Week Eight: Report from a Red State

Whether you believe my gimmick, dismiss it as phony bravado, or deduce its some how my overcompensation for inadequacies as a man; there's no debating that early in my existence, my maturity level wouldn't be fit for a Seahawks road game.

For reasons unknown to me, my smirk, swagger, attitude, and mouth lend themselves to contempt from others. Undoubtedly, if I were behind enemy lines, in someone else’s “house” per se, it wouldn’t be long before I would be forced to “throw hands” with one or many opposing fans.

It’s with all the aforementioned reasons that I agreed to attend the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks road game, with grave trepidation. The fact that the inviter to this affair, a Seahawks.net regular, and myself had only met once before, didn’t exactly add confidence to my decision. But in the end, being 30 years of age I should be above an occasional donnybrook and it was an opportunity to visit NFL hallowed ground, Arrowhead Stadium.

Given the immediacy of the invite (most likely meaning I was option 164a of possible invitee’s) the original logistics of the invasion reeked of a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Surely the notion of the inviter and I crashing on the hotel room floor of a father and son (maybe father and son-in-law?), who so happen to sit in front of inviter at Qwest Field, would spell disaster.

My personality and extrasensory ability to say the single-most most offensive word or phrase to a particular person, would undoubtedly lead to a comical and/or tragic series of mishaps. Most likely leading to an arrest or a night spent sleeping on the mean streets of Kansas City. Eventually, my usually groggy melon made a sound decision and got a hotel room, for my accomplice and I.

With the originally tumultuous lodging situation now fully-secured, I began a somewhat friendly assault on Seahawks.net sister Chiefs website, Warpaint Illustrated, for tips and pointers on the “where’s and when’s” of Kansas City. The feedback I got in return was an overwhelming “what’s nightlife?” and many gracious invites to various tailgating festivities.

I could only assume the invites were extended because it was guesstimated I was the typical meek, humble, internet message board type – and was to be the butt of many Rick Mirer punch lines. At the end of the day, my first foray onto another team’s site offered little or nothing of use. Resigned to the ideology that my venture into Kansas City would be blind, I set onward towards what was going to be truly an epic tale.

While the price was right, the airlines I would be using to and from Kansas City were unfamiliar to me. With that, it isn’t surprising that the planes themselves seemed reminiscent of a 1940’s or 1950’s film set somewhere in Africa or South America. I found myself awaiting Harrison Ford’s leaping arrival into the seat next to me – exclaiming “Snakes!? I hate snakes.”

Borrowing from the once beloved Dennis Miller, “I don’t mean to get off on a tangent here” but; is there anything longer than the time it takes to exit your plane, once you’ve landed on the tarmac?

What worsens that sudden, panic-stricken claustrophobia are the individuals that refuse to check their baggage, leading to a four-minute per person struggle to remove two-weeks worth of wardrobe, conveniently nuzzled within two carry-on bags. There’s a reason you check your bags, people. That’s so innocent people, like myself, don’t have to wait while your flabby-armed, nothing of a body, wrestles your bags from the overhead bin. If you didn’t do that, it wouldn’t take 35 minutes for all of us to exit an airplane.

What ended up being a foreshadowing of the Seahawks upcoming weekend was the fact I was selected to “random” extra screening. The odd thing is, TSA, didn’t question the two narcotic prescriptions rattling around my quaint carry-on bag. Being that this was the first time any pills accompanying me were legit, I was disappointed to say the least.

The flight into Kansas City is confusing. Upon the decent, I kept expecting and hoping to see some semblance of civilization. Instead, all that was within view were blank and flat wheat fields awaiting Todd Breda’s wet dream, crop circles. Once you did land – you soon realized that the view from the plane wasn’t a lie; the airport is truly nuzzled next to nowhere.

Finally arriving on the scene that Saturday October 27th, I called my partner for the weekend, referred to as “John Marshall” due his request of anonymity. After the awkward, introductory salutations of men who’ve only met each other once, we secured a taxi en route to our lair for the weekend…the luxurious La Quinta Inn.

Unbeknownst to me, my method of finding the motel closest to Arrowhead Stadium meant our resting place would also be about as far as one could be from the heart of Kansas City. We were truly in the middle of nowhere, with only a Flying J Truck Stop and a famed Waffle House Restaurant, flanking our humble accommodations. Laughing off my glaring motel snafu, John Marshall and me quickly dropped our bags and met up with the father and son tandem that he had coordinated the trip with.

