As a dad, you drive two hours to cut down a real, live Christmas tree. And back. You dig deep in the garage and pull out box after box of house and tree ornaments and lights, creaky wrapping material saved from past years and aged Christmas card envelopes with all those addresses you'll need.
You put the tree up in its stand. Hose it down and the next day lug it into the front room. Decorate the house and tree. Get up on the ladder to hang the lights. Find out you've a strand too many when a fuse blows. Replace it twice before relenting and unplugging that last group of lights. Hey, no one can tell during the day, and at night the house just looks a little thinner, that's all. So what!
Drag Christmas gift lists out of the older kids. Buy cards. Spend a few hours signing, sealing and sending them. Shopping. Wrapping. Assembling a bike or weight set while trying not to curse out the unintelligible instructions and wake the entire household. Getting to bed at, like, five. If you're lucky.
The additional obligations as a spouse and child yourself. Driving over to take down Mom's ornament boxes. Driving back for the one you didn't see in the back of the closet. Driving back to return the empty boxes to the shelf. Driving back after Christmas to get the empties down again. Driving back to put the filled boxes up, promising next year not to miss that one you always seem to miss. Lots of luck.
As a husband, trying to decipher the mysterious signals your wife gives you as to what she really wants. It's like going to Vegas. You read everything you can about, say, craps. Then you simply roll the dice. Most of the time you lose a little, but it's usually neither a disaster nor a triumph. Nor is it ever really satisfying.
Yet, after all of it, here you are on Boxing Day, with no further obligation but to clean up. The work, for the most part, is done. Our NFL brothers, on the other hand, still have a few licks to give and receive in their chosen profession.
For the Chiefs, the Bengals remain. Both teams are in revival mode, although Kansas City's recent history has been far superior. The problem, of course, is that the decision as to whether the Chiefs' season ends next weekend is not in their hands.
It's with the Steelers. And the Lions. And the Broncos. And the Chargers. In other words, it's very much like winning in Vegas. Possible, but the odds are very long.
So, while still pulling for the miracle to propel this very capable and often extremely exciting K.C. team into the playoffs, I don't think it's out of line to ask Santa for a couple of extra gifts. I notice he's wearing red. Good sign.
A Chiefs win. (I'd bet money on this one.)
A Chargers loss. (None of my cash on the table, yet Shanahan's never seemed like the kind of guy to ever mail in a game.)
A Steelers loss. (Two chances – slim and fat. Yet, still chances, right? Maybe the Lions will hire their new coach this week and get the troops all fired up. Um, what were those chances?)
Another Larry Johnson day at the office. (160-170 yards rushing, 35 receiving, 2-3 touchdowns.)
A palette of tissues for Dick Vermeil, especially if the Chiefs win. (Make sure it's the good stuff, not the cheap brand. A grown man sobbing plus lint all over his face would be too much to bear.)
A consistent, powerful day from Trent Green. (With a veteran's focus on every pass. Every one, Trent.)
Willie Roaf just rollin' along. (Larry and Trent, take this guy to dinner, lunch, breakfast, whatever he wants. Oh, yeah, don't forget to bring the American Express card – the one with no limit.)
Patrick Surtain getting a couple more picks. (And coming in next season completely comfortable with his new team.)
A finish so much fun – with a clarity about what is yet to be done and the certainty that it can be accomplished – that Dick and Gunther and the rest decide to finish what they've started. (Especially because the alternative is, what, Steve Mariucci? Mike Sherman? Dick Butkus?)
A cadre of face-painters so that every single fan at Arrowhead has a red face to go with his or her red clothes. (Creating something so mystical that they'll feel it all the way in Pittsburgh and San Diego.)
Hinting around the league that a certain Mr. Holmes might be available for the right trade. (I know it's painful, but how often do you have someone so good and so expendable?)
Having Lamar Hunt take out that young buck Tagliabue to dinner and convince him to never, ever, schedule a final six games like this year's. (And, while they're at it, can't there be a system which "weighs" your opponents and gives, like, extra credit for playing the toughest guys?)
A Chiefs sports bar here on the west side of Los Angeles. (It would be filled each week with the reddest and most mannerly pro football fans in the world.)
A voting system like the Lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," so that Chiefs fans, not Vermeil, decide when to challenge a call. (Talk about interactivity – that would make K.C. games even more exciting to watch than the latest edition of "Will Shaq and Kobe Hug?")
As much rain and mud and cold in Pittsburgh as there was in Kansas City last weekend. (Thereby evening things out a bit. Why did it have to be Detroit?)
Another 49-yard day for LaDainian Tomlinson. (Go Broncos!)
Another 7-point day for the Dolts. (Go Broncos!)
A reason to cheer for the Broncos. (Enough already. This is Denver, remember? Other than The Randy Moss and the Raiders, we hate those guys the most. Especially that bug-eyed Shanahan. So all I have to say is… Go Broncos!)
Just one playoff chance to show how good this Chiefs team really is. (Dallas. And Buffalo. How did that happen?)
Another Mitch Holthus growl, "Touch-down-Kan-sas-Ci-ty!" (Not next week. We're winning that one. The week after.)
A whole slew of stories and Fox Sports and SportsCenter updates about how the Chiefs, in one of the most miraculous scenarios in NFL history, not only made it into the playoffs but became only the second Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl. (Hey, it's Christmas time, isn't it? And we've got the spirit of Hank Stram on our side, don't we?)
Yes, Christmas is a time for dreams and wishes to come true. And don't ever let any Grinches from the world of "reality" tell you that it's not.
This is the seventeenth 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
CLAYMAN'S CORNER: And Then There Was One
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