The Early Lead: Witnessing sports heartbreak from the inside
By BRANDON HURLEY
To shed a little light on where my absurd infatuation with sports began, let’s all take a step into my childhood home within the cozy confines of Ames, Iowa.
In fact, one of the best examples of who I am as a fan occurred just this past weekend as three generations of the Hurley family took in AFC Championship game.
Thankfully, we are not Patriot fans, and in fact, I’m not really much of a Kansas City Chiefs fan, either.
But my dad is a die-hard member of the Chiefs Kingdom, always has been. Sunday night was supposed to be gratifying for him and my two brothers. A trip to the pinnacle, a reward for patiently waiting all these years. A nearly five decade wait for the Chiefs to return to prominence. After the repeated disappointment of playoff shortcomings and disastrous regular season runs, this was it.
Sadly, and yet predictably because who was on the other side of the field, it wasn’t.
Sunday showcased the toughest part of being a sports fan, and I took it in first hand, as close to the heartbreak as one can be without actually living it.
Sunday’s disappointment, in a way, was fitting in how it came full circle. The last time my dad, Jim, saw the Chiefs play in a Super Bowl, he was nine years old.
Coincidentally, my nine year old was with me on the couch, begrudgingly to say the least, as he witnessed what it really means to be a Hurley sports fan.
I know this is hard for you to believe, but my son is not into watching football, in the slightest. So when my dad, and probably anyone watching in the stands or on TV, could feel the seemingly immortal Tom Brady sink his teeth into another classic comeback, and as the frustration built, my son retreated. He covered his ears, ducked his head and hid in the couch, not because he was afraid of what was happening on the football field, but because he knew what was coming. Even as a third grader, he’d been there for plenty of less than plesant sports moments.
While I wouldn’t call myself a Chiefs fan (Sunday was probably the first time I watched a KC game from opening kick to the end, shockingly), I was pulling for them to eek out the monumental win.
And as it’s become the norm with any Brady-led team, that outcome looked less and less likely as the game wore on. Even as the already superhuman Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs on not one, but two game-saving drives late in the fourth quarter, my dad saw the outcome coming.
This was not how it was supposed to go. The first AFC championship game in Arrowhead history couldn’t end like this, could it? How could Tom Brady rip the hearts out of yet another fan base, especially one that has been starving for playoff success for so long? Any amount of time was too much for Mr. Brady and his endless supply of weapons.
Once the Patriots punched home the game-winning touchdown in overtime, my dad had enough. And who could blame him? New England has been doing this for almost 20 years, and when you combine that with the bad luck of a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff game since the 90s entering these playoffs, a let down was inevitable.
But still, it was difficult to watch my dad and family go through such pain. Granted, sports don’t mean much in the long run, but it’s an important aspect of many millions of people around the world.
Lord knows how much sports are a part of my life… heck, I probably would be writing some boring article in a dark cubicle right now if it wasn’t for the spectacular beauty of sports.
It was a different feeling watching disappointment coarse through someone else’s veins, though. I’ve wondered many times what it would feel like to be a die-hard fan rooting for Tom Brady to do the unthinkable and fail, and I got very close to it.
As the overtime ended with that punctuating score, my dad clicked off the TV, shut his phone off and chucked the remote to the ground.
To be so close to the top after being down for so long hurts.
Try and tell me sports don’t matter? I don’t buy it one bit. There’s real pain out there. This is a game for more than just the athletes. It brings people together (and brings handfuls of delicious snacks to the table as well).
But, where would we be without a little pain. Losses are life lessons disguised as bad calls and unlikely comebacks.
Who wants to be a New York Yankees or LA Lakers fan anyway? Give me the torture any day, because when the victories come, it’ll be that much more rewarding.
I have faith the Chiefs will return, and my dad and brothers will finally drink in the pure ecstasy of victory.
Until then, grip the arm chair tightly, because the pain will continue.