The Maneater

Column: An ode to Arrowhead

For opposing quarterbacks to just get the snap off on third downs is a legitimate accomplishment.

I've been to the Colosseum. I've seen Bruce Springsteen live. I've been present for two World Series-clinching games. I stormed the field when Mizzou beat Oklahoma in 2010. These were life experiences that I will never forget. The size of the Colosseum, The Boss doing a stage dive, Yadi and Waino embracing, me trying to steal a lock of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert's hair — those moments will be captured in my memory forever.

This past Sunday, I went to the St. Louis Rams-Kansas City Chiefs game with three of my friends. I've been hearing about Arrowhead Stadium and the ocean of pavement that surrounds it for years. “Best tailgate in the NFL,” my Chiefs friends constantly tell me.

So my expectations were high as we pulled off I-70 at 10:30 a.m. for the noon kickoff. We parked about a half mile away from the Arrowhead, theoretically a 15-minute walk from the stadium. It took us well over a half an hour. Why? Because when you walk through the Sistine Chapel of tailgating, you take your time. You savor it.

I found out anything can be turned into a tailgate. Buses, vans, bikes. I saw an old meat truck that had been completely gutted in the back and now housed two bars, along with hardwood floors.

One guy was using his tailpipe to fire up his grill. Best idea? Probably not, but wow, did it look cool.

These vehicles housing a tailgate were Chiefs-centric, painted in bright red and yellow, most of the time with Chiefs decals to boot.

Oh and the smells. The smells of this parking lot. Kansas City is the (disputed) king of barbecue and, mother of God, was I reminded of that Sunday morning. It was like Arthur Bryant's, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s and Jack Stack had given out barbecue sauce-scented air fresheners as people pulled into the parking lots.

Five minutes in the parking lot outside of a Chiefs game would turn the most staunch vegan into a rabid carnivore.

Entering the game, I acknowledged to one of my friends that the tailgating scene had exceeded my expectations. I said I hoped Arrowhead, the supposed loudest stadium in the world, would as well.

“Just wait for the National Anthem,” my friend said.

How could I forget? Instead of singing “and the home of the brave,” Chiefs fans, Commies that they are, yell out in unison “and the home of the CHIEFS!

Chiefs fans love to desecrate the greatest song in the history of the world, regardless of whether they are at a Chiefs game. Grade school basketball games, pre-school dance recitals, Homecoming skits — it makes no difference. Loud and proud, “CHIEFS!”

I've always hated it. But on Sunday, as some washed up country star belted out that last line of the anthem — I’m more of a Florida Georgia Line and Nickelback guy, myself — the entire stadium erupted in “CHIEFS!”

I still don't like it, but it gave me goosebumps.

The “loudest stadium in the world” title? Well deserved. For opposing quarterbacks to just get the snap off on third downs is a legitimate accomplishment. Even for fans, the volume in that place is borderline uncomfortable when the opposing team has the ball. I was so moved by the passion and noise during the Chiefs players' introductions, I almost started crying. It's truly remarkable.

Yes, my Rams got stomped, as I correctly predicted in my column last week. But the experience I had on Sunday, in Arrowhead, in that atmosphere, was one of the best of my life.

I don't know much about the Romans, but if they tailgated the Colosseum the same way that Chiefs fans do Arrowhead, they truly were the greatest empire of all time.

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