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Tribal Warfare
10-18-2010, 02:27 AM
You can still feel good about a lot of things in this Chiefs loss (http://www.kansascity.com/2010/10/17/2323023/you-can-still-feel-good-about.html)
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star

HOUSTON | Sammy Hagar is singing over guitar, 80s rock blaring loud and into a room beneath the emptying bleachers here when Todd Haley walks in. His heart is hurting, because his Chiefs team just lost in the last minute.

A win would have sent Kansas City into at least a week’s worth of celebration and playoff plans. Instead, it will be digested by many as another groin punch for a fan base that’s become all too familiar with the feeling.

This 35-31 loss to the Texans on Sunday is reality busting its way back into one of the NFL’s most surprising teams, and the last thing Haley needs is to rehash the whole thing over a stale rock song, but then he finds a familiar face and cracks a smile.

“You want me to dance?” he says.

There is an ease in Haley’s words that you should pay attention to. Today is about disappointment, of course, about the one thing that unites Kansas City like nothing else: letting everyone down again. But that’s a weak reaction, and if you let that be your only one, you’ll miss out on the more important takeaway.

Haley has it right. This loss hurts, and it should, because there are only 16 games in an NFL season, and these chances are precious. But step back for a moment, think more with your head than heart, and you’ll see there’s more to feel good about than bad.

“I’m having fun coaching,” he says. “Much more fun than last year.”

Hopefully you’re having more fun as a fan, too, even today, and even as that goes against most everything following sports back home has taught you.

•••

At some point over the years, Kansas City got stuck with this reputation as a sleepy and happy little sports market that didn’t demand much from its teams. There are any number of possible reasons for this.

Kansas City turned Arrowhead Stadium into the NFL’s best atmosphere despite a franchise that’s won zero playoff games since 1993. The Royals devolved from model franchise to tired punch line, and still people brought hope into each spring training.

Maybe the easy translation is that we’re a nice place that’s too content just to have professional sports to be critical. But that doesn’t fit reality.

Carl became a four-letter word in Kansas City. Jason Whitlock built some of his following at this paper vilifying the old general manager. Elvis Grbac left town and wouldn’t return messages. You think the kicker that shall go unnamedt thinks Kansas City is soft?

Many Royals fans have come to think of their passion as something like Stockholm Syndrome. There is no easier way to win over a room in Kansas City than to trash David Glass. When Dayton Moore finally fired Trey Hillman, he mentioned growing criticism from fans and news media as a major reason.

This last week, the major sports topics in town were the relative stinkitude of, in particular order, Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Turner Gill. Kansas City is an underrated critical sports market, and we’ve come by it honestly.

We’ve taken letdown after letdown and returned fire against Allard Baird and Greg Robinson and Herm Edwards and Yuniesky Betancourt and dozens of others. Mike Sweeney took less money to stay in Kansas City, where he played hard and worked with charities and still gets booed when he comes back.

It’s funny. Moore and Haley each talk constantly about “the process,” and they’re talking about the act of building up losing franchises, but it’s hard to know whether either fully appreciates that Kansas City fans have been through failed “processes” before.

The result is mostly a hardened edge that makes believing in a local team just a little more difficult.

That’s true even when we should, like today, when there’s more reason to believe in this current Chiefs movement than ever before.

Because even in a building year, and despite everything you saw Sunday, the Chiefs have built the best team in the AFC West at least a year ahead of schedule.

•••

Look, this team has warts. We can all see that. Cassel isn’t inspiring. Bowe’s slumps still too often overshadow his flashes. The defense just gave up 35 points and the game-winning, last-minute touchdown on a drive that looked far too easy.

But too much of the criticism now feels like muscle memory.

Check Twitter or message boards or, heck, even my e-mail inbox, and Cassel is taking grief for a performance Sunday that, sure, could’ve been better but still included 20 completions in 29 passes for 201 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions

The Texans’ pass defense is atrocious, yes, but nobody gave Cassel much of a break when his week-one struggles came in a monsoon against what we thought was a pretty good Chargers defense.

Obviously, he needs to get better, and it’d be easier to take if he or Haley could just admit that, but the Chiefs are in good company among teams wanting more out of a quarterback.

And what about the rushing game? Houston came into the weekend ranked fifth against the run, and the Chiefs went for 228 yards and an average of 6 per attempt.

Bowe responded to a brutal week of criticism with one of his best games as a pro: six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chiefs lost a game they should have won on Sunday. There’s no excuse for blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and the learned response in Kansas City is to feel defeated. Memories of John Elway come rushing back, and we’re so used to those groin punches that it’s just natural to expect another.

It’s just that there are also reasons to believe this time, to think that what we saw on Sunday wasn’t a snake-bitten franchise losing another heartbreaker as much as a rising team making a hard but necessary step toward helping ease our pent-up sports angst.

“Once this pain kind of eases,” says safety Jon McGraw, “everyone will realize that. We’ll be all right.”

•••

Back in that room beneath the bleachers and with the 80s rock playing — now it’s Poison — and Haley is speaking with a calm confidence. He says this is a tough road game that the Chiefs will win someday, sooner than later, and he likes the mix of seeing progress on the field but still pain in the locker room after a loss.

