From Arrowhead To Arrowdead

All the questions surrounding Kansas City's 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon were about quarterback Trent Green's injury status, the miserable play of the offense and the all-white uniforms that were worn for the first time in six years.

And then there was the other question, the one everybody tried to avoid: what happened to the fans at Arrowhead Stadium?

Before the game, Chiefs fans were rocking and ready to go. It was typical Arrowhead, with decibel levels so high that you'd think a 757 was flying overhead. I attend every Chiefs home game and sit in the stands. On this particular day, I overheard a conversation between a father and his young son.

"Is Arrowhead the loudest stadium in the NFL?" asked the son.

"Yes it is," replied the father.

"Because Arrowhead has more seats than any other stadium?"

"Nope, because Chiefs fans are the best!"

It was a classic father-son conversation, one that made me smile and feel good about the Arrowhead mystique and the proud Chiefs fans that occupy the seats on game day. There is no doubt that when things are going right and all the stars are aligned, Arrowhead is one of the toughest places for a road team to visit.

But when the play on the field is miserable - as it was on Sunday - Arrowhead can sometimes morph into Arrowdead. That is exactly what happened in the middle of the third quarter, shortly after Green was taken off the field and heavy rain started to fall.

Kansas City trailed 20-3, and thousands of Chiefs fans headed for the exits, escaping the agony of miserable defeat. It was almost like the stadium had been set on fire, or was under attack. People were scurrying out of Arrowhead faster than a midnight train.

That's when I overheard another exchange between father and son.

"If these are the best fans in the NFL, why are they leaving now? It's only the third quarter," the boy asked.

And the father just sat there, rain drops bouncing off his forehead, wondering how he could offer an explanation to his son. He stuttered at first, then mixed up his words, hesitating. He couldn't sugarcoat it. Not to his son.

"Because they are being fair-weather fans," said the father. "That means when things go bad, they give up on their team. Don't ever do that. Stay until the end, stick with the team and keep on cheering."

Does this mean that all Chiefs fans left Arrowhead? Of course not. The KC Superfans were in full force until the end and plenty of fans stuck around to watch Damon Huard throw a touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez late in the fouth quarter.

But these are the facts: too many fans gave up, too many fans left early, too many fans lost hope. It's mind-boggling. In the NFL, crazier things have happened.

As I left the stadium Sunday, I tried to figure out what had happened to Arrowhead. I really couldn't put a finger on it. What has happened to the best fans in the NFL at the league's "loudest stadium?" Sure, the performance on the field was bad. Nobody is denying that. But the fans in the stands did little to support the home team.

Arrowhead seems to suddenly be turning into a social gathering, rather than a football game. Wealthy ticket holders are passing off their seats to friends and business partners, whether they have an interest in the outcome of the game or not. So when the rain starts to fall, the majority of them don't want to get their suits wet. They don't want to get cold. And they certainly don't want to brave the weather in support of a losing team!

Are expensive ticket prices weeding out the hardcore fans that would kill for the chance to attend a game at Arrowhead, even a loss? Can the average 9-to-5er still afford to attend a game? Are some fans taking the "Arrowhead Experience" for granted?

I'm not saying this type of stuff doesn't go on at other NFL stadiums, because it does. But it's still disappointing to see it occur at a place that I hold in high regard. Arrowhead, in a lot of ways, is unique beyond its years. So are Chiefs fans.

I hope the Chiefs play better when they return to Arrowhead in week four to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Hopefully the fans can turn in a better performance as well.

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