Thursday night, another evening to any other city in early September. Except Kansas City, where we are all currently setting aside our unusually-heavy-on-the-red wardrobe for tomorrow. It’s the eve of the first Red Friday of the year, where the entire city dons Chiefs red in solidarity of our support for the highly adored NFL team.
I approach Red Friday a bit unorthodox from the way many around here do, for it’s also this time of year the St. Louis Cardinals are making a charge towards another Postseason. Come tomorrow I’ll be repping the Solid Red polo and hat of the Kansas City Chiefs with a baseball-leather necklace seared with an ‘STL’ logo. This, I’ve come to learn, doesn’t set well with my neighbors. In fact, it bothers them more than it understandably should.
See, by popular logic, the reason for my ‘rebellion’ is traced back to my Ozarks roots, where there are no professional teams so we adopt whom we choose. In Springfield most residents are Cardinals baseball fans and Chiefs football fans. No other sports matter. We cheer ‘winners’ and are notorious for jumping on bandwagons depending on which side of the state is swinging the bat or throwing the pig skin better.
This doesn’t set well with me.
The team you cheer for should not be dictated by what area of the country you grew up in. It may heavily influence your fandom, but that’s a lot like voting straight ticket in an election; Nothing wrong with it, so long as you’re willing to back your choice up beyond the statement ‘just…because…’. Rather, the team you root for should be determined by the experience you have with said team.
This explains better than popular logic why I am a Chiefs fan. My first Chiefs game came after my first Rams game, so I had something to compare it to. That said, it took me all of 5 steps inside Arrowhead to start picking out the differences. The Rams play in a dome where St. Louis residents gather each Sunday after church to view a football game. The fans cheer, applaud and boo on occasion, but the vibe of the stadium suggest that nobody’s really invested in the actual game until November when the Cardinals aren’t playing a couple blocks away. Even then they’re biding their time until the Blues game that night. Arrowhead, you arrive to an already packed parking lot of tailgaters, many of whom have been there since 6am, some even attending the church service in the on-site chapel. The game starts some time between the loud cheering beforehand and the first Kansas City Chiiiiieeeeefs FIRST DOWN! Yet you’d never be able to figure out exactly when because the crowd is non-stop LOUD from the moment they hit the gates until they arrive at Gates after the game, only stopping the cheering to eat. Win or Lose, a Kansas City Chiefs game experience trumps all and for that I quickly became a Chiefs fan.
This also helps explain why I’m a fan of the St. Louis Blues or even Sporting Kansas City. Both sports don’t get a lot of national attention, only in the respective community they play for. But one game and you’re hooked, no matter how much you know about the sport, it’s rules or anything at all.
Most importantly, this can help explain, far better than popular logic, why I’m a Cardinals fan. Something that always been hard for my KC family to swallow. Most that know me (and are probably reading) have heard the story of how I planted my feet in Cardinal Nation, more than likely several times, so Ill spare you another. That being said, there’s always been something magical about the Cardinals and my experience with them. From watching every game in my grandpa’s living room splitting a bag of peanuts to cheering like no other in the stands of Busch Stadium during the World Series. A Cardinals experience is very similar to a Chiefs experience. It’s been said every professional sports town is an NFL town…except St. Louis, where the Cardinal reign supreme. The atmosphere is so contagious even the most skeptical can’t escape with doubt intact.
Its not something you’re born with, but it’s something you can be born into. It’s not a passion acquired, but rather a passion found. You cheer for your team because you are a fan, NOT because you were born within twenty miles of where they play.
Red Friday is a mere moments away and I may catch some flack for whichever team a person notices, but that’s where my pride shows the most. It’s what makes me a fan.