Disappointment. Optimism. Disappointment.
On and on the cycle goes for the Kansas City Chiefs. While I expect this column won’t make me a popular guy in Kansas City (which happens to be my hometown), what I’m about to say needs to be said.
The problem with the Chiefs has very little do with the Chiefs.
Or Todd Haley.
Or the injury bug.
Or Scott Pioli.
The problem with the Chiefs is that Kansas City, as a sports town, is loyal to their own detriment.
It also explains why David Glass – owner of the Kansas City Royals – has raked in eight-figure profits for the better part of three decades on a franchise that hasn’t sniffed the postseason since Jean Claude Van Damme could still do a spin kick.
It’s no secret: Kansas City loves their Chiefs. I know it, you know it, but most importantly, the Hunt family knows it.
Stop right there. I already know what you’re thinking:
Jason, you don’t get it. Being a sports fan is about loyalty. It’s about supporting your team even when you don’t understand the decisions they make. Even when they ask you to pay outrageous prices to watch a sub-.500 team punt the ball in 25 degree weather. Even when they ask you to increase taxes so they can make improvements to their stadium. Even when they ask you for a seven-year commitment to purchase premier level tickets (or suites).
If Kansas City fans were investors, and the Chiefs were a failing stock, the majority of the fan base would lose unheralded amounts of money in the name of being loyal.
The cycle is really simple:
Franchises appeal to their customers through the media. Why do you think they provide so many of those anonymous sources we all love so much? They desperately want the media to pay attention. In turn, the media appeals to their customers by giving them stories they’ll read/watch/listen to. They gauge the customer’s interest(s), and build their business around whatever that is.
The customer – in both cases – are the fans of a given franchise. And we all know the customer is always right.
Case and point: At media day last week, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak looked on through the glass of his office at Staples Center. When ESPN-LA columnist Ramona Shelburne gestured for him to come downstairs and chat, he sternly mouthed back: No way.
Why? Kupchak knew he couldn’t speak a word to the media until he had something to say that would be acceptable to Lakers fans. Big-market L.A. fans understand that if there’s enough outrage and a serious willingness to stop purchasing an already overpriced product, ownership will ultimately realize that the following equation is true:
Marketable Players + Winning = Profitable Bottom Line, instead of what’s currently going on in Kansas City:
Mediocre Product + Consistent Losing = Profitable Bottom Line.
When the loyalty is scaled back and profits suffer, owners and GM’s are forced into the following thought process:
We’re losing money and our fans are upset. Why? What do they want? I mean, it makes sense that they want a winner. So, if we want to make this a profitable business, I guess that means we have to win.
Once ownership accepts that as a prerequisite for success, everything they do – from player acquisitions to coaching decisions – is an attempt to build a winner.
The fans in those cities have their sports franchises so terrified that they spend ungodly amounts of money to keep their customers happy. And you know what? It works.
You want a winner in Kansas City?
Stop renewing your season tickets on the basis of loyalty. Stop accepting mediocrity every season. Stop looking ahead to next season when management hasn’t provided any sort of accountability for this season. Stop being so obnoxiously (and embarrassingly) loyal when the situation really calls for outrage.
And for God’s sake, stop feeling sorry for yourselves if you’re going to continue being the stupid girl who runs back to her abusive boyfriend.
It’s not being a fair weather fan. It’s not displaying a lack of loyalty. It’s simply putting the emphasis back on where it should be:
Because if you’re not a winner, well…
You’re just another loser.
Jason Riley is a columnist for STNTV, and the editor-in-chief for LakerNation.com. He is also the co-host of Voice of the Nation, a weekly Lakers Podcast and web show for Fox Sports Radio: L.A. and LakerNation.com.