In a society that increasingly supports caged human cockfighting — aka MMA — has a proud history with boxing, cheers lustily whenever fights break out inside a hockey rink and builds Roman Empire-stylized coliseums for football games, a 320-pound, sweet-talking lineman has somehow convinced a segment of America that Chiefs fans are the sick and disgusting bad guys.
You gotta be f—ing kidding me.
You damn straight a small percentage of Chiefs fans cheered loudly when two overgrown Ravens knocked Matt Cassel smooth the hell out. Did we not cheer when Mike Tyson curb-stomped Michael Spinks? Google the knockout work that made Anderson Silva the MMA’s most beloved star and tell me if you hear respectful silence or wild, joyful hysteria?
We love violence and Eric Winston’s hypocritical ass is wealthy because he’s relatively adept at inflicting it. The only thing all that unusual about the smattering of cheers that greeted Cassel’s glazed-eyed trip to the turf is that his hometown fans gave life to the noise. And for that, you can blame Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, his boss, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, and the escalating cost of being a sports fan in the era of shopping mall-amusement park stadiums.
Sickening? A smattering of cheers for an injured $66 million quarterback with a rating of 66.2 and a league-leading 14 turnovers?
No. No. What’s sickening is how easily Winston, Kansas City’s right tackle, deflected the national media from the real story. One of the most passionate fan bases in sports — Kansas City Chiefs fans — has been abused so thoroughly the last eight to 10 years that it is turning unruly. What happened Sunday inside Arrowhead Stadium is a result of the Hunt family’s neglect of their fan base. This has been brewing since 1998, since Marty Schottenheimer courageously and justifiably realized he should move on after 10 years in Kansas City. From 1989 to 1998, Schottenheimer and his front-office partner Carl Peterson transformed Arrowhead Stadium from an empty parking lot into one of the coolest, most electric places on earth eight fall Sundays a year. Football Sundays in Kansas City became mini-holidays. The whole town wore red starting on Fridays. Tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium before games was Kansas City’s No. 1 social activity.
I’ve watched NFL games at every venue. Nothing compared to Arrowhead Stadium during the Schottenheimer era. Nothing. The Chiefs never advanced to the Super Bowl, but Kansas City was the NFL’s ground zero. The players, coaches and executives were treated like royalty.
The players, coaches, executives and ownership got spoiled. They didn’t have to win it all to be treated as if they had. The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993. That’s right. The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in two decades. But the stadium was filled, the parking lot packed and Chiefs jerseys hung in seemingly every Kansas City closet so Lamar Hunt, Kansas City’s Dallas-based owner, allowed Carl Peterson to hang around 10 years after Schottenheimer left, a good five years after it was painfully obvious Peterson’s previous success was a result of Schottenheimer’s brilliance. Most Chiefs fans concluded Hunt would’ve never allowed Peterson to linger for a decade if Hunt lived in Kansas City and felt the pain of each disappointing season as personally as Kansas City residents. Kansas Citians attached their identity to their professional football team. Joe Montana, Marcus Allen and Derrick Thomas made the typical, insecure Kansas Citian feel big time.
The stench of Peterson’s last 10 years and Lamar Hunt’s loyalty to Peterson are fueling Chiefs fans lack of patience with their successors, Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt. The situation is further exacerbated by KC’s newly renovated stadium and the elevated cost associated with it. Chiefs fans are paying $27 to park, $200 for a club-level seat, $10 for beer and are watching teams with no reasonable shot at postseason success.
For the most part in today’s NFL, no quarterback equals no shot.
Lamar Hunt and Carl Peterson could never pick a quarterback. In 20 years, they never drafted one in the first round. They preferred to sign someone else’s veteran. Given a choice in the 1990s between benching an aloof, inconsistent and expensive Elvis Grbac and going with locker-room/fan favorite Rich Gannon, Hunt and Peterson let Gannon escape to Oakland, where he won a league MVP award, made four Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl appearance. Grbac eventually bounced to Baltimore and quit football. No one, besides Trent Dilfer, remembers Elvis Grbac.
Scott Pioli’s first major personnel decision in Kansas City was giving Matt Cassel a franchise-quarterback contract despite his highly suspicious resume. Cassel never played at USC. He played one season at New England. Cassel is Pioli’s original sin, the mistake that has haunted his four years in Kansas City. Pioli, the Bill Belichick disciple, saw in Cassel the second coming of Tom Brady. Pioli arrogantly and foolishly thought he’d discovered Brady in a bottle twice. Ha.
This year Cassel has been the worst starting quarterback in football. He’s a turnover machine. He clearly lacks confidence. His arm strength is atrocious. His ball floats up before it moves ahead. He needs to be benched. Pioli won’t allow it.
Before Sunday’s game, a group of working-class Chiefs fans pooled their money to fly a banner over Arrowhead Stadium demanding that Hunt fire Pioli and bench Cassel. These people love their football team. Clark Hunt lives in Dallas. The fans are spending their money to get the attention of their absentee owner. They’re afraid that Pioli-Hunt is going to be a replica of Peterson-Hunt. Their fears are justified. Pioli is a poor man’s Peterson. Pioli is an embarrassingly insecure version of Peterson, a man with a bloated ego. Pioli masks his insecurity with a false bravado, a dictator’s management approach and a constant desire to manipulate the media into believing he was the brains behind the Patriots dynasty.
Chiefs fans aren’t having it. They want a real quarterback. They want the Cassel charade to end. Pioli’s stubbornness forced a handful of Chiefs fans to spontaneously thank the Ravens for momentarily ending their Matt Cassel nightmare. I think America will survive.
It’s easy for the national media to sit on their couches, inside their television studios or on their free, comfy press-box seats and preach polite decency to the working-class folks paying to watch their hijacked football team.
I won’t do it. I was inside Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday as a Chiefs fan. I’m not the type to boo or cheer. But I want Pioli fired. Eric Winston, too.