Chiefs fans' waning interest is obvious to Hal Wagner, owns Ace Sports, a ticket brokerage that specializes in buying and selling Chiefs tickets. "A lot of people don't think the Chiefs are going to be any good," says Wagner.
The Chiefs haven't made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1993 postseason. The casual Chiefs fan who jumped on the team's bandwagon in the '90s because it was the cool thing to do might have traded in that pair of Zuba pants and $3,000 season tickets for an HDTV or a trip to Aspen.
Obviously, hardcore Chiefs fans aren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Peterson announced that the Chiefs sold an additional 1,000 season tickets this year (bringing the season ticket base to an all-time high of 73,000) to reward fans who have patiently remained on the waiting list for so many years. According to the Chiefs' ticket office, 7,000 fans remain on that list. If you're planning on adding your name, you'll be told to expect a call in about seven years.
But after calling 37 classified ads in The Kansas City Star, I discovered only two ticket resellers who had unloaded their 2001 Chiefs season tickets. While the resellers were eager to sell those tickets, they were very shy about seeing their names in this newspaper. We compromised and settled on using their first names only.
"Four years ago I sold my six fifty-yard-line seats for $6,500 cash money," says Dan of Overland Park. "This year I had to practically give the same guy a blowjob to get him to take them for $4,900."
The Chiefs sell their official season tickets for between $450 and $610, plus $180-$250 for a parking pass for the ten home games.
"I've got three good club-level seats for sale and no one is biting this year," says Larry of Independence. "Last year I got $2,500 for my tickets, but this year I can't even get nine dollars over face value. It doesn't make any sense with a new coach and a new quarterback."
Retailers are suffering, too. After watching much of last year's Chiefs gear end up on the bargain table, the J.C. Penney store at the Blue Ridge Mall, just down the road from the Truman Sports Complex, has adjusted its inventory. "We have cut back on our Chiefs apparel this year after the last couple of unsuccessful seasons," admits an employee who also asked not to be named in this story.
And for the first time in the Peterson era, an ugly phrase -- "no-shows" -- started being associated with Arrowhead Stadium last season. Jason Whitlock estimated that 5,000 to 6,000 fans stayed home for the Carolina game last September. By the season's end that number had swollen to 30,000 for a frigid mid-December game against Denver.
Lamar Hunt is paying Dick Vermeil $10 million during the next three years to turn those no-shows into face-painted crazies who once again live for Chiefs Sunday. The formula is simple: The Chiefs need to win.
"I think everything hinges on the Raiders game," says Ace Sports' Wagner. "Everything depends on whether the Chiefs can [beat Oakland] in the opener. Which is unfair against a quality opponent like the Raiders, but that's the way it is."
With 44 new players in camp, a new coaching staff in place, a new quarterback coming off a severe knee injury and completely new offensive and defensive systems to learn, the Chiefs will need the one thing their fans are unwilling to give. Patience.