Haley talks a lot about his young, developing players, and sometimes it’s easy to miss that the head coach can be described the same way. He’s maturing, losing last year’s hothead in favor of a man much more comfortable, a mirror to a team that looked lost and overmatched last year but solid and developing now.

Losses hurt, this one maybe more than most, but what’s the takeaway? Don’t the Chiefs look now like an improving team that’s just not quite there yet? And isn’t that about what we all expected?

A year or two from now, the Chiefs won’t lose Andre Johnson repeatedly or bring such an inconsistent pass rush or allow a last-minute touchdown drive to a struggling team.

But they do now, and that’s OK. Expected, even. You can’t skip steps. Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers and Tony Moeaki can’t happen everywhere or on every play. Sometimes Eric Berry gets beat deep.

Much has been made about the Texans being a year or two ahead of the Chiefs in their building process, and that’s about what we all saw Sunday.

Nothing happened to think this thing isn’t moving the right way. The journey’s a lot more fun if you allow yourself to believe in it. Doesn’t mean you’re soft.

Just that you’re paying attention.

FAX
10-18-2010, 02:41 AM
I believe.

This team has exceeded expectations ... for the most part. I still think the defense is the real deal ... Houston has a very effective offense, after all. Honestly, I think we may have left a lot on the field in Indianapolis. Plus, the defense is very young throughout and there is every reason to believe we'll continue to improve.

Offensively, the running game is real. No mirage there. We're missing a few pieces at the skill positions and there remain holes on the line to either improve or repair. But, the kind of foundation (as Haley puts it) is being poured upon which a very competitive team can be constructed.

Although I think we could have won ... both at Indy and at Houston ... had the ball bounced in our favor a couple of times and the officials had called an even game, I remain very encouraged and, for the first time in a very long time, sense that very good things are in store for our future.

FAX

MichaelH
10-18-2010, 05:29 AM
I believe as well.
I never thought a 4-12 team could turn it around so quickly but they have. It's a young team that will get better with time. Yesterday's loss was a bit frustrating but I'd rather lose like that than getting our asses handed to use like the last 4 years.

tmax63
10-18-2010, 06:02 AM
3 months ago if you would of said that the CHiefs would be 3-2 and 2 games ahead in the loss column for the AFCW, people would have called you the Homer King and assumed you were on crack. Gentlemen, that's exactly where they are. To borrow a phrase you are what you are. They lost a good game to Indy and blew this one. They are still learning. Things even out. The Chiefs were fortunate against SD and karma evened up yesterday. The donkeys won against the Titans on a late PI flag and lost yesterday on a late PI flag. SD and Oak are paying for their sins. Next weekend we play Jax coming of a Mon night game I believe so it should be a good game. Life could be far worse as a Chiefs fan.

Deberg_1990
10-18-2010, 06:46 AM
This is a really good column. Maybe one of best ive read of Mellingers. He keeps things in perspective and even delves into the mindset of KC Sports fan and why we are far from passive.

ChiTown
10-18-2010, 06:50 AM
F that KU butt humping Mellinger. The only thing I feel good about is that the game is over. This ain't the ****ing YMCA. There are no medals for finishing 2nd in a two-man race. They phucked away a for sure win. That's what I take away from that piss-down-your-leg loss.

Thanks

Shogun
10-18-2010, 06:52 AM
F that KU butt humping Mellinger. The only thing I feel good about is that the game is over. This ain't the ****ing YMCA. They are no medals for finishing 2nd in a two-man race. The phucked away a for sure win. That's what I take away from that piss-down-your-leg loss.

Thanks

http://www.midwood.net/brent/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/ricky-bobby-if-you-aint-first.jpg

siberian khatru
10-18-2010, 07:01 AM
F that KU butt humping Mellinger. The only thing I feel good about is that the game is over. This ain't the ****ing YMCA. There are no medals for finishing 2nd in a two-man race. They phucked away a for sure win. That's what I take away from that piss-down-your-leg loss.

Thanks

Drama queen

ChiTown
10-18-2010, 07:04 AM
Drama queen

:D

Coogs
10-18-2010, 07:24 AM
The thing I took from these last two games is this... we are good enough to win the AFC West. AND, if we do win the AFC West and have to go to either Indy or Houston in the playoffs, I honestly believe the team has a chance to come out with a win.

Now we may not win the West, and we may not win in Indy or Houston should we go to the playoffs... but just thinking that is possible is a far cry from what I thought was doable for this team as little as one month ago.

gblowfish
10-18-2010, 09:04 AM
I read this story during my morning crap.

My morning crap was more satisfying.

I hate losing, and I hate Royals fans for accepting losing.
As a Chiefs fan I will never accept losing.

Hoover
10-18-2010, 09:09 AM
I'll be honest, for the last few years its been difficult to watch games let alone go to one. This team has my interest, and I couldn't be happier about it. Are we a Super Bowl contender? No, but we can hang with anybody, which gives us all reasons to hope.

vailpass
10-18-2010, 10:39 AM
Moral victories are sweet!!!!!

Count Zarth
10-18-2010, 11:04 AM
Worst article he has written.

Bunch of bullshit.

ct
10-18-2010, 03:15 PM
bump the football thread :)

ILikeBigTiddys
10-18-2010, 11:36 PM
I'm not feeling any better!

Pasta Giant Meatball
10-19-2010, 04:59 AM
I still feel like someone punched me in the gut.