I watched the Chiefs play today. They won an ugly game but I was entertained the entire time. I’ve been thinking about what sports means to us in a year like 2020, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
Naturally, this is a topic that has been covered a great deal by sports journalists since the pandemic began. I don’t want to cover what they’ve already written about. Instead, I’d like to focus on what it’s meant to me personally.
First off, I’m a big Chiefs fan. I’m a big Kansas City sports fan in general, having gone to a Royals game just after being adopted in 1980. It led me to falling in love with sports, in love with the Royals, and in love with George Brett. Many boys growing up in the 1970s or 1980s loved George Brett. He loved to play baseball and it showed in every game he played. My love for the Chiefs came later.
I went to my first Chiefs game at Arrowhead in 1988. It was against the Browns and it ended 6 – 3, with the only scoring coming from field goals. The Chiefs went on to have a horrible season that year. It followed a horrible season the year before. They brought in a new coach and a new GM for the 1989 season and the Chiefs began to play better football.
The truth is that I loved the Chiefs when they were terrible. I was awed by them when they were good. And I’m giddy when I watch them these days because they’re downright amazing. I love the Royals just as much, but it’s been hard to root for them with any enthusiasm the last couple of seasons.
This was especially true in 2020. The Royals got a new ownership group and a new manager. They didn’t make any splashy off-season acquisitions. It showed on the field. They were dead in the water before the truncated season ever began. I rooted for their games. I applauded the efforts of the younger guys working their way into the Bigs. But I knew the lack of a salary cap in MLB and the small market of Kansas City meant the club couldn’t afford to compete with the likes of their bigger brothers.
The NFL, having a hard salary cap and floor, typically provides a more entertaining spectacle because of the parity across the league. In 2020, I needed this. Sure, I want to see my Chiefs win it all again. After all, I’m greedy now that I’ve seen Mahomes and company lift the Lombardi Trophy. At the same time, I know that each game could be a dogfight because every team is stacked with guys that actually belong at the pro level—unlike baseball.
And when I think about all of the context that sports creates—some call it a microcosm for life lessons—the 2020 NFL season has been special for me. I respect each professional league’s decision to proceed with caution amidst the pandemic as they best see fit. I’m thankful we didn’t lose football. It helped me escape for a few hours each week.
I’m also aware that some people have been turned off by the political and social messaging that has been attached to collegiate and professional sports. I’m not here to debate those views. I told one of my closest friends that I don’t care about the politics of it all. I watch sports to escape politics. Besides, I’m not about to miss the Chiefs in their prime. They might never be this good again!
So, for me, the 2020 sports seasons have afforded me the opportunity to watch skilled professionals at the peak of their craft. I get to watch them knowing I’m basically stuck inside like everyone else, waiting for a vaccine to be distributed so we can return to our normal lives. I don’t mean to sound flippant about this. I understand the impact COVID has had on many individuals and families. Still, I don’t want to see our lives put on an unending pause. So, I turn to sports. I’m grateful to have an outlet for my pent-up energy. I hope you have an outlet too. And I hope it’s as frivolous and entertaining as mine. As always, this has been the World According to Chris.