I have this friend. Let’s call him Brotha E.
While having moved around quite a bit professionally over his career, E’s family hails from Philadelphia. Despite his liking of multiple teams, in multiple sports, one thing has always remained constant: his love for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Years ago, E got a job in Kansas City. They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. His stay there coincided with the rise of the modern Kansas City Chiefs. His gig afforded him cushy corporate seats at Arrowhead Stadium, the opportunity to hobnob with high-end Chiefs personnel and even meet the one they call the baby GOAT, Patrick Mahomes.
E quickly became a fan of the franchise, how it was run and jumped on the Chiefs bandwagon, which was fair considering he became close to the organization and many who work within it. It was a good time to be in Kansas City.
E is in his sixties, although you’d never know it because a) he doesn’t look like it and b) he lies about his age more than a 20-year-old trying to sneak into a nightclub. When the Chiefs face the Eagles in the upcoming Super Bowl LVII, I’m sure he’ll act maturely, not throwing a single chicken wing or uttering a single curse word, but after having rooted for both these teams and now having to choose but one, E will be conflicted.
What we have here is an exercise in human fanhood.
I hail from New York City. Here’s a little-known fact for you. My first sports love was the New York Mets. My uncle was a Mets fan. My mom was a Mets fan. My grandmother was a Mets fan. My dad… was a Yankees fan. ‘Nuff said. Growing up on the upper west side of Manhattan meant you were, at least in my household, a fan of the New York Mets. Any other option was inconceivable. These were the Ed Kranepool, Jerry Grote, Rusty Staub, Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Dave Kingman days. Those teams weren’t great, but they were ours.
Years later, we moved to Providence, Rhode Island. This was the late 1970s and the Boston Red Sox were overwhelmingly the team of the area. And why wouldn’t they be? Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, this was an easy team to fall in love with. Add to the fact that they were sworn enemies of the New York Yankees (the Mets’ more decorated and more obnoxious older brother) and I became a Red Sox fan through and through.
I rooted for both these teams ardently, until 1986, when I had to choose a side. The Mets and Red Sox met in the World Series that year. In the divorce, I chose the Red Sox. It was the wrong decision.
We don’t need to relive one strike away, Calvin Schiraldi, Mookie Wilson, Ray Knight and of course Bill Buckner. You know what happened in that series. Those images remain etched in 20th century sports lore as one of the most devastating and unlikely losses ever. I chose a side and as a result, ended up hating my first love.
Because that loss was so unfathomable, by 18 years old, I hated all things Mets when, at 8 years old, they were my everything.
Such is Brotha E’s current dilemma.
Of course, E is no longer 8, nor is he 18, but rather a mature adult who I’m sure will be able to watch this game rationally, wishing the players the best game possible, one in which sportsmanship rules and the best team wins.
Yeah, fuck all that! E will take a side (Philly) and he WILL end up hating the Chiefs if they win. He loves his Chiefs, but if they dismantle his Eagles or win in some unforeseen historic fashion, bitterness will most assuredly ensue. The man he once watched take the league by storm, who he once met and rooted for so feverishly, now stands to rip his heart out. There can be no cheering for both teams accompanied by some bullshit notion of a good game. This is the Super Bowl where no moral victories exist, only champions and also-rans.
And so, we have our character study in fanhood with E an unwilling participant. What happens when you are pressed to take a stand? What happens when you root so adamantly for two teams you imagine will never play each other and find them playing against each other on the world’s biggest stage? And what happens when the outcome is unimaginable?
The was the case in 1986 World Series for me, with a ball rolling through a first baseman’s legs, imprinted in sports history, and affecting my disdain for a franchise to this day.
What will happen to E’s affinity for the Kansas City Chiefs if they rip out the souls of Philadelphia? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.