We met in an obnoxiously large sports bar named Tanners, in what I guess one would consider the heart or downtown of Kansas City. The downtown looks a lot like Portland, Oregon, sans a few multiple story buildings and everything being constructed out of brick over timber.

Within a few minutes of meeting and greeting the oddly distant and unfriendly acquaintances of Mr. Marshall, I noticed what would be an ever-apparent trait of the Midwest. Oddly unbalanced relationships between men and women. Surrounding us were extremely attractive women with men who make Woody Allen look like George Clooney aesthetically and fashionably speaking. Or, there were just highly attractive women sitting, isolated, and awaiting a suitor. Nothing like you’d see in a Seattle sports bar or even a club.

The night progressed as any sports-themed drinking night is going to. As the drinks increased in all of us, the sports hyperbole and volume in which it was uttered, raised dramatically.

Adding to the ambiance of Tanners was a surprisingly good house band, covering many songs from the 1960’s through current day. My only contempt with the band was their smirking dismissal of my requests for Stevie Wonder or James Brown and the inexcusable dedication of a Stone Temple Pilots song to us “Seattleites” (a miscue so bad, it borders on blasphemy).

Around 12:30 AM or so, I began noticing an alarming characteristic in my mate for the weekend, Mr. Marshall. The effects of countless pitchers of Budweiser and/or Coors Lite him and the other two had been indulging upon, began taking its toll.

His exterior had gone from one of control, to one of inebriated confusion. He began staggering and encircling the tavern - a target and fodder for some misguided and also intoxicated local rubes. For both of our safety, I took the hint and called a taxi to whisk us towards a late night dining experience, adjacent our humble lodging, the infamous Waffle House.

It took about all of four minutes before the now dangerously drunk, Mr. Marshall, drew ire from the surprisingly populated Waffle House. Whether it was his commenting about the sex appeal of woman, sitting starboard to her man. Or the beer-goggled infatuation with a young woman only Roman Polanski or R. Kelly could love. It was becoming clear that unless I wanted to be calling my wife collect later that morning; I had to get Mr. Marshall home, and fast.

After picking up the $20 tab for runny, under-cooked eggs, shrunken McDonalds sausages, grease engulfed hash browns, and enlarged Eggo waffles – I successfully guided Mr. Marshall and me, securely within the confines of our room. Little did I know, the fun had just begun.

After talking at the wife for a while and giving John Marshall’s bed a gentle shove or two because of his snoring, I finally shut my eyes for sleep around 2:30 a.m.

Then, around 3:45, I awoke to the sound of running water or a faucet hitting a nearby wall. The sound was eerily strong and close to my general proximity. Finally lifting my head, I watched in amazement as John Marshall was using the rooms’ heater and A/C unit as if it were a urinal. Since this mishap was taking place a safe distance from my luggage and I, all that I did was smile internally and rest my head back down upon the pillow.

For some reason or another I awoke again a half hour or so after the urinating episode, noticing that Mr. Marshall was no longer located in his bed. He was passed-out somewhere outside of my weary vision and concern.

Then, about 4:45 a.m. or so, the unthinkable occurred. My head abruptly lifted to the repeated sound of what can only be described as beef stew being dumped onto a blue industrial tarp. And sure enough, at the foot of my La Quinta bed, lay John Marshall puking all over himself, the carpet, the dresser drawers, and dangerously close to my luggage.

Now that the stakes and odor had been significantly raised, I quickly leapt from my bed; awaking and helping Mr. Marshall in gathering himself. With a confused, embarrassed, head-shaking acknowledgment of what had occurred, Mr. Marshall clumsily guided his body into the shower and I ran downstairs for immediate Hazmat assistance.

Once the dust, smell, and severity of the situation settled, Mr. Marshall and myself decided that there was no point in trying to go back to bed – since we both planned on arriving at Arrowhead as early as possible, around 7:30 or 8 a.m.

At this time it was around 7 am or so, and while Marshall continued to grapple with the stench and gooeyness of his blunder I journeyed to the lobby to dine upon the surprisingly delightful breakfast offered up at the motel. It was there that my closest brush with my own immaturity and someone else’s face becoming a resting place for my knuckles occurred.

While I was tending to my waffles, I overheard a couple of misguided Chiefs fans behind me laughing and commenting on my jersey. If it were just your ordinary jersey, I’d good-naturedly have answered back with a benign and disarming joke. But, given that I was wearing a Dave “Mudbone” Krieg, customized, authentic in the Seahawks new uniform scheme – no such joking would be allowed in my presence. Ever since I was a boy, my first NFL love was the underrated and overachieving Dave Krieg. And I was not about to sit idly by, as two Midwestern nobodies slandered his name and likeness.

