It’s on days like this that only The Kansas City Star can put everything in context.
I’m talking, of course, about the Chiefs incredible win over the Packers yesterday in Romeo Crennel’s debut as head coach of the Chiefs.
I was yelling and screaming at the TV like I haven’t done in a long time. Like everyone else in town, I really wanted the Chiefs to win that game and for Crennel to have a great start after three years of suffering through that screwball Todd Haley, who most of the time looks like he stepped out from under a bridge with a cardboard sign.
But once the victory was in hand, there was nowhere to turn, immediately, for the reinforcement and analysis that would make the win complete.
Len Dawson and Mitch Holthus, as good as they are on the game broadcasts, can’t deliver the type of overview and analysis that a game like yesterday’s calls for. When Mitch asked Len for his reaction to the game, Len said, “I’m surprised; I really am.”
Uh, that’s not quite what we were looking for, Len…
The 101 The Fox post game show absolutely sucks. For one thing, you have to sit in torment through about 20 minutes of post-game advertisements just to get to “The Turning Point Play of the Game,” which, of course, was Jackie Battle’s fourth-quarter touchdown.
Then there’s another 10 to 15 minutes of ads, and along comes the inimitable Art Hains — he of the sonorous voice but vacant mind.
If you tuned in to Metro Sports, Channel 30 on Time Warner Cable, you got some fairly decent commentary from former Chiefs players Danan Hughes and Rich Baldinger. While it beats the heck out of 101 The Fox, Metro Sports still doesn’t give you any truly satisfying insight into the big questions, like, “Does this seal the deal for Crennel?” and “Is Orton now the long-term quarterback?”
So, what to do? If you’re like me, you turn off the radio, turn off the TV, enjoy the glow of victory and wait for Monday’s Star.
And when the paper hits the pavement, there it is, just what you’ve been waiting for — Sam Mellinger’s column, down the left side of the paper, above the fold, under a headline that reads, “In Big Win, KC Finds a Leader.”
He recounts the Gatorade bath, which prompted the first smile from the serious-minded Crennel, and then he tells me something I didn’t know — that Crennel wiped tears from his eyes as he walked off the field. (With that fatherly and comforting countenance, Crennel is already irresistible, but to know that he shed a tear or two makes you want to call Scott Pioli and demand that he immediately name Crennel as permanent head coach.)
Then, in his “nut graph,” Mellinger sums up what yesterday’s win meant to the organization.
“Three critical developments, in ascending order of importance, emerged from Sunday’s improbable upset: The Chiefs maintained a sliver of playoff hope, reminded a city that football can be fun and almost certainly found their new head coach.”
From Mellinger’s column, you go to the Sports Daily, where you find five full-length stories about the game and dozens of sidelights, including the “Do Tell the Truth” feature, which says of Crennel: “He is experienced, calm and popular. More than that, he showed Sunday that he’s an outstanding football coach.”
The “report card,” a popular fixture in reports of Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Chiefs games, gives the Chiefs an “A” in the coaching category.
“Romeo Crennel may have shown more true leadership in six days than Todd Haley did in three years,” the report says.
The two stories on the section front go right to the heart of the two big questions posed above. The headline on the top story is “Romeo wins players’ hearts,” and the second story, about Orton, carries this sub-head: “Who will be quarterback next year? Picture just got more complicated.”
In the story about Crennel, The Star wisely picked up the coach’s opening line from the post-game news conference:
“The Chiefs played a very good game today. They played the way I would like to see the Chiefs play all the time. They followed the game plan, they had energy, they had effort, and they played their hearts out.”
It struck me immediately, when I first heard him say it, that he didn’t say “we.” It was “they,” giving full credit to the players.
Sunday was a great day for the Chiefs, for Romeo Crennel and for Kyle Orton…And Monday was a great day for The Kansas City Star.
Congratulations, hometown paper! You made this former employee proud.