The Fan Blackout

What has happened to once-legendary Arrowhead Stadium?

You've experienced it too, right? You've heard the jeers after the first three-and-out just a minute into Chiefs games. You've cruised easily through the parking lots at the end of games, avoided the traffic jams on the highway. If you sit in a seat at Arrowhead and listen closely, you can probably hear Mitch Holthus sneezing in the broadcast booth. Sometimes, it's the only noise.

In recent years, the Chiefs and their once mighty and fearless fan base have become nonexistent in Kansas City. This season, the void at One Arrowhead Drive has become so consistent that it almost resulted in the franchise's first home game blackout in 19 years.

Well, it could still happen.

Realistically, it's only a matter of time until the Chiefs suffer their first black out in two decades. But for their upcoming game against the Cleveland Browns, it's inevitable that local sponsors and broadcasters will scramble to buy the remaining tickets to avoid losing revenue. Only when the planets align do football fans receive the blessing of watching the 3-10 Chiefs battle the 2-11 Browns. It will be Kansas City's annual installment of the Top-Five Draft Pick Bowl, brought to you by CBS Sports.

Once the blackout occurs, it won't reach national media attention. There won't be a 10-minute segment on ESPN chronicling the end of the Chiefs' sell-out streak. It will simply go unnoticed. Only then will the Chiefs fit alongside the rest of the pack of NFL teams that are suffering from the economy or poor fan support. Chiefs Nation—all 116 decibels—will fit into the same category as the somber and fickle fans in St. Louis and Jacksonville. For the first time in two decades, Chiefs fans will be normal.

So 2009 will not be remembered as the year the Chiefs celebrated their 50th season or the beginning of the Scott Pioli era. Instead, it will be remembered as the year the Chiefs played 10 away games.

Ten games without the homefield advantage of Arrowhead Stadium. The first extra away game came in Week 5 - you could have sat in Swope Park and heard the fans of "America's Team" scream when Miles Austin scored in overtime for the Dallas Cowboys. The second extra away game came in Week 11, when even the colorblind could recognize the yellow Terrible Towels drowning out the Sea of Red.

You've sat next to fans/eBay scalper ticket shoppers from Denver and San Diego in the section where you've had tickets for decades. You've seen the blackout with your own eyes.

Chiefs fans have no excuses not to support their team in person. Cold weather will always be a characteristic of the Midwest, and NASCAR races do not run every Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Finally, while $22 parking fees and $7.50 beers are a reach for the underemployed in America, pride in one's team and city outweigh all obstacles. Football is America's game, and the economy should never change that.

Forget the extra away games, 2009 will be remembered as the year the Chiefs' fan base was blacked out. There is no support or optimism in the locker room, in the stands, or in the local media. When he arrived in Kansas City, Scott Pioli spoke highly of the "Patriot Way" and its success. What has not been mentioned since January is the "Chiefs Way." It's gone, and this team is no longer distinguishable from the other 31 NFL franchises.

This franchise and its fan base have become ordinary.

For 47 years, my extended family has treasured four season tickets to Chiefs games as if they arrived from Heaven. My siblings, cousins and I would fight over the upcoming tickets in years past, but now, to avoid wasting a ticket, we desperately call friends who might want to attend. The economy has struck us just as hard as everyone else, but we have made an effort to keep the tickets through thick and thin. Surely, we aren't the only family facing the same ordeal when ticket renewals arrive in the mail.

All Chiefs fans should make an effort to keep their support going from generation to generation. It's the only way that the Chiefs and their fan base can be reborn once again.

The Chiefs are the heartbeat of Kansas City, but without a pulse, they are just an ordinary team. There is no pulse in Chiefs Nation. That needs to change.

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