Let’s face it: if you’re the kind of sports fan who enjoys saying “I told you so,” it’s better to be negative than positive.
If you’re negative long enough, co-workers might avoid you in the hallways. But you will probably eventually be proven right: a winning team might not make the playoffs, a playoff team might not make it to the championship and a championship team might not be able to repeat the following year.
Only one team can end the year with a championship trophy and rings the size and weight of your average gear shift knob. Every other team ends on a negative note, so keep being negative and you’ll eventually be proven right.
Take a more positive view and there’s no guarantee you will ever be right.
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All this comes up now because the Kansas City Chiefs are about to play the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.
My expertise in football is limited to the high school level. Way back then, we didn’t quite wear leather helmets, but I played when the treatment for a concussion (and I had several … I think) was “walk it off.”
But I have spent quite a bit of time around big-league baseball players and I think there are some lessons from the Royals that can apply to the Chiefs.
Fans carry the baggage
You might have been a Royals fan since 1969, lived and died with them for 50 years and viewed the team as one continuous entity.
Most players don’t see it that way.
When the core of Royals players that would eventually win a World Series first arrived in Kansas City, they were asked about the decades of futility and frustration that the club had experienced.
On the record, the new players were generally polite about it. But off the record, those players would say those decades of futility and frustration had nothing to do with them … they just got here.
A lot of those players had been successful everywhere they played and saw no reason that success wouldn’t continue in KC. And eventually, they were proven right.
Chiefs fans might be worried about playoff history, but read Sam Mellinger’s recent article on Patrick Mahomes and it doesn’t sound like Mahomes is feeling haunted by the Chiefs’ past playoff failures.
And why should he? Mahomes just got here.
But what about Andy?
Royals manager Ned Yost has said he’s a much smarter manager when he has a good bullpen.
In 2015, the Royals’ bullpen was the best in the American League and the team went 95-67. In 2018, the Royals’ bullpen was the worst in the American League and the team went 58-104.
Ned did not get dumber; his decisions had a better chance of success when he had a talented bullpen ... and the same goes for football.
Roam around the Internet and you might stumble across these two quotes about Chiefs coach Andy Reid:
“One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt will win the award for most insane person in KC if Andy Reid returns as head coach in 2018.” — Nov. 21, 2017
“As the Chiefs have raced off to an unexpected 4-0 start with their first-year starting QB, perhaps it’s also long overdue to put Reid in the conversation of best NFL coaches of all time.” — Oct. 3, 2018
So what happened between Nov. 21, 2017 and Oct. 3, 2018 that turned Reid into a genius?
If you’re thinking “Patrick Mahomes,” that’s a pretty good guess.
Coaching decisions that failed with a lesser quarterback succeed when Mahomes has the ball in his hands. Plays that break down can still succeed when the quarterback has Mahomes’ skill-set. When Mahomes pulls off yet another miraculous play featuring a no-look pass, or throws with his left hand, Reid has enough humility and humor to say,Yeah, that’s just the way we drew it up.
Yost is a better manager with a good bullpen and Reid is a better coach when Mahomes is his quarterback. How much better is yet to be determined.
Enjoy the moment
If you were there for the Royals’ World Series parade in 2015, you know what an exhilarating day that was. But it also seems like it happened a long time ago.
By comparison, the three subsequent seasons have been a disappointment. That’s the way it is in pro sports.
Baseball has a saying for almost any situation, and this one is no different: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s (rear end) every day.” Royals fans know how fast the sun can shine elsewhere; Chiefs’ fans — and I suspect it’s mostly the same people — need to remember that.
We get spoiled so fast.
There will come a time when Chiefs fans will be thrilled just to make the playoffs. That’s how most Royals fans felt in 2014, and if they were told the 2019 team would somehow make the playoffs, most fans would be happy with that.
It’s not just the destination, it’s also the journey.
This season’s Chiefs have given Kansas City thrill after thrill. And whatever happens in the playoffs, we shouldn’t forget that.
This weekend, four cities in the entire United States host NFL playoff games. Kansas City is one of them. Whatever happens against the Indianapolis Colts, it’s still quite an accomplishment.
And that’s something to be positive about.