“You know what!?” I exclaimed. “You guys can say whatever you want and make fun of whomever you want on your own time, but NOT while I’m sitting in this room and eating my breakfast.” “After that, you two are free to do what you do”. And with that, the two actually heeded my wishes and kept their ill-informed commentary to themselves. Most likely figuring that a guy my size, with a mouth like that, is either psycho or incredibly stupid. Neither of which is something you want to engage.

Eventually, the now befuddled and embarrassed, John Marshall was able to force down some breakfast and we began our taxied journey to Arrowhead Stadium.

For those that have not been – Arrowhead Stadium is truly in the middle of nowhere. For any local Washingtonians, the best way to describe the location and surrounding area of the stadium is by imagining someone placed two gorgeous stadiums (the other being Kaufman Stadium, home of the KC Royals) smack dab in the middle of the many barren wheat fields aligning Highway-2 or I-90 on your way to, or back from, Spokane. Once you’re at the stadium – there’s nothing there except the stadiums. With that, the legendary tailgating scene for every Chiefs game is out of necessity and not tradition. But, what a scene it is.

Even given the fact Marshall and myself arrived on the scene at least four hours prior to kickoff, the smells of various meats and poultries consumed and dominated your every move. All around were red-painted trucks, vans, converted school buses, and barbecues. Some barbecues being the size of mini-coopers with what appeared to be entire Holsteins being grilled and lathered to perfection.

Everyone around wore something red, regardless of the type of garment. Unlike Qwest Field game days, the home colors weren’t represented with only jerseys, sweatshirts, or the occasional polo or jacket. There were as many types of red garments adorning these fans, as there were fans themselves. Only knowing Seattle and Seahawks game day personally, the scene was both overwhelming and sacred to me. That is what the NFL is about – and eventually will become in Seattle; an event unlike any other.

Taking the hint from Marshall and the “friendly” father and son tandem, I began a solo journey through parking lot maze of barbecues, Ford pick-ups, and friendly-quipped minded patrons. It wasn’t too long into that wander that I happened upon some all-inviting Seahawks boosters, mostly representing the Midwestern Seahawkers.

It’s with that group that I spent the remainder of my morning, partaking in their graciously offered donut holes and Bud Lites. There were many laughs, stories shared, war stories relayed, and even foolhardy attempts to debunk my claim of knowing anything and everything Seahawks history (will the real Hawkstorian please standup?).

Occasionally a KC fan would innocently yell or shout a benign dig in our general direction, but what was to be the trend, most if not all of the KC fans treated all of us with respect and hospitality.

Once we ventured into the stadium, I quickly vacated the other three whom I was “visiting with”, and their desire to tour the facility, to find my resting spot for the next three hours.

Now seated, it was surprisingly easy to talk to all of the red wearing fans around me. Reminiscing on classic Hawks-Chiefs games of the past, what was to unfold that day, and symbiotic questioning of particular players. It quickly surfaced that I was as weary of the Hawks recent up and down season, as they were of the Hawks “X” factor, Seneca Wallace. This will be covered later, in another article, but Seneca Wallace is legendary in the Midwest, and the Chiefs fans were cautiously pessimistic of facing him.

The game day presentation and traditions demonstrated by the fans were in all honesty, a bit behind the times. That sounds a bit snobby and arrogant, which I am, but it’s the only way I can put it. It’s an abstract observation, so impossible to quantify. But everything, be it: sound effects, the announcers voice, the graphics displayed, or even the introductions seemed five years behind the recent trends. Not sure it that’s good, bad, or even accurate – but to me that’s what it was.

As I mentioned earlier, the fans were great, and Mr. Marshall and I returned the gesture by not showing too much emotion when the Seahawks made TDs or successful plays. The fans even all laughed and accepted my continued pleas to “quiet down, this is Seneca’s first start…be fair.”

I’m going to avoid commenting on the game itself – and the laughable display the Seahawks defense put forth that Sunday. In all honesty, it diminishes a special time, place and experience. In the end it’s secondary to the journey and the priceless experience I had the honor to be a part of.

After the game itself, I felt satisfied with the adventures of the weekend as it unfolded. So much so, I relished in all of it alone in my hotel room, content as could be.

Thank you, Kansas City.

Ryan Davis can think of several different activities that fit the "tailgating" metaphor. Anyone who dares can e-mail Ryan here.

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