From Arrowhead Stadium
As crowds go, the group of people that made their way on this sun splashed Sunday to the altar of all things red and gold were loud and boisterous and got the attention of the guys wearing the red helmets.
“It was great, our crowd was great today,” said DE Glenn Dorsey. “That makes such a difference.”
Actually the difference is not one of those questions like what comes first, the chicken or the egg? A loud, nasty Arrowhead crowd does not make the Chiefs a good team. Rather, it’s a good Chiefs team that makes the home folks rattle the ear drums of visiting teams and sometimes plays a part in the outcome of the games.
The Arrowhead Aura had dulled quite a bit before the 2010 season. Over the 2007-08-09 seasons, the Chiefs won a grand total of four home games. That’s four of 24. That’s victories over Minnesota and Cincinnati in 2007, Denver in 2008 and Pittsburgh in 2009. That 4-20 record is a winning percentage of .200 and included only four games where the difference in score was three points or less. In six of those 20 defeats, the difference was more than 14 points.
Â In the 1990s, the Chiefs record at Arrowhead was 63-17, or a winning percentage of .786. They never lost more than three home games in a season.
All that died at the turn of the century and got worse in the last few seasons. The team was bad on the field, and the fans reflected that in the stands. They did that mostly by disguising themselves as empty seats and provided little in the way of visible or audible support.
That trend started in the 2007 season and really was rolling come the next season, a 2-14 disaster that helped lead to the complete upheaval of the organization, from the very top, to the very bottom. The Chiefs final home game of the 2009 season was blacked out, but that wasn’t even close to the first non-sellout for Arrowhead in recent seasons. It was just the first time the Hunt Family decided not to pay the money necessary to qualify for sellout status in the gate receipts formula.
Right now, there are no reliable figures for us to use to show just how far the Chiefs home-field advantage has fallen. The numbers the team releases are for paid attendance, and those figures are questionable at best. Getting truthful numbers out of the organization on season tickets is harder than getting nuclear launch codes from the Pentagon.
The Chiefs said the paid attendance was 66,247 for Sunday’s game. That’s not a number that really means anything. It doesn’t tell you how many people actually came through the turnstiles. It doesn’t tell you how many people paid the printed price for the tickets. It’s just a number they’ve thrown together.
There was far from a full-house in the stands for this game. Every section on every level had open seats. I’m not talking about two or three here and there. I’m talking about half a row here, a quarter of four or five rows of seats there.
That’s a reflection of a lot of things â€“ a less than marquee opponent, a 10-38 record in the previous three seasons, prices that are too high, an economy that has not yet made a full comeback and another half-dozen or so factors.
Whether the Arrowhead Aura will ever return to the days of the 1990s when it was created by the work of Carl Peterson and Marty Schottenheimer remains to be seen. In fact, it may be impossible. There was a confluence of events that happened in the early 1990s that led to Kansas City becoming one of the best football towns in America. Those circumstances won’t be repeated.
So the Chiefs of this decade and their fans have to create their own sense of togetherness, and there are signs that it’s happening. Winning all five of their home games is huge for a team that’s rebuilding like this current squad. Its how a team builds a confidence level within itself.
“Every time we get to come home, I think every man in that locker room is excited to play in front of our home crowd,” said QB Matt Cassel.”They bring so much energy and enthusiasm. The defense feels it, the offense feels it. It’s been pretty special to have Arrowhead back to where it should be.”
Whether Arrowhead is back to where it should be, or will be, or has been remains to be seen. What is visible is that the Chiefs feel like a bigger, stronger, tougher team when they are surrounded by their fans. Whether or not the fans fill every nook and cranny of the building like they used to, does not really matter at this point. Only one of them was around to really see that, guard Brian Waters.
All guys like Glenn Dorsey know is that in his three years here, the crowds have grown and they’ve started making more noise.
And every bit of emotion helps.
“We didn’t give people much to cheer about in the last couple years,” said Dorsey. “I wouldn’t have imagined they would have come and been all excited about seeing us win one game at home a year.
“We had to win them back. That was our job. I think we are making progress.”