This Is My Bratwurst, Broken for Thee
The Dangerous Sacraments of Pro Football Fandom
July 1, 2001
It's 9:00 on Sunday morning, and the parking lot is already crowded. Tired families emerge from their cars, parents unfastening car seats while children wipe the sleep from their eyes. It's cold out and threatening to snow, but it's Sunday, so this is where the family is supposed to be. It isn't Pentecost, but everyone's wearing red.
The scene, of course, is Parking Lot G at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. These families are here to "tailgate"-to share bratwurst and beer, prognostication and potato salad. Look closer: families join into extended clans and social groups, which vary only slightly from week to week. The call and response are repeated: the mournful confession of the team's shortcomings ("Could be tough out there today") met with the eschatological hope of victory ("Our boys can do it"). There are smiles and handshakes all around, especially as the temperature rises, food fills stomachs, and the beverages flow. And the smoke of a thousand portable grills curls toward the heavens carrying that day's plans for camaraderie and success.
In an hour or two, some of these people will meander over to the stadium and watch a football game. They will cheer or condemn acts of strength and skill, mourn or celebrate the advancement of a ball across white lines. They will question those in authority, debate minutiae with people they care about, exult with strangers, and bow down to distant men wearing bright-colored numbers on their shirts.
Clearly, something is happening here.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished the 2000 season with seven wins and nine losses. Their cumulative win-loss record over the last three seasons is 23-25. After a record-breaking string of six consecutive postseason appearances in the ...