By Neta Davis // @ND622
Kansas City Chiefs 29 – Washington Redskins 20
“OK, that’s good, now look down at your feet and remember the place where you are at. You’ll need to hit that spot when we come out for pregame,” bellowed the coordinator. How could I forget? I looked down at my feet—32-yard marker on the field of Arrowhead. I looked up into the empty stadium, 3 hours before the Monday Night Football game between Kansas City and Washington. I scanned the faces of my new and old Arrowheads Abroad friends, all scattered about the edges of the United States-shaped flag. We were all grinning, not believing where we were and what we were going to be doing on national TV. This was the beginning of the end of a perfect long weekend that seemed too good to be true, even by Hollywood standards.
It all started on Friday, when they each landed in Kansas City, after at least half a day or more of travel from the UK. The unusually warm weather was as if they had ordered it so they could get the most out of every second they were here.
Right off, many of them began their BBQ odyssey, starting at Char Bar in Westport, which has a great outside patio. Saturday, they toured the National WW1 museum and Liberty Memorial. Several of them also made their way to see the lovely architecture of Union Station, and ambled around a bit in town.
They enjoyed lunch at Jack Stack and interacted with former Chiefs player Ted McKnight. That night they checked out the Power & Light District downtown, donning Hawaiian shirts, which I mistakenly thought was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Coach Andy Reid. Later I was corrected that it is an English tradition “men of a certain age” to don tropical shirts while going to a pub. They enjoyed beer and games at a sports bar.
Sunday, they kicked off their day with an exclusive, customized behind-the-scenes tour of Arrowhead since they are the officially recognized international Kansas City Chiefs supporters club. They told me most of the time there was complete silence and broad grins from the wonder of everything they were shown. They even got to go into the game-ready team locker rooms and walk down the tunnel where the players run onto the field for their introductions.
A short walk next door had them attending the last Royals game of the season, but an even more special game because this was most likely the last game that the core group of World Series Championship players would be on the same team at the K. For some, it was their first baseball game, or even their first exposure to the game. At least one had been following the team for 7 years or so, and appreciated the after-game tributes.
That night, I hosted a party for everyone—just a very relaxed evening in the woods, lounging around the fire pit, drinking local beer, eating chili, roasting hot dogs, and learning about and chowing down on s’mores. They all seemed to enjoy the rural-suburban side of Kansas City and listening to the tree frogs and crickets while the smoke and sparks lifted up the heat flume to circle around the limbs and leaves above their heads.
THE big day was ahead, so the party broke up early. The next time we would see each other would be almost five (FIVE!) hours before the 7:30 pm kickoff. We practiced the flag holding at 4 pm, and then enjoyed the Lot D tailgate party until we had to queue up again for the big show. The flag unfurling and undulating went off without a hitch, and shortly after kickoff, we were in our lower level seats. Or rather, standing in front of them, as is the tradition on the lower level of Arrowhead for the majority of the game.
As the first quarter progressed, my heart sank—the old familiar “national game, national embarrassment” mantra kept circling in my skull. These folks came 4,000 miles to see the Chiefs lose? No, no, no, no—but it sure looked that way. The rest of the game was a nail biter until literally the last few seconds of the game. But you know what? That was, again, the Hollywood magic of this story. Because of the close game, Arrowhead was LOUD! I had the privilege of being at the 2014 Patriots Monday Night game when we broke the World Record for Loudest Outdoor Stadium, and Monday night was just as, if not more, deafening. And my English friends were going out of their minds!
They were getting the perfect Arrowhead experience, and despite my headache and heartburn, I wouldn’t want it any other way for my friends. As the last few seconds ticked down, and the field goal was good, we celebrated. When Washington took over on offense with the last play of the game and began unsuccessful lateraling that led to Outside Linebacker Justin Houston’s pick 6, we screamed louder, high-fived harder, and hugged each other endlessly as we jumped up and down.
We waited together as the crowd left the stadium, each of them processing what they had just experienced and taking it all in before they would have to leave in the coming days. A euphoric bittersweet mix of emotions came over all of us as we began to appreciate our shared experience yet realizing we would soon be parting ways.
Another thing I realized reflecting upon the night–those of us who live in Kansas City and are Chiefs fans take a lot for granted—great food around town; the biggest-small-town community vibe where Chiefs clothing is almost mandatory; tickets to Arrowhead available throughout the season; televised Chiefs games at a reasonable hour from the comfort of home; and all kind of Chiefs gear on sale pretty much anywhere in the city. My English friends have to watch games either late at or in the middle of the night or on a recording after the game has been played. They only get live football for a handful of weeks each fall and may have to travel quite a ways to attend. They have a limited supply of Chiefs merchandise available to them and rarely stumble across fellow Chiefs fans. God love them, they will never get BBQ as good as KC’s back home. I get all of that all the time. My fan dedication seems to pale in comparison, given what they endure to get only part of what I have available most of the time.
As I bid farewell to these people who now feel like family to me and whom I may not see again for at least another year or two at the earliest, I feel blessed that the universe had seen to it that our paths crossed, and that I have witnessed the growth of Arrowheads Abroad since it was 5 days old. So looking forward to the next time we meet up, either here or halfway across the world and seeing how big the group will be by then.
I’ll be thinking of them next Sunday night, as the Chiefs take on the Texans, which will be a 1:30 am kick off for them, and just knowing that we are watching the game together but apart makes the world feel a little smaller in the best way possible.
P.S. The story is always better straight from the horse’s mouth Please take a moment to visit their website and listen to their podcast at https://www.arrowheadsabroad.com/ They are a great follow on Twitter as well @KCChiefs_UK
Want to talk Chiefs with Neta? Follow her on Twitter // @ND622