My friend and one-time neighbor Cliff Brunt aptly replied to one of my weekend Facebook posts.
When I said I was still trying to process exactly how the Kansas City Chiefs choked away a 28-point lead and lost 45-44 in their wild-card NFL football game Saturday, Cliff simply said, “Luck happened.”
So true. How else do you explain how the game turned completely early in the third quarter when it appeared the Chiefs were about to steamroll their way to victory?
Well, you can start with the fact the KC defense began resembling the Chiefs of the second half of the year. Translation: Porous.
And you can add some weird time management late. Like the time out coming out of the 2-minute warning. Having that in the back pocket might have helped. At least we wouldn’t have had to see three straight kneel-downs at the end of things.
But the Chiefs made plays defensively. Three interceptions of Colts QB Andrew Luck, including one in the second half which led to a field goal and what was (at the time) a relatively comfortable lead. The play of the game — the fumble that went off a lineman, into Luck’s hands and across the plane — started with a great play by Eric Berry.
It was Luck being Luck — alert, smart, forward-thinking, opportunistic. And it was where we Chiefs fans started to realize the choke wasn’t just a possibility, it was indeed going to happen. It was going to be an epic, spectacular, mind-numbing, gut-twisting, drown-your-sorrows-for-the-next-week, wish-we-had-been-wearing-a-cup-all-game-long fail.
The crash-and-burn was made final with T.Y. Hilton burning past two safeties unmolested and catching a Luck bomb in stride. Oh, wait, that was the penultimate indignity. That honor was reserved for Alex Smith just missing backup running back Cyrus Gray on what could have been the go-ahead score in the ensuing drive followed by his bomb to Dwayne Bowe that was half a step too far to the right on fourth down.
A 28-point advantage. A collapse almost rivaling that of Houston against Buffalo (and, unfortunately, I was rooting for the Oilers that day as well). A collapse that took the breath away every bit as much as the Oilers’ failure.
Does this make Kansas City the most cursed major-league sports city now? BBQ Town now has some serious, if not unfortunate. credibility in that department. Consider:
The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1994. I was told the movie Tombstone, one of my all-time favorites, came out that year. The Colts, incidentally, have caused the most postseason pain for the franchise, ending the season for the Chiefs in 2007, 2004 and 1996. The Chiefs already had Lin Elliott’s three missed field goals and Elvis Grbac’s meltdown to their credit over that stretch. And now this.
The Royals? Haven’t been close to the playoffs since they won their only World Series. In 1985. Don’t look at the recently-completed 2013 season as the Royals being major contenders. They were forced to play catchup to the division leaders for much of the season.
The Kings? Long since moved out of KC (and Omaha) to Sacramento. The Scouts? To Colorado, then New Jersey decades ago. But think about this: do you really want two more professional sports teams to add to the titanic title pain?
(I know I’m leaving out Sporting KC. I just don’t see soccer at the level of the other “major” sports. Yet).
Of the two teams still in Kansas City, the Chiefs have been more competitive, only to flat kick fans in the shins when they have opportunities to shine. The Royals, however, have done their best until recently to serve as fodder for the rest of major league baseball.
Does Kansas City’s playoff pain push it ahead of Cleveland, which has the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers all experiencing various, deep levels of suckitude for what feels like centuries ?
How about Chicago? No, it can’t be Chicago. The Bulls and Bears counter the abject failures known as the Cubs and White Sox. Likewise Cincinnati, where the Reds offset the Bengals; Los Angeles, where the Lakers counterbalance the Dodgers and Clippers; and even New Orleans, where the Saints have a title to offset the more limited tenure of the Hornets/Pelicans.
It has been a rugged 30 years for fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals. Thankfully, there is promise for both teams, but we have seen that go unfulfilled before.
And Yankee fans? Just can it. Just stop your whining now. Just stop. You can buy your titles every three to five years. You will never, ever go through a stretch like this.