The scene was set. Arrowhead Stadium. AFC Championship, Patriots and Chiefs; the new stud QB Patrick Mahomes vs the all-time greatest QB Tom Brady.
Shoot, even Joe Montana was there! THEE place to be and we were not disappointed.
I myself had been in three separate states throughout the week from KC to Denver, Denver to KC, KC to Omaha, and leaving Omaha on an early 6 a.m. drive back to KC for the biggest game in decades. Sometimes you just do what you have to do.
So cruising down I-80 to I-29, I went to meet up with friends and co-workers on our Chiefs bus. And, not to mention, about 70,000 layered up and foaming at the mouth Chiefs fans was not a problem.
The Pregame Tailgate
The city had been starved for this (unlike their BBQ) and despite the chilling temps and windchill, Chiefs Kingdom was ready to host the epic showdown.
Arriving at the stadium around noon on Bus 58, named after the late great Derrick Thomas, where the windows were still frozen from the night before and cheers began as people began wiping their respective windows from the seat to see the stadium that most have seen several times but this time was different.
See, the Chiefs haven’t had the best playoff home record but after the previous weeks’ Divisional Round win versus the Colts, the proverbial monkey was off their back and optimism of a Super Bowl was in the air.
The AFC Championship was upon us, and practically in my lap. Just like the 30+ dudes on the bus:
Arrowhead, known for their tailgating and the smell of the best BBQ, was primed and everyone was wearing their red, Chiefs jerseys and more layers than the seven layer dip people were snacking on before firing up the grill.
Tents were up to brace people for the cold, heaters going in those very tents and some adult beverages were all necessities in surviving this five hour plus pregame extravaganza with kick-off set for 5:40 p.m.
The emotional vibe was all across the board in speaking to several fans from insane excitement and confidence to skepticism and flat out nervousness since it was after all the Patriots led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Oh not to mention this was the first time Kansas City had hosted an AFC Championship, ever. So it was kind of a big deal.
Fans actively participated in creating their own lodge like atmosphere around their buses and vehicles to withstand these frigid temperatures. By just after 5 p.m. the temperature had dipped below 20 degrees with a wind chill at 8 degrees and you felt every bit of it.
Spectators made their approach to the stadium to avoid the brutal lines that undoubtedly would stack up while feverishly trying to finish their last beverage. The wait was finally over, it was time to enter the madness and witness history.
The AFC Championship
If you’ve ever been to an NFL game you see similar things. But regardless, between the weather and the opening National Anthem with the flag and fireworks, it literally gives you the chills and on this particular day it didn’t disappoint.
As kickoff ensued the crowd was as wired as can be and as I made my way to my solo seat amongst absolute strangers I knew it would be an great experience.
Although the game started out very bleak for the home team you just knew it wasn’t going to continue after such an amazing season. I quickly made friends with my neighbors around me and some bros behind me with my witty comments and desperate cheers.
Before you knew it halftime was here and the Patriots had taken a 14-0 halftime lead.
The second half began and as I got back to my seat minutes after it had already began I heard a thunderous scream and the team I had seen all year apparently ramped back with a quick score.
I thought to myself, “here we go.” Upon my return I turned to my new bros and asked what happen and the response was equivalent to a young child telling their parents about their first sleepover party without barely taking a breath from all the excitement. We were back in the game. The AFC Championship was within our grasp!
The fourth quarter both teams exchanged blows like a heavy weight prize fight and with every score the mood swings were whipping as bad as the cold wind in my face. The beverages I had turned into more of a slushy drink which became more of a chore than a tasty ride.
At this point these new found friends I had hugged, high-fived and screamed with were all going through the same roller coaster ride I was but like every ride you take it must come to an end.
By now you know the outcome and after a clutch field goal by the Chiefs to get to overtime, the rest is history as the Patriots took the ball downfield and ended it.
The once sound deafening crowd went to an utter silence as people stormed out to the parking lot like an upset grounded teenager sent to their room. Silence then began to tantrums and frustrated fans began to voice their displeasure of the unfortunate outcome.
I arrived back at Bus 58 to our group and the vibe from the stadium poured into our cozy heated bus.
All the layers of winter gear came off and we all began to decompress. Some had much to say, some had very little and some simply called it a night for the ride home not wanting to deal with the reality.
The Conclusion – “Next Year Is OUR Year!”
At the end of the LONG day it was an awesome time!
The best part of the cold journey we had endured was knowing we experienced greatness on that field seeing legends and future legends go toe-to-toe.
One thing that commonly echoed during the post game was that optimism that we’ll be back for another round.
Though the darkness has engulfed us the future holds very bright, or at least that is what rocked us to bed on the ride home.
Goodnight Kansas City.