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A Fan's Notes: The #1 That Got Away

As the year comes to close, A Fan’s Notes commentator Victor Wishna looks back on “the year that was” in the world of Kansas City sports… with a glimmer of hope at what could be.

2012 will likely go down as a lost year for K.C. sports fans—that’s true for any year that begins with hope, as any sports fan’s year does, and ends in such disappointment. Sure, there were uplifting stories, the Olympics were a nice break, and it was an All-Star summer for Kansas City, but not so much the Royals, who again lost many more games than they won. Sporting KC was once more the best team in its league, until the playoffs. And the Kansas City Chiefs…well, this is probably the worst season in team history, for what has transpired on the field, and, tragically, off it.

Especially now, sports is providing little relief from the predicaments of the everyday. Rather than distract from violent headlines, they’ve added to them.

This Sunday, at Arrowhead—no, the season is not technically over yet—there’ll be one last diversion, and fittingly, it will be a glimpse of what might have been. And what possibly could be.

The Colts are in town with overall number-one draft-pick Andrew Luck, heralded as the most complete quarterback prospect since the legend he’s now replaced in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning. When the Chiefs threatened to bottom out last season, many of us dreamed of seeing Luck play at Arrowhead, and now it will finally happen, though he won’t be wearing a Chiefs uniform.

Barring the unthinkable—that is, that the world ends today, or the Chiefs win another game—they’re on track to claim the worst record in the NFL, and the first pick in next year’s draft. Surprisingly, it’s the first time they’ll have that “honor” since 1963, the team’s first year in Kansas City. This is not the way the front office planned to cap off the 50th-anniversary celebration.

Setting aside the injustice of it all—I mean, the Colts had their first losing season in ten years and parlayed it into the best rookie quarterback in a generation—there is actually inspiration to be drawn. A year after winning only two games, Indianapolis is headed back to the playoffs, the most electrifying team in the league. Besides Luck, the Colts also have a first-year coach, an entirely new coaching staff, and a new GM. Next year, the Chiefs might have all that, too. There’s no savior waiting in the wings—it’s not a good year for college quarterbacks—but who knows? If not yet hope, at least some change.

Call it a defense mechanism, but I’ll choose to find encouragement.

The great thing about being a sports fan is that—well, except for the statistics, record books, and all the shrines dedicated to past glories—it’s not about looking back. And it’s not about an escape from the problems of the real world—but a way to recharge for those challenges—the hills, valleys, and cliffs—that really matter. Sports is a place where it’s still okay to hope for the best.

Combined, Kansas City’s Royals and Chiefs have now gone forty-six seasons without a playoff win. That’s more than twice as many as any other city with both an NFL and Major League team. That stat is as disheartening as it is gratuitous. But the response is, of course, “There’s always next year.”

It starts in ten days. Sports fans here, as everywhere, will look forward to twenty-thirteen, as always, with hope for better times, new reasons to cheer, and maybe a little bit of luck.

Victor Wishna is a writer, editor, author, and sports fan.  He lives in Leawood.  You can hear “A Fan’s Notes” monthly on Up to Date.

Stephen Steigman is director of Classical KC. You can email him at <a href="mailto:Stephen.Steigman@classicalkc.org">Stephen.Steigman@classicalkc.org</a>.
Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.