"This is Chiefs' Kingdom" read the giant highway billboard as the Charger pulled into Kansas City. We were here for one reason and one reason only: to see our beloved Kansas City Chiefs! I know what you're thinking (a) who the hell are the Chiefs? And (b) what the hell are two kids from Melbourne, Australia doing barracking for an American sports team? The Chiefs are an American football team - yes, that game with all the padding, helmets and ad breaks. It's actually an awesome game if you give it a chance to grow on you. As much as I hate to admit this, Kansas City is the NFL's equivalent of St Kilda (so you can see why Jess likes them!). In 50 years they have managed to win just one Super Bowl (back in 1970) and are the masters at snatching disappointment from the jaws of achievement. Despite making regular appearances in the playoffs, the Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since 1993 - when an aging Joe Montana was their Quarterback.
Speaking of Montana, he's one of the reasons why I'm a rabid Chiefs fan. You see, when I was a kid my Dad bought me a football game for my Atari Lynx, thinking it was Aussie Rules football. Well it turned out to be an NFL game. The Chiefs at that time had a roster packed with hall of famers like Montana, Marcus Allen, Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith - I realise this means b***** all to the Aussie readers of this blog - and were simply unbeatable in the game. "They must be the best team in the comp", I naively thought to my 7 year old self. Despite flirting with other teams over the years, my heart was well and truly set on KC. They would be my team.
I had been to KC once before to see the Chiefs. It was a whirlwind fly-in-and-out on game day experience and it went by so quickly, it had become a real blur in my mind. So this time we'd do it right: 10 WHOLE DAYS in Kansas City! This is the part where I should mention that, apart from seeing the Chiefs and trying the famous KC BBQ, there really is nothing else to do in KC. I kinda failed mention this to Jess when we booked in this part of the trip. That being said, we did manage to add a few non-Chiefs related things in our 10 days in KC such as:
- visiting KC's Country Club Plaza - an upscale shopping district modelled on the architecture of Sevilla, Spain. Here's an interesting fact: the Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile.
- celebrating our first Thanksgiving on U.S. soil with a homemade Asian chicken noodle soup. Yeah, I know it wasn't turkey but who the hell cooks a whole turkey for 2 people? After our soup we made our way to the Plaza to witness the annual Plaza Lights ceremony where all the buildings are lit up in Christmas coloured lights. A local celeb does the honours of flipping the switch. This year it was baseballer Alex Gordon, who led the Kansas City Royals to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. It was so cold that Jess thought she lost a toe to frostbite!
- taking part in the famous Black Friday shopping sales which take place the day after Thanksgiving. I picked up a heritage Joe Montana jersey and an X-men t-shirt, while Jess found herself a cool Chiefs top.
- tucking into the famous KC BBQ. We hit up one of the local "no frills" BBQ places called Arthur Bryant's and ate a rack of ribs that I'm sure belonged to a Brontosaurus. We also tried out Fiorella's Jack Stack - one of the more upmarket BBQ places in KC - for a selection of ribs, burnt ends and their famous cheesy corn. Of the two places, Jack Stack was our favourite but they were both amazing. The meat just dissolved in our mouths and the sauces were something else.
- enjoying a special early birthday cake and present reveal for me. Even though it's not my birthday until Jan 19, Jess prepared a Chiefs cake made out of a giant cookie and revealed what she was getting me for my birthday. It was something we would be doing later on our trip and it was going to be awesome. What was it? You'll have to read our Las Vegas blog in a few entries' time to find out.
- meeting some of the locals. KC people, and Midwesterners in general, are warmer than an Alice Springs summer and they love to hear your reasons for visiting their cities. But they're not always the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes knowledge of the rest of the world. One bloke asked me if we have any water in Australia. At first I thought he was asking about our recent droughts but then I realised he was asking if there were any beaches in Australia. I.e. was Australia an island or a landlocked country? Wow! Just…wow!
After 9 days of this, it was finally time for the game. A Sunday night showdown against the Denver Broncos - our arch enemy and one of the best ranked teams in the comp. The forecast was a chilly -7 degrees Celsius - far removed from anything we were familiar with in sun-kissed Australia. Jess made a sign that read "Chiefs fans from Down Under", we put on more layers than an onion and we headed out to Arrowhead Stadium early to join the tailgaters.
Tailgating in the USA is not what we think of in Australia - namely, when someone drives too close up your bum! It's a ritual made famous in KC where fans get to the game hours before kick-off, set up marquees, fire up the barbies and have a few drinks and laughs before heading into the game. Walking around the tailgating zone with our Aussie sign made us mini celebs. Everyone wanted to invite us over to their setup for a beer or a bite to eat and also to find how in the hell two Aussies ended up at a Chiefs game. We were on Cloud Nine as we headed into the stadium for kick-off.
Sadly, the game itself was a complete and utter fizzer. The Chiefs barely managed 60 yards of total offense by half time and it was clear from early on that it wasn't going to be our night. In spite of the terrible performance we had a ball. Even if we were guaranteed the same result, we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Kansas City turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip and, by the end of the 10 day stint, Jess had come to love the place too. So we'll definitely be going back there one day. Ok, maybe that was a bit of a stretch. Jess is giving me "the look".
Next stop: Austin, Texas