. You stop the other team from scoring.”

See? She sounded like Herm Edwards.

Hali was terrific, too. His big moment came on the Chiefs’ second defensive play of the game. He ran into 49ers left tackle Kwame Harris, slipped around him and hit Smith’s arm with his left hand. The ball popped loose. It was Hali’s first sack as a pro. Arrowhead Stadium shook, and in the end zone behind, Mama Rachel said her eyes filled with tears.

“He’s so good,” she said. “I never could have known he was so good.”

10-02-2006, 06:14 PM
You didn't look very hard.


It's OK, though. You did a much better job of formatting it. ;)

Adept Havelock
10-02-2006, 06:15 PM
Just we we needed. A mommas boy.


10-02-2006, 06:17 PM
You didn't look very hard.


It's OK, though. You did a much better job of formatting it. ;)Damnit. I knew I must be overlooking it.

10-02-2006, 06:18 PM
Damnit. I knew I must be overlooking it.

For what it's worth, I'm kinda serious. You never realize how much paragraphs help until you try to read a 1000-word block of text.