KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Like a lot of locals, Steve Price went into fall Sundays wearing red and came out of them raking leaves and muttering obscenities. Before Week 1, he’d even purchased the ultimate dude vanity item, a flat-screen TV explicitly for the man-cave. He’d branded himself an NFL lifer, having embraced 49ers games when he lived out west.
Then he met the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. Oh, doctor.
“This past Sunday (a 28-6 loss to Cincinnati), I didn’t even watch the game, screw it,” grumbled Price, director of operations at Painted Hills Golf Club in Kansas City, Kan., one of the metro’s more popular public courses. “And I’ve got a friend of mine down the street that has tickets in the 12th row, on the 40-yard line, and he called me and he wanted me to go. I said, ‘I’ve got a million things I feel like doing — I don’t really want to go.’
“I like to watch them, but (expletive), when they get their (expletive) kicked, I know they’re going to lose, what’s the point? It’s really sad. It’s really sad.”
The danger zone isn’t when they’re waving signs and wearing bags over their heads. The danger zone is when they aren’t.
It’s not there yet. Not officially. Still, you can see it looming, especially after this Sunday, once Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have left town. The weather’s expected to be decent; it’s a rivalry game; it’s Manning, who was Public Enemy No. 1 in this town until mid-September, when the definition of success switched from “Making the playoffs” to “Getting Matt Cassel and Scott Pioli out of town as quickly as legally possible.” Manning hasn’t played a down at Arrowhead Stadium since 2004. It’s easy to stay home when the pummeling is being administered by Andy Dalton; when it’s PEYTON MANNING (all caps), there’s a gravitas there, like watching Ali or Foreman roll into town to knock the snot out of the best your neighborhood has to offer.
But after that, then what? Seats to the Carolina game on Dec. 2 are going for as low as $4 on Stubhub.com, where 5,426 tickets were listed as available as of early Friday morning. For the home finale against the resurgent Indianapolis Colts on December 23, seats starts at $5, with more than 6,100 tickets around for purchase.
Kansas City prides itself as being a blackout-free zone — one streak without a local-TV freeze ran from 1990-2009 — but the forecast appears grim, on several fronts. Attendance for last Sunday’s Bengals debacle was listed at 63,336, more than 16,000 below capacity, and even that number seemed a bit, shall we say, generous.
“It being so close to Thanksgiving, I thought everybody just went early on vacation, to see their family and stuff,” Chiefs safety Travis Daniels told FOX Sports Kansas City.com. “Because I’ve got some family members who came up a week early, since they don’t get to see me a lot. So there being seats (empty), I just thought those were some of the same people doing the same thing my family was doing, too.”
Only it wasn’t a holiday aberration — it was a trend. Through Wednesday, the Chiefs had sold 90.7 percent of capacity at Arrowhead Stadium, or 69,605 per game. That figure ranked 26th in the NFL, ahead of only Oakland, St. Louis, San Diego, Washington, Tampa Bay and Miami. That’s down from 93.9 percent (72,082) in 2011; between 2006-08, the Chiefs filled the house at 97.1 percent capacity.
“You know, they have a right to come to game or not to come to games, or to do however they feel, as long as they abide by the law,” Daniels continued. “They have to do what they have to do.”
Many feel they have better things to do. Mow the lawn. Clean the gutters. Re-introduce themselves to their families. Attend a later Sunday church service.
“I don’t think it’s had any impact,” said Peter Metz, direction of communications at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., one of the area’s largest houses of worship. Then he laughed. “Jokingly, somebody made the comment about how our prayer requests have been up.”
Traffic on the links is up, too, at least in some corners. And why the heck not? For ages, the running gag around Kansas City was that the best window to find a tee time at the top courses was Sundays during a Chiefs home game. There exceptions to every rule, though, especially when your NFL club limps out to a 1-9 start.
“I think what we see happening is, if we’re a little light in the morning, (the Chiefs) are playing decent,” Price noted. “If they’re not playing decent, we fill up.”
Actually, ‘decent’ would be a step up. And Price isn’t the only one who’s noticed a difference this fall; over at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Blue Springs, Mo., Sunday play is reportedly up a smidge as well.
“There are a lot of season-ticket holders on this side of town, a lot of them I’ve known for many, many years,” said Rick Holtcamp, Stone Canyon’s director of golf operations. “And there are definitely quite a few that are not going to the games lately and coming out and playing golf. We definitely have some regulars who … are playing golf rather than going to Chiefs games. Including myself.”
Holtcamp had season tickets at Arrowhead for 14 or 15 seasons. He stopped buying last year, largely for financial reasons.
“I would say most of them are just like me. They grew up with the Chiefs and they’re just disappointed with the direction that it’s gone the last couple years,” Holtcamp sighed.
“I miss the people more than I do the games, probably. But, yes, I would say there has been a rise in the second half of this season in playing, or people that would normally be at the stadium or watching the game with friends. Now they’re sticking their head in at the turn and seeing what the score is, throwing in their two cents, and moving on.”
Bet that’s a hoot. What’s the usual reply?
“I probably can’t repeat most of it,” he said.
Keep those prayer requests coming, folks.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com