Sunday, October 12, 2008


The front page of the sports section in today's Kansas City Star was dominated by two stories: Missouri's upset loss to Oklahoma State and the revelation that all-world tight end Tony Gonzalez is asking for a trade to a contender.

It's obviously a big deal here. Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite writers, wrote a column. So did Jason Whitlock, who is not one of my favorite writers. It's a big deal because Gonzalez is the only effective weapon on a brutally dysfunctional offense. Larry Johnson may or may not be a good runner, but it's impossible to determine with this offensive line and lack of receiving threats. Tony Gonzalez is the only player who puts any kind of fear into opposing defenses. Remove him from the equation and there is literally no one on that offense worth watching.

What bone will Brodie Croyle break today? Will Jamaal Charles break that swing pass for three yards or will he be stopped for no gain? Dantrell Savage: Great Receiver or The Greatest Receiver?

On another level, it really doesn't matter all that much. The Chiefs are a very bad football team with Tony Gonzalez at tight end. They're going to be a very bad football team if Gonzalez is traded. The difference between three wins and one win is inconsequential, except insofar as it relates to the draft. It would be nice for the Chiefs to get the number one overall pick and have their choice of Michael Oher, Andre Smith or whatever elite player strikes their fancy. Trade Tony, keep Tony, nothing of importance will change.

But this just seems like it would be another hammerblow for a fanbase and a city that have suffered so much athletic misery. Kimble Anders in 1993. Steve Bono in 1995. Elvis Grbac and John Elway in 1997. Peyton Manning in 2003. The years between those postseason disasters have been filled with football that was usually boring, occasionally schizophrenic but always mediocre. And it's not like Kansas City has been able to turn to the local Major League Baseball team for excitement.

And Gonzalez was nothing if not exciting. Since being drafted in 1997, he's been Kansas City's rock. He fought through double and triple teams, reeled in wobbly, inaccurate passes thrown by a bevvy of undistinguished quarterbacks. No one fought harder than Gonzalez to bring the town a championship.

But his appeal extended beyond the playing field. Gonzalez wasn't really a Kansas City kind of star, but that's what made him special. It's not that the Chiefs lacked great players...well, OK, it is that the Chiefs lacked great players, but they did have a few. The thing is, guys like Trent Green and Priest Holmes, while fantastic players and good individuals, were very much Kansas City stars: they did their jobs well, went about their lives pleasantly, didn't provide any distractions or draw the spotlight. That fit in well with the town's practiced demeanor.

But Gonzalez was a New York or Los Angeles kind of star. He was a big city, coastal star in a small market, Midwestern town. He's handsome, charismatic and willing to speak his mind. He enjoyed the clubs, the bars and the women. He wasn't obnoxious about it and he was never in the police blotter, but he did bring a little bit of Hollywood to Kansas City. As much as Kansas Citians enjoy their conspicuous geniality, it's nice to have that spark, that tiny reminder of a lifestyle most here (politely) shun.

No comments: