CLAYMAN'S CORNER: A Picture in Print

Two Sundays back, in my continuing search for what makes Chiefdom click, I sampled the local radio broadcast. For the next game on Friday, just as I was considering where to watch it, word came down that there was to be no national TV. Which left me with the Wonderful World of Print.

In listening to Holthus, Dawson, et al, the previous Sunday, I had imagined myself traveling by car across vast open stretches of Missouri, with no other way to get the action than my car stereo. I would use their words to paint the picture of the Red against the Skins. In the end, I could see, all right that not only Chiefs fans but their broadcasters are fatalists. Even in a pretty darned good victory.

And that no one likes Dexter McCleon. Except the Chiefs coaching staff.

So this week, Wilma was heading for Miami and it was imperative that no game be scheduled for Sunday. I mean, it would be chaos with all those walkers and wheelchairs hustling out of town to beat the hurricane. And it would be kind of cool to hunker down with my first Chiefs Friday night telecast. Then Lord Tagliabue decided that to have an NFL game on Friday TV wouldn't be fair to high school games across the nation.

As if anyone outside of Missouri or Florida planning to go to a high school contest would decide to stay home instead and watch this titanic NFL struggle. Of course, the only two places in which the game would actually be televised were – you guessed it! – Missouri and Florida.

Which means it wasn't at all about high school games. Instead it was all about the networks not really wanting to pre-empt their Friday night schedules to squeeze this one in and lose ratings.

But NFL/TV foolery aside, I was presented with an opportunity to imagine that this week I was back in the Dark Ages where if you, say, had to work and miss a radio or TV broadcast, the only way you could find out what happened was through the newspapers. Other than a minute or so on the 11 o'clock news.

You're likely too young to remember, but long, long ago in a land far, far away, you couldn't record TV games. TiVo (not to mention VCRs, DVDs, home computers and microwave ovens) were something that belonged to a distant, incredible future. You know, like the next time the Texans win a football game. Or the Cubs make the World Series.

Not yet conversant with much Kansas Citians, I scanned around the net for likely sources. There were, of course, warpaintillustrated.com and the Associated Press.

I somehow recalled a paper called The Kansas City Star from reading about Harry Truman and was glad to see it still existed. The only other one I could find, however, was The Examiner, "Eastern Jackson County's Daily Newspaper." All right. If a single radio broadcast was enough, four print periodicals should do nicely. Even one from Eastern Jackson County.

The only rule was that I would know nothing else about the contest but what I read in these publications immediately after the game. To find out what sort of picture they would paint. Here's what I gather happened on that humid Friday night in Florida.

A "scrambling" Hurricane Wilma caused the "ridiculously" longest game day in Chiefs history. After a 3 (or maybe 3 ½) hour "fatiguing" flight, our lads landed on time six hours before the game, jumped on buses, "stretched legs" at the hotel and had a "delish" pre-game feast.

It was a "tortuously" muggy night. And rainy. With mosquitoes and moths. And a pre-game prayer. About 40,000 folks, roughly 60% of those who held tickets, showed up. Some of the players thought it felt like a high school game. One writer called it a "goofy time machine."

A tortuously muggy one.

I read that when informed of the schedule change Vermeil had proclaimed that the league "couldn't have picked a better team to send down there and do well." Assuming he meant the Chiefs, one had to wonder. If, when the coach had an extra day of practice, the Broncos happened, what would the outcome be with two lost days?

As I was to find, it worked out. Which made me think that maybe the Chiefs should play their next game tomorrow, take a rest and play again two days later. And I'm not the only one. When asked after the game about the additional practice time gained for the following week's contest at San Diego, Eric Warfield said that "you'd think" the extra day of practice would create an advantage. Brian Waters added that the extra day "can't hurt us."

Well that's not a exactly ringing endorsements of the coaching staff. And not the smartest thing from a guy (Warfield) who's just started his first game of the season. But, who knows. It was probably taken out of context. You know what that means, right? That the athlete said it, but he (or she) also said other things and if you don't include everything else, it must be taken out of context, meaning somehow it doesn't mean what they obviously meant when they said it, right?

Moving on, I learned that Trent Green had a terrific game, "zinging" and "lacing" a bunch of "clutch third-down throws". That he had an unexpected "bounce." But then I found out that Green also "only looked sharp at times" and "turned sour." And that his 289 yards were, after all, only "against Miami's injury-depleted secondary." Maybe I should have read the second stuff first.

And known that it was tortuously muggy.

I also realized that the Priest-Johnson rotation could be referred to as "Larry-Holmes" and coupled with a lame boxing analogy. That Johnson once called the two of them the Church Backfield (you know, "Priest prays, LJ buries…" - sounds like a Graveyard Backfield to me). That this would-be Shaq needs work on his metaphors, as when he says, "Sometimes we're like Blackjack – you get the ace and the 10 at the same time."

Wait a second. Who's the ace, who's the 10 and when are they ever in at the same time? Even I know that much. I also learned that you can always make a bad metaphor worse. As when Vermeil was quoted telling his offensive linemen, "Don't be disappointed if you only make two yards, four yards on a play. Come back and get six the next time." Followed by the columnist's comment, "Just like blackjack."

Let's see. Two, four and six. Makes 12. I guess in some quarters that could be seen as a version of 21. Or maybe you all just play the game dyslexically in Missouri.

Where it's not nearly so tortuously muggy as in Miami right before a hurricane.

I noticed that "the Chiefs defense gave up two big plays but… nothing else." Yet the next piece proclaimed, "the defense is what's worrisome." Then another one declared that "the traditional bugaboo of the Chiefs defense – the big play – bit them again." I had no idea bugaboos could bite. Ouch. No wonder it's worrisome.

Interestingly, one of the things I've heard most from Chiefs fans and broadcasters was barely mentioned. No one seemed to feel the absence of Dexter McCleon had a huge impact on the win. Although everyone did seem to like Eric Warfield.

One scribe even felt the game was essentially a gift to the good people of Kansas City from one Gus Frerotte (cleverly referred to as "Frerotten" in the headline). Actually, this guy was basically just disgusted with the whole thing, preferring to begin worrying about next week's game early. Yet another writer agreed that Gus (who must find the whole Frerotten thing really clever after hearing it his entire life) was "simply awful," but later "caught fire."

Which isn't easy to do when it's tortuously muggy and when you've got papers to read.

This is the eighth 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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