With the 2022 season clearly in sight, we’re taking you on a journey into one of the most sacred experiences in all of sport: a game day at Arrowhead Stadium.
Today is a big day. Not just because it’s Friday, or it’s payday for much of the Kingdom, or even because I’m golfing at the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend and almost certainly taking some cash at some of my best friends from college. It’s a beautiful day because it’s only two (2) more Fridays than we have to wait to have nfl regular season footballand three (3) more Fridays until we have Kansas City Chiefs Regular Season Football go absolutely ballistic.
The offseason is almost behind us. This week, the Chiefs made a series of cuts to bring the roster to 85 and are closing in on the final 53-man roster they will compete with in the regular season.
If you haven’t started your red friday tradition again, go ahead and change your clothes. I don’t care if you’re already in the office, go home and put on your chef’s outfit. Start planning what your game day routine and outfit will look like. After all, we’re getting so close to the start of the regular season that to fail to prepare is inevitably to prepare to fail.
But do me a favor just for a second: close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths, inhale and exhale. Smell the flowers. Blow out the candles. Repeat 3-4 times.
Take you to a place in your mind that is familiar to you but feels like a distant memory based on the end of last season. The freezing, miserable evening in January when we all gathered and collectively had our hearts ripped out is a thing of the past. We have seen spring come and go. We are now in the twilight of summer as we prepare for a football renaissance unlike any we have seen.
This is a place many of us have visited many times over the years. Some of us have only been there once or twice. Some never, but even seeing the atmosphere on a TV show is enough to electrify the senses and give the most hardened football fan the goosebumps. Where you go is Arrowhead Stadium. If you’ve never been, let me be your viewing sherpa for a standard NFL Sunday at the football mecca.
It all starts on Friday morning when you choose your Red Friday cup of the day. From there, on Saturday, you schedule your tailgate. Are we doing brats this week? Maybe fenders: Either way, you check off the list of all the things you need to ensure the parking experience is on par with the greatest tailgate on Earth:
- Tailgate tote full of plates, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, grill utensils and coozies? Check.
- Are the folding chairs and the tent stored away? Check.
- Do you remember the Bluetooth speaker? Check.
- Is the Chiefs flag properly folded and ready to display for hours in Lot F? Check.
- Propane? Check.
- Plenty of coolers filled with your favorite adult beverages or soft drinks, condiments or anything else that could go bad? Of course, check.
As the planning phase transitions into the execution phase, you try to rest on Saturday night. Can you? Well, it all depends on whether or not you are a normal person or a psychopath. I lean more towards the latter, so waking up at 3am on a game day and not being able to force myself back to sleep is a common occurrence.
For rabid hookers, your pilgrimage to football’s Mecca begins early, for the most part even before the sun so mystically and beautifully kisses the top of Arrowhead Stadium. For noon games, doors are supposed to open at 7 a.m. The problem? Traffic begins to slow on the interior thoroughfares of 435 and I-70, as well as on the many back roads long before the 7 a.m. alarm goes off. Thus, the influx usually begins around 6:30 a.m.
As vehicles pile up to claim their familiar territory in the parking lot, fans rush to set up their grills, tents and chairs. Some have been doing it for over 40 years; others are discovering the Arrowhead experience for the first time. You start to see clouds of smoke rising from everything from portable Weber grills to industrial-sized smokers. Ribs, burgers, brisket, wings… it’s all on the menu depending on where you are in the parking lot of real home football advantage.
You gather. You speculate what today’s game might bring. How many yards will Patrick Mahomes throw today? How many tackles will Nick Bolton rack up? Will Sack Nation do Sack Nation things to the opposing QB? You begin to stoke the fire that will inevitably echo through the Jackson County air for the next 7-8 hours. As game time approaches, you pack up your tailgate and let its utensils and gear rest until it’s called for again. The next step ? The journey into the gates.
The Arrowhead Experience
You walk past others doing exactly the same thing you came to do. A dozen more “What about those…?” will undoubtedly come your way. The right answer ? A “CHIEEEEEEEFFFFS” bellow. Use your big boy or big girl voice when doing this is key. When you first walk through the doors, you hear and participate in the timeless tradition of the Tomahawk Chop as you wait to pass through security. You then head to the seats.
If you’re on the upper deck, you knock in unison on the sheet metal coverings that line the sides of the spiral walkways. If you’re on the lower deck, you keep chopping, handing out sporadic “CHIIIEEEEFS” greetings to your cohorts, and heading to your usual concession stop for an in-stadium drink and probably a much-needed snack to help soak up. to some of the liquid enthusiasm you may or may not have consumed in the parking lot.
Over the next three hours, you are participating in something that has become more important than just watching a football game. You become the Arrowhead Advantage, part of the 142.2 decibels that make Arrowhead Stadium the loudest outdoor sports venue in the world. You’ll start by declaring Arrowhead the “home of the CHIEFS!” at the end of the national anthem. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get the full-body chills and swollen pride that come with a military flyover. Good luck not tearing up.
“start Me Upof the Rolling Stones will play early player intros, and you’ll begin the process of losing your voice as you bellow from your seat for your favorite offensive or defensive players – whichever band is announced that day – as they are beginning to feed on the rowdy atmosphere that set in around 6:30 that same morning in the parking lot.
You’ll develop instant camaraderie with those around you, assuming they’re also Chiefs fans, and a playful rivalry with opposing team fans who are unfortunate enough to be castaways in the Sea of Red. As the best budding friendships begin to grow, you’ll join the drums in the official opening rendition of the Tomahawk Chop, led by a Chiefs legend or one of Kansas City’s best. The opposing team’s problems are not beginning here, but they quickly go from 10 to 11.
When the action begins, you follow the cues of those who have set the tone for decades in the loudest place on Earth. Mahomes and the offense take the field first? Quiet, offended at work. If Chris Jones and the defense start the action, don’t plan on sitting down anytime soon, unless of course you’re lucky enough to experience a 3-and-out first set.
You will lose your voice by contributing to the noise. Your voice will rise to volume levels you never knew possible before. You will blister your palms when hitting the seat in front of you as an opposing offense attempts operate amidst the chaos that surrounds them. You’ll turn up the intensity of all the things mentioned above when you hear PA announcer Dale Carter say, “It’s THIIIIIIIIIIRD DOWN”. You will almost certainly curse the referees at some point. You will also thank them for the calls that go in the direction of the leaders. It’s the epitome of a love/hate relationship.
You will experience some of the highest highs and, at times, the lowest of the lows, depending on what game you are attending and how this contest plays out in front of you. But no matter what, you will be part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you are going through this with your child for the first time. Maybe you’re bringing a parent who’s been a longtime fan but never had the means to travel to Arrowhead for a game. Maybe you’re on the same gameday team you’ve attended dozens, if not hundreds of Chiefs games with.
No matter your situation, when you’re there, you’re part of the greatest home field advantage in all of professional sports: the Arrowhead Advantage.
Whether you’re watching from home or in person 23 days from now when the Chiefs kick off their season in Arizona, or 27 days from when they open the doors to Arrowhead for the first time this year, take pride in the fact that you are part of something that is unique not just to football, but to all sports. You’re part of a fanbase that not only supports their team maniacally, but does so, for the most part, with sportsmanship and class.
We support an organization that, from the top down, is run the right way. We support a team that has continued to work and outperform its competition at an unprecedented level over the past decade.
We’re all part of Chiefs Kingdom, and that’s something to be proud of. Let the football countdown begin.