My wife, Shelly, thinks I take sports way too seriously.
She’s probably right.
Sports is about all I’ve known since I could walk. I began reading newspaper sports sections when I was 6 years old. I probably have been either playing, watching or listening to sports for almost 50 years. It is the one avenue where I can release my energy while feeling a sense of accomplishment.
When spinal-fusion surgery ended my playing days, watching is all I had left.
The way I see it, there are three types of sports fans: those who casually follow teams or players, without much investment; the “bandwagon” fan who “cheers” for whichever — usually large market — team is winning at the moment; and those like me — fans who get caught up in a hometown team or player as a young child and ride the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with those teams, win or lose.
That’s what makes Kansas City fans so passionate — they seemingly are always rooting for the underdog — the small market from “farm” country going up against the media favorites on the coasts and Texas.
I cried in 2015 when the Royals won their first World Series in 30 years.
I didn’t cry when they won their first title in 1985, but in my defense I was 21, single, on the prowl and at a church function with no television, sprinting out to my car every few minutes to hang onto every word from the radio announcer before bolting back inside with glee to share the news as the Royals rolled to an 11-0 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7.
When the Royals lost Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, I was miserable for days. But they kept that team mostly intact and made their famous run a year later.
My wife was asleep next to me in bed as I tried to keep my emotions quelled a year later. I ran to the office computer to update Facebook in between most innings as the Royals — this time with less pressure because it was Game 5 — defeated the New York Mets.
And I cried.
I was just as miserable last season when the Chiefs advanced to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. I actually was in hysterics — for one brief moment until I saw a dreaded flag on the field that negated an almost sure game-clinching interception.
Fast-forward a year later and my Chiefs were back in the AFC title game.
My stomach in knots, nausea settling in and ulcers surely working their way into my stomach lining, I cheered — no, I pleaded — with the Chiefs to come back from another heart-wrenching deficit.
And as I sat on the edge of my seat watching the final seconds tick off the clock on the victory against the Tennessee Titans that sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time since I was 6 years old, I looked over at my wife and saw tears in her eyes.
She was happy for me, for she understood the years of anguish, the season after season of frustration and the toil that she knew this team took on my poor heart.
Then came the night game.
See, her favorite team is the San Francisco 49ers. Don’t ask me why. All I know is we both shared a love for Joe Montana before we had even met. On that glorious day in 1993 when news broke that “Joe Cool” was traded to the Chiefs, any allegiance I might have had with the 49ers died then and there.
As we watched the 49ers decimate the Green Bay Packers, we realized something we actually joked about when the season started: Wouldn’t it be totally awesome if our teams met in the Super Bowl?
It was anything but awesome.
I wanted to go to a Super Bowl party, where I thought my penchant for official-bashing and tantrum-throwing would subside in a public setting.
It didn’t help that the 49ers pulled out to a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. It also didn’t help that while Shelly supported me and my teams, when it was her team I was facing, I walked alone.
The more Shelly cheered for her 49ers, along with one other 49ers fan there that night, my sulking grew deeper and deeper. I didn’t want to watch anymore.
My long-held motto of, “I would rather read about them winning than watch them lose” was on full display. I was miserable and was probably taking everyone around me down as well.
We left before it was over, and Shelly badly injured her ankle in the process. When we reached the house, I tore off my No. 15 jersey and let it fall to the bedroom floor, then flung my Chiefs hat like a Frisbee across the room. I then plopped down on the bed in misery, cursing the gods for making me wait another year for a chance at glory.
Then I realized I had an injured wife to tend to.
As I went back into the family room to begin helping her with ice packs and wraps, I noticed she had the game on. I also noticed the Chiefs score a touchdown, making it a three-point game.
As we settled in and began discussing my earlier behavior, my mind drifted back to my school days, to my father, and to all the other times I sensed a scolding.
Then I noticed something else: The Chiefs scored again and had taken the lead.
I tried to downplay my renewed enthusiasm for the game, I really did. After all, now my precious wife’s team was losing. But when Damien Williams broke through the line to score another touchdown, and when Kendall Fuller made an incredible game-clinching interception, I could hardly contain myself.
Fortunately, I have a loving wife whose team actually has won the Big Game more than once in the past 50 years, and she told me to go on and celebrate.
Though she didn’t cry, I think I saw her crack a smile.
CourierTraveler sports editor Joey Sprinkle can be reached at SportsEditor@CTNewsOnline.com.