KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was the single most memorable memory that I’ll remember from my last trip to New England.
No, it wasn’t dining at Wahlburgers. Mike Marusarz – who is a workout freak and lives on a measured diet – ordered a salad … at Wahlburgers. It was the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. Heard of a cheat day, Mike?
But that was my #2 memory from when the Chiefs opened the season at the Patriots in 2017.
My #1 memory wasn’t even talking to Boston fans outside of Fenway Park during a Red Sox game. I asked them basic questions like “What state are the Kansas City Chiefs from?” Of course, we got plenty of “Kansas” answers. But we also got an “Oklahoma” … and one “Wyoming.” That was memorable.
But not the most memorable.
No, that award goes to a story. Or part of a story. Rather the beginning of a story that never got written.
You see, moments after Rob Gronkowski caught what was thought to be a touchdown that would run New England’s lead out to 14-0 midway through the first quarter on that early September night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, a beat writer from a local newspaper sitting in front of me pounded out “A banner night and a blowout win...” on his keyboard.
The Patriots were throwing a party that evening complete with rolling giant, replica trophies representing their five Super Bowl triumphs all over the field, along with inviting several of the men who helped earn those trophies from each of those teams back as guests of honor.
It was quite the celebration to be sure. Fireworks, a rock band, even Mark Wahlburg (whose burgers are delicious, Mike!) on the microphone.
And, to be honest, I didn’t disagree with the scribe sitting in front of me in the press box. I, too, thought the Pats were well on their way to victory. If this score stood, they would have 14 points on 14 plays. The Chiefs had run one play to that point and it was a fumble by a rookie running back who had never fumbled in college.
And Alex Smith doesn’t come from behind.
And the Chiefs defense was bad.
And it was Gillette Stadium where almost nobody wins besides the Patriots.
And it was the Patriots.
But then something happened. Gronk’s touchdown catch was reversed, largely because Gronk did not catch the touchdown pass.
And the Patriots went for it on 4th down but the Chiefs defense held them. The arrogance (or maybe expectation of a frequent result) that the sportswriter had in penning the first sentence of his game story hours before the game was to be over, was the same arrogance the Patriots themselves possessed in going for it on 4th down rather than just taking the three points early in the game.
Nevertheless, the sentence remained right there on his computer. “A banner night and a blowout win...”
But then something else happened. The Chiefs marched down and tied the game. I glanced down. He was typing again.
“A banner night and an expected win...”
Yeah so it probably wasn’t going to be a blowout, but of course it would be a Pats’ win.
Again, my money would have been on that result as well.
New England scored the next 10 points to make it 17-7. Back was our original headline:
“A banner night and a blowout win...”
This guy wasn’t big on waiting.
Kareem Hunt bounced back off the mat to score and make it a 17-14 New England lead at the half.
The second half was a flurry on the field and on the Dell keyboard.
Tyreek Hill touchdown to make it 21-17 Chiefs. “A banner night...”
Patriots take the lead 27-21. “A banner night and a hard-fought win...”
(He would write literally nothing else.)
Chiefs take the lead in the 4th quarter. “A banner night but...”
And by the time Charcandrick West scored with four minutes left to make it a 42-27 Chiefs lead, our hero had nothing written on his computer.
It wasn’t even a banner night any more.
I never got to read his full game story. Not even sure who he worked for.
But I viewed that as a turning point in the Chiefs franchise. To beat the Patriots you have to first get by the mystique. The confidence in that sportswriter was a reflection of the confidence of the fan base (and, let’s face it, he was probably a fan himself) which was a reflection of the confidence of that organization born in years (now decades) of winning. Of banner nights. And, yes, of blowout wins.
And sure, the Chiefs kind of turned into the Chiefs not long after that, contrasting their hot start with a lukewarm finish to the season and then they engaged another playoff flame out.
Plus, the Patriots did turn back into the Patriots, stomping all the way back to another Super Bowl.
But that Chiefs win showed Patriot fans, Patriot players, Patriots beat writers, Chiefs fans/writers/players and a certain back-up quarterback experiencing his first NFL game on the sidelines that night what the Chiefs are capable of.
I'm back to traveling to New England this weekend (along with Mike Marusarz and myself again). A lot has changed. There’s a Wahlburgers in Olathe now so that shine has worn off.
Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback now. And the Chiefs flat out have a better team.
Winning will still be hard there but it won’t be considered a fluke like last year. That mystique has been punctured.
It’s time the Kansas City Chiefs (from Missouri) start building toward their own banner nights.