Clayman's Corner: The Trailhead

Hey, if you're going to give your cheers to a new team, you at least hope they're successful. I didn't expect this successful, but who knows, maybe I'm good luck. Or maybe the Kansas City Chiefs are just that good. Early on, in the preseason, it hadn't looked so promising.

This being the start of my Journey to Warpaint Illustrated, I decided to begin with a bunch of fans at a Los Angeles Chiefs sports bar. Having been apprised that such a place was a Hooters in Beverly Hills, and 90210 being minutes from my house, it seemed easy. I looked in the phone book. Alas, no such Hooters.

I called the nearest one, in Santa Monica. Stephanie answered and cheerily told me, "We're not affiliated with any team, but you can see the game here. You probably won't have any sound, though."

She was very sweet. But sound seemed kind of important, especially for my introduction to the team. So I went on the net. I looked under every possible combination of "Kansas City Chiefs," "Los Angeles" and "Sports Bars.". If there is such a joint, it's not on this man's search engine.

All right. No one said it was going to be easy. And, as the Buddhists say, pain is what you know pleasure by. Really. I read it in the Dalai Lama's book.

I checked my satellite system. Chiefs/Jets would be on CBS, but out west they'd decided we'd rather see Broncos/Dolphins. Which probably explains why less and less folks watch the networks. I mean, who but a network executive would think there are more Denver natives in L.A. than New Yorkers?

It would be on CBS East. Unfortunately, I'd have to open up the vault and buy their Super Duper Premium Platinum or something Package to get it. NFL Sunday Ticket? I'd rather eat out for a month.

So the next morning I was in Santa Monica Parking Lot 3 at 9:50. Now, the only other time I've been to a Hooters was in New York City. It was 11 at night. The TV above me was on Fox News and no sooner did I get served then the Supreme Court announced that President Bush had indeed beaten Al Gore.

A long time between Hooters. (I won't get into politics, but it was a memorably delicious bowl of ice cream.)

Several guys waited outside for the doors to open. A rather stout fellow in a red shirt was talking about fantasy football. I asked if he was there to see the Chiefs. "Yes. Not because I'm a fan, but I've got three of them on my fantasy team." I wondered which team was his favorite. He shook his head. "Fantasy football has ruined those kinds of allegiances. Like in Vegas. It's embarrassing. You jump up when someone scores a touchdown. Immediately, a fan slaps you on the back, happy that you're rooting for his team. Then a guy on the other team scores. You jump up again. It's embarrassing."

Through the windows we watched the waitresses getting the place ready. We could see the National Anthem on the TVs. But the door was still locked. Stout Guy knocked, which only made us more ignored.

Suddenly two teenaged girls were on the sidewalk. Both were barefooted and it took a moment to realize that one was in her pajamas. "Dad!" A man turned. "We locked ourselves out!"

"You locked yourselves out?"

"Yeah, we stepped out of the room and the door, like, shut behind us! Why do you think I'm, like, in my pajamas?"

As everyone tried not to stare, Dad gave her the key. And when the tightly-clad Hooters ladies finally let us in, I couldn't help but wondering how Hooters would do if, instead of those outfits, the waitresses wore pajamas.

I followed Stout Guy to a cul-de-sac across from the bar. There was a central large-screen with four conventional TVs around it. He spread out his paperwork. Sensing he wanted to sit alone, I sat at the end of a long table perpendicular to the big screen. Immediately, a waitress was at my side (they're always at your side at Hooters).

"Are you alone? Because unfortunately this table is for a larger party."

I heard a voice from behind. "You can sit at my table if you want."

Which is how I came to sit with Mike, he of the Donovan McNabb jersey. The restaurant's manager, Jim, appeared with a remote control. Apparently, Stout Guy had collared him on the way in. Jim seemed annoyed, but kept a smile on his face.

"All right, guys, I'll put on the Chiefs game. But I have a rule. Only one channel change per TV."

He walked away. Mike watched him leave, then spoke in a low voice. "He's touchy about the volume, but once it's turned up, he never turns it down." Mike set the level and sat back down. "Plus, I hate the music in this place."

The game started and I was quickly introduced to Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes, who made it 14-0 in the blink of an eye. Mike and Stout Guy each had Priest on their fantasy teams, so it was a good beginning.

I soon found that Mike liked French fries for breakfast and was more than willing to share. So I ordered some chicken wings for us. When the waitress asked Mike whether he'd prefer Ranch of Bleu Cheese dressing, he said he didn't care. "My mother was awesome, but she was a horrible cook. My palate was destroyed early."

He informed me that the Chiefs have the best tight end of all time, Tony Gonzalez. That offensive lineman Will Shields is going to the Hall of Fame, along with Priest Holmes (Stout Guy debated that one). That Holmes has an uncanny ability to get into the end zone. That the team made some good defensive moves in the off-season. "The argument could be made that if their defense is even just mediocre this year, they'll easily make the playoffs," he predicted.

It seemed far more than mediocre to me, but what do I know? After all I did not watch them last season or the year before. The Jets looked pretty bad offensively.

Looking at all the guys glued to the sets, I asked Mike what he thought would happen if all the TVs were suddenly switched to "Sex in the City." He grinned. "That show has contributed to the downfall of dating in America. It was much better in a patriarchal society."

As I was thinking that someone has got to tell Vermeil to stop making that face, I realized that five different games, at any given time, equals commercials on at least two. I began to wish the crocodile in "Survivor: Guatemala" would make lunch of the gray-haired guy. The Southwest Airlines "Ding Ding!" ad is so annoying it can be heard with the sound off. And Mike agreed that the worst is "No matter where you are, it's still 90 feet to first base". Sorry, Gatorade, unless you're somewhere on the circle which includes home plate and second base, it isn't.

Chad Pennington fumbled for the 6th time. Something must be wrong with his left hand. I mean, he was throwing the ball well. Poor guy just couldn't hold onto it. I noticed a sign, "HOOTERS IS FOOTBALL." Funny, I thought it was something else.

The Chiefs defense almost recorded their first-ever opening day shutout. On the big screen you couldn't tell the empty red Arrowhead seats from those with the fans in them.

All in all, a good start, indeed. I know it's early, but if I do decide this is my team, we're going to the Super Bowl. Where, sorry Mike, we'll polish off your Eagles.

This is the second in a season-long series chronicling a Los Angeles native and lifelong sports follower's mission to become a Chiefs fan. After all, he doesn't have a football team of his own, does he? Richard Clayman may be contacted at rjclayman1@yahoo.com

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