World Champions

Today in Kansas City is about how much we need those things that unify us. Sports is one. Not unlike October of 2015 and the gathering for the World Series Champion Royals, today the gathering on a cold February day brings hundreds of thousands, some are even predicting a million, people together for a football team and coach that came through with a Superbowl win last Sunday. The news tells us folks have been gathering since at least midnight and have continued to pour into downtown along the parade route and in front of Union Station to “experience” something this football franchise hasn’t done for 50 years. Hank Stram . . . Lenny Dawson . . . Lamar Hunt? Names and faces some of us remember, many who don’t. A different era, and different culture and context, and yet the feeling of being together around a centering event perhaps spans the generations.

I don’t mean to get all pastor-y but . . . the folks gathered in the center of the city aren’t being checked for political party loyalty or economic status or racial or gender diversity, they gather as a “we” around a team that ignites the passion of what we hope is good, and right, and somehow finds a way to win after being behind in every single game through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. There’s something about a 24 year old “kid” who seems simply to have fun playing a game that is his job. Does he get paid an astounding amount of money? Yes. Will he get paid an offensive amount more in a new upcoming contract? Without a doubt. Do we live in a world where public school districts and teachers come to impasse, good people on every side, because the amount of dollars are too meager? Yes. Does that make sense? No. Is it human? Yes.

In a world of impeachment proceedings, and contract negotiation impasses, and downsizing, and increasing teen suicide rates, and misunderstandings, and stubbornness to change, and too much change too quickly; a football team with a seemingly long-suffering but good-spirited winning but not the Super one til now coach, with a humble and confident and generously child-like amazing quarterback, and an edgy, pushing the limits of partying hard tight end, and a much-maligned but what do you have to say to us now defense; brings us together across the harsh realities of life to a place where dreams somehow do come true.

So on this day a city gathers. In the Midwest, to some known as “fly-over country”, to celebrate all of what seems good and true and right and in its own way unexpected, because after all, we are still from the Midwest. Some will have the experience to put in their memory banks and on their memory sticks of taking their kids to a parade for the world championship football team which, at least as of now, is once in a lifetime. Some will go to enjoy an adult celebration which will include libations, perhaps to try and extend the winning euphoric and fairly fantasized feeling that winning is both everything and the only thing. Some will go to simply say they were there when the picture comes out of the million people gathered. Most will go because it just feels good and why not? On a freezing, gray, and a little bit snowy day in February, a bright spot before spring comes is never a bad thing.

What will it mean in the long run? Honestly? Insert gentle smile here from a former athlete who still loves most all sports. Mostly nothing. Don’t misunderstand. The things I learned from both team and individual sports I believe have enriched, encouraged, and are certainly very much a part of the foundation of my development as a person. And learning to lose and win well was priceless. But the rare winning of a trophy or a single game? At least for me, not the value I carry from those days. We will always be able to say we witnessed Kansas City winning the World Series in 2015, and the Superbowl in 2020. And it changed our lives? Maybe not so much. Mumble, growl, harrumph and under-the-breath, killjoy pastor, right? And also let me say this, I believe the most mature statement made and why I respect this coach named Andy, is his perspective that while he’s certainly glad they won the Superbowl, that is not his definition of success and that he “doesn’t really worry about those things,” meaning individual records and number of Superbowls and what the press or former players and coaches who are now commentators say, or even how the culture defines him as: “the winningest coach never to win a Superbowl.” It’s simply not how he defines himself or his vocation as coach. He went on to state that for him, working with the players and watching them grow and develop as athletes, people, and as a team is his greatest fun. I choose to believe him and the authenticity of that statement. The wins and losses he takes in stride as part of life. I believe no small amount of that wisdom comes from having lost a child who was a young adult to an overdose of heroin. In the infrequent times he’s spoken of it, he relays the disease of addiction to that substance and how difficult that battle was to fight for his son and his family. The journey of grief they have walked, survived, and held onto each other through, deepens a perspective on a singular win or loss, even in the Superbowl I believe. A winning Superbowl coach having that platform to talk about the meaningful nature of relationships with his players and wanting the best for them, is a lasting value of that singular game perhaps.

Tonight on the news in everyplace except probably Kansas City, the lead story will be the outcome of the vote on impeachment. Already today there is vitriol on social media platforms about the behavior of our nation’s political leaders on every side last night at the State of the Union. Sigh. Tomorrow on the news, including Kansas City, the latest places of gun violence, the on-going aftermath of weather-related disasters, the continued migrations of people across the world fleeing violence and/or seeking refuge from starvation and drought. Wheeee . . . take me back to the parade, right?

I was talking about Max the dog with a friend the other day, and how I think he has some PTSD from his years of being chained to a tree everyday likely including the coldest of cold of winter. He sometimes visibly trembles when he races back to the door, and I think is terribly afraid I won’t let him back in from his needed romp in the yard or early morning walks when it’s so cold. This friend told me that the gift dogs have is that while they have long memories, they also live completely in the present moment. So while Max may indeed be having an averse response to being left outside, every time we come in it’s like Christmas all over again, and his zoomies make my heart so very happy. It doesn’t remove the pain from his past, but his celebration of the present is undimmed.

Finally that’s where the journey of this blog takes me this day. It doesn’t remove the pain from his past, but his celebration of the present is undimmed.

Today we celebrate Kansas City – both Missouri and Kansas – snort! Let’s celebrate this team and this coach and a Superbowl win. Let’s celebrate our midwestern roots and spirit and way of looking at life in all of its frustrations and glory. Do some zoomies, if not physically because some of us might break a hip, at least spiritually. And tomorrow when the “Red” snow day is over and reality sets back in maybe we broaden our perspective to know that the struggle is real AND our celebration of the present can yet be undimmed.

How ‘bout those CHIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEFS!??! Because for we in the Midwest, there no place like . . . MAHOMES!!!!!