It’s Saturday, January 21, 2023 —Mid-Emotion Week. It’s the birthdate of my maternal grandfather, who was both an ardent sports fan and a phenomenal human. This year, his birthday also falls on the same day that the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars for KC’s first 2022 postseason game and our city is feeling it! Since Thursday, the emotional high vibrating from Kansas City has been hard to miss. Our collective dreams are temporarily out in front of our protective egos, and Kansas City is doing what it does best–capturing the hearts of people who don’t know us, while also reminding ourselves that what we have here is really freaking cool! The fact that we don’t have mountains, beaches or natural forests to admire from afar makes us rely solely on our passions, our efforts and our character (along with an increasingly bold awareness of our nefariously complicated history). These are the very real things that make people fall in love with Kansas City so quickly. They are currently amplified into the rest of the world by our fearless hype man, the emotional genius, Patrick Mahomes, and the rest of his powerful Chiefs.
This day is always special to me, but today it’s been stacked with a ton of extra value. My nephew took part in his first Pinewood Derby this morning, and the memories that flooded in were priceless. My youngest turned 21 a couple weeks ago, so it’s been a minute since Fred and I attended a scouting function, and we both enjoyed the nostalgic vibe from a relaxed, non-parenting perspective. Watching kids express genuine excitement and passion never fails to inspire me, and I got to share a nice moment with my family that I hadn't quite realized I’d been missing. By the time I got home, I was ready to make something yummy, write on this blog, and get psyched for the game. Fred had a different plan for that time frame and when he requested my help, I was fully resistant. Being Emotion Week, I had no qualms about stating my feelings emphatically.
One of the challenges that comes with quickly acknowledging our emotions, however, is anticipating them before they actually happen. We are so good at intellectualizing how we feel that we fill in the blanks, mentally, before we’ve ever gotten to the experience. I watched myself do this earlier today when Fred wanted me to drive him to Arrowhead Stadium so he could take a picture of a traveling trophy he won in Michigan. (Yes, ON game day—WHAT?!) He intended to send it to the group chat with “His Michigan Friends”, where he has been photographing the trophy’s extended stay in Kansas City. They are a great group of people–even a few Chiefs fans in the crew! But driving to Arrowhead on game day was pretty damn far from my To Do list. Fred adorably pleaded his case and I reluctantly agreed to be his chauffeur so he could get his perfect picture. I had projected a lot of ‘truths’ into my own picture of the next couple hours and I honestly wasn’t looking forward to any of it.
To my shock and surprise, traffic was pretty light and many of the annoying roadblocks I had imagined for this trip didn’t materialize at all. It was fun and easy. We carried on with our conversation about emotionally present kids from earlier, made plans for a delicious lunch and talked about the big game–dreaming big for the Chiefs and Kansas City. I had figured out what I wanted to write about just as our distinguished stadiums came into view. I felt an unbidden moment of reverence for the day that Kansas City’s baseball and football teams do not play side by side. I felt the shift in energy and for the first time imagined it dispersed around the Metro in a way that grows enthusiastic civic pride and respect. I let my “I don’t want this change” guard down and imagined the best for what is beginning to appear inevitable for our Chiefs and Royals.
I let Fred out of the car and flipped around to pick him up, noticing the parking lot already filled with tailgaters ready to brave the wintery mix and cheer on the Chiefs so that our season keeps going and our city can continue basking in the high vibrational feelings that it wouldn’t be tapping into in January were it not for the skill and leadership of one Patrick Mahomes. Or at least that’s what most of us think out front. Only when faced with having to rely on something else do we look at the unyielding support that Patrick Mahomes enjoys as the official quarterback of his team and the unofficial quarterback of Kansas City’s capacity to feel our emotions and celebrate the ability to do so (whether they are positive or negative).
When Mahomes hurt his ankle last night, there were several thoughts racing around the minds of everyone watching, as we each took in the realization that he might not be able to play. We watched him want to. Our hearts were wrenched as we witnessed his passion and his physicality work at odds–a very rare occurrence for this go to guy. We knew how much he wanted to ignore the injury and keep playing, because he is always so open that he invites us to feel things with him. He doesn’t enjoy being vulnerable–does anyone really?–but he has been more than willing to do that for as long as I have been aware of him. I know it’s what made me an instant fan and why his effect is so strong. Drawing us all into every play with his spontaneous expression and the guiding wave of his fingers, he calls in the grounded energy he trusts to keep his team united, ego and soul alike, and it spills over, becoming part of our natural terrain.
Just like our iconic stadiums, Mahomes won’t be here forever, but our ability to tap into his emotionally present energy will always remain. To me, it will go down as his greatest legacy, no matter how many more football records he breaks along his journey. Our leaders today cannot and will not be our leaders tomorrow, but we can pay attention to the effects of our actions, trace the roots of our missteps, and acknowledge our intentions and values moving forward. We can learn to grow from digging into how our history feels to our citizens years after we have been required to make tough choices, by taking and/or making the time for asking and answering our deeply rooted questions–especially the gnarly ones. Historically, we’ve likely gotten a lot wrong, and we can argue all day about what that means to each of us personally, but at the same time we embody all of the qualities of a community that learns as its vulnerabilities are accepted and supported. We rallied around Chad Henne, our hearts entwined with Mahomes and his teammates, and I’m confident he could have led us all the way to victory if he needed to. The credit Mahomes directed his way was evidence of the emotional connection that binds this team and envelopes this city when we are collectively focused. A true reflection of our passion and purpose.
It’s January 22, 2023, as I wrap up this blog. It’s now my maternal grandmother’s birthday. Like her husband, she was also an avid sports fan, but perhaps a more reluctant human. Not in a bad way, she just seemed the more practical of the two–encouraging, considering the opinions of others, and shoo-ing us out of her way all at the same time, if you can picture that. He was a dreamer, an inventor and a builder at heart, and an orthodontist by trade. She was solid support and constructive criticism, and together they built a family that loves team sports and knows the value that comes from simply being honest about how you feel - even if it temporarily rocks the boat or sets off a trigger in someone else. She would have loved Patrick Mahomes. She knew that staying emotionally present keeps us at the top of our individual games, leaving us the space to root for others and show gratitude for the tremendous support we receive for simply being vulnerable within our own emotional landscape. As our hearts and minds are with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes this week, let’s let their heightened emotions be a mentoring opportunity for all of us as we share this moment in the history of Kansas City and its emotion-inducing Chiefs.