COMMENTARY: THE STREAK IS DEAD
From Arrowhead Stadium
There’s nothing nastier, or stinkier, or more painful than a losing streak. And nowhere is that harder to live with than in football.
In baseball, a 12-game losing streak means a team has gone without a victory for two weeks, and there’s another game to play tomorrow where the dive might end with a victory. In basketball and hockey, a 12-game losing streak would generally stretch over three weeks and again, there’s always another game to get ready for.
In the world of pro football, a 12-game losing streak means months, in some cases many months of sucking on the most sour lemon you can ever imagine. It’s dealing with a weekly dose of the foulest tasting medicine you could ever remember from your days as a child. There’s only one chance each week to wash it away, and when that passes with another disappointment, the curdling in the stomach causes heaven knows how many internal problems.
In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, it was 11 months and one week of pure football agony. It had been 343 days since the red and gold drank from the victory cup. There were nine defeats in a row to end the 2007 season and then an entire off-season for those that remained to think about the consequences and outcomes. Then, came three more weeks of agony to kickoff the 2008 season. There were a lot of new faces in new places but the same tired results were going up on the scoreboard.
It was a 12-game team record string of futility that called into question the competency of every employee of the franchise. The general manager was hung in effigy on the editorial pages of the local fish wrap. The head coach was declared an idiot on the sports talk shows. His coordinators and staff were sliced and diced on Internet message boards.
On a sun-splashed Sunday at Arrowhead, the Chiefs got the greatest mouthwash possible. They drove a stake through the heart of that ugly losing streak and beat the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos.
For this day, it was like the old Arrowhead again. The crowd was loud and for the most part supportive. The Chiefs came out and got a lead, something that they had not had in the previous 21 quarters, going back to game No. 14 of last season.
And the defense, the same group that had gotten bashed and battered on the field for the last two weeks, showed they had not given up the ship.
Even the special teams contributed some big plays, something that had not been coming from the kicking game in that losing streak.
Mostly, the Chiefs just went out and played football. The losing streak was forgotten. So was the last play. Everybody used to make fun of Marty Schottenheimer and his old clichÃ© “one play at a time” but it’s so true. A player, a team can’t play the game thinking about yesterday, or the most recent moment. He and they must move on.
That’s a hard concept for humans to accept. We are not wired that way, at least anybody above the level of a psychotic doesn’t think in that manner. The Chiefs defense had been giving up big plays and during the week Derrick Johnson had admitted that once the first one came, more were likely because there was that feeling of “Oh crap, it’s happening again” except he didn’t use the word crap.
Their head coach hammered them all week about living in the present, making that day’s practice the important thing. The next meeting was now a priority. What happened in Atlanta, or against the Raiders, or in New England or back into November and December of ’07 was no longer germane to their duties.
One play at a time. For another Sunday, it worked. It helped slay the ugliest losing streak in the NFL.
It’s not a cure-all. It doesn’t mean anything more than the Chiefs are 1-3. But a team has to start somewhere.
For the Chiefs, that start was Sunday. The streak is dead. Bury it.