CLAYMAN'S CORNER: Chiefs Among the Yachts

In my quest for ever new venues in which to experience the Chiefs, I landed Sunday evening at Tony P's restaurant in Marina Del Rey. There, amongst the seagoing of Los Angeles, I enjoyed one of the more pleasant Chiefs' games of the season.

It was sure a lot nicer than last week, let me tell you. I mean, in Portland, Oregon, I was surrounded by a similar amount of water. There, it was falling from the sky. Here, it was where it belongs – in the ocean. Not an umbrella or matted hairdo in sight.

For those of you who have never visited us, Marina Del Rey (or "the Marina," as we locals call it) is typical of its ilk. A man-made bay, separated from the whims of the Pacific by a lengthy breakwater, it is home to countless vessels, from the wannabe dinghies to the superstar mega-yachts. Most of the boats fall somewhere in the middle, with many owners living on-board throughout the year.

For example, my wife's former boss had a gi-normous craft there (in addition to his 25 cars). Within walking distance a former friend of mine had his own little fishing boat (I say "former" because one year, while hosting his annual Fourth of July get-together at his slip, this guy accidentally fell into the oily water right next to the vessel of his neighbor, Martin Lawrence. I thought it was funny and ribbed him a bit as we pulled him out. I've never heard from him again.)

The Marina is also the hectic home to condos, apartments, expensive houses, hotels (including a Ritz-Carlton and Marriott), a "fisherman's village" and a whole host of other businesses, entertainment options and restaurants. It's a popular place for biking, roller-blading and jogging, as well as picnicking and sunbathing in the park.

Yet it's a phony world. For all the seagulls and buoys and life preservers, the deck shoes and captain's hats and gallons of varnish, these aren't exactly hardened sea salts down here. You're far more likely to see a manicure than a man overboard.

I would hazard a guess that there aren't a whole bunch of Kansas City Chiefs' fans around at any given time, either. Still, since it was the Sunday night ESPN match-up, there it was on almost each of the big and small screens adorning the large bar area at Tony P's (there was also some kind of girls-in-bikinis show on one of the small screens, which some found preferable to the game, not to mention another miserable Lakers contest).

Along with my friend Brendan who was visiting from Atlanta, we settled in with our Ginger Ales and Diet Cokes to see if the Chiefs could turn a Carr into a Losman, or if Green might actually appear to be worth some.

Green, that is.

Well, it was clear from the start that the Chiefs hadn't recovered from last week's debacle at Buffalo. The defense was still hitting hard. The offense remained hard to watch. Between Mr. Green and the Special Teams, the game remained anybody's throughout much of its early stages.

It was somewhere in the first quarter that a brilliantly red sight suddenly appeared. A young couple, each clad in a Priest Holmes jersey, sat down close by. They intently peered at the screens and spoke quietly to one another. When Houston ran back the ball to make it 10-7, they seemed to accept it with some displeasure but equanimity.

Unlike, say, a Randy Moss And The Raiders' fan, who would have lifted the entire table and heaved it at the TV while screaming obscenities. (By the way, I noticed late last night the prototype for the RMATR supporter – the bad guy in the movie "Highlander." The only difference, I suppose, is that this lunatic really was nuts and dangerous, whereas the RMATRers are simply - oh, what's the word? – ah, that's it. Clowns.)

It wasn't long before the Warpainters and I struck up a conversation. The pretty woman, Kim, is a native of Kansas City and, apparently following in the shoes of her dad, a lifelong backer of not only the Chiefs but the Royals (hm, are they still around? I seem to recall something about pine tar and a guy screaming his way out of the dugout, but that must have been, like, 20 years ago.)

Her man, Bruce, is from Kentucky. I asked him if he'd grown up a Bengals fan. He spoke quietly, either embarrassed or afraid Kim might slug him. "Browns." Sensing the pain that simple word caused, I moved on to other things.

(By the way, I didn't talk about the meeting when I returned home. My 2 ½ year-old is currently deathly afraid of another Bruce, the shark from "Finding Nemo," and I didn't want to mistakenly utter his name, perhaps scarring her for life.)

Back to the bar. Looking at their jerseys, I wondered if Priest would ever play again. Kim was right on it. "His dad said he would." And, in case I didn't get it clearly, "They asked his dad. He said he'd be back." All right. This was what I'd come to expect from a Chiefs fan. Quiet. Mannerly. Intense. I glanced at Bruce. There was an immediate, silent agreement between us. The floor was Kim's.

I asked about the current state of the Chiefs. "The defense has been playing well. But the offense is kind of weak. It may be time to think about replacing a couple of guys. We're getting kind of old."

Which ones might need replacing, I queried? Holmes? "I think it's getting to be Larry's time." Gonzalez? "Pretty soon, I think." Green? "I hate to say it, because I've told Bruce he's the only man in the world I'd leave him for, but it may be time to think of replacing him as well." Vermeil? "That's the one. He's too old, too soft. They need to get someone new in there."

Never let it be said that a Chiefs fan doesn't speak her mind. To be fair, she immediately switched to the defense, lauding new pick-ups Surtain and Knight. She also mentioned with some hope Carl Peterson's new contract, although she certainly wasn't doing back-flips over it.

The game, of course, got out of hand for the Texans right before the half. So the conversation turned to other items on sport-fan Kim's mind. Like when she asked, "What do you think they should do about Pete Rose?"

I replied that being a jerk and a liar shouldn't keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Behind her, Bruce gave me a thumbs-up. Apparently being the kind of woman who can see her man even through the back of her head, she gave the thumbs-down. "He broke the cardinal rule. They can't let him in. And then he even said he didn't bet on his own team. Hah!"

What about steroids, I wondered. Isn't that worse? "I can't stand Barry Bonds. My five worst athletes ever are Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, O.J. Simpson, Jayson Williams (because he pulled the trigger and killed that guy) and – you might not believe this one – Larry Brown."

Larry Brown? The basketball coach? "What he did to Detroit last year was horrible. Stringing them along like that. He wasn't going to stay there no matter what."

I asked about Ray Lewis. "There wasn't any proof that he did it." Okay, I get it. A true football fan. Only O.J. made the list and we all know he really, really, really had to try to get there.

They finished eating and packed up to go. It was barely into the third quarter, but these Chiefs fans had had the desired effect. They'd shown up in a close contest and minutes later left with their team on top in a blowout. I was tempted to defend those L.A. fans always accused of leaving games early, but the way Kim had extolled the virtues of Arrowhead, I knew she would never have departed before the end if she was there.

As for Tony P's? Well, sailor, when it's time to cast off, it's time to cast off.

This is the eleventh 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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