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Tough times in Kansas City for Chiefs and their fans

By Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star Modified: October 8, 2012 at 11:38 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012

The Chiefs should be the most popular thing in town, right up there with the barbecue and affordable houses in great neighborhoods.

Instead, the men in charge are screwing it up.

The Chiefs need to be more accessible. That's the first thing. Kansas Citians are generally a warm people, except when they feel ignored.

Ewing Kauffman wore his blue blazer and waved from his suite during the seventh-inning stretch. Lamar Hunt made pregame rounds in a golf cart. That stuff matters here, almost certainly more than in other places. Maybe more than it should.

Winston doesn't understand this, and that's not his fault. He's been here five games. But what he heard was not a celebration of a man's head injury as much as it was the hopeful end to a quarterback situation that grew so ridiculous the coach devised entire game plans around it while refusing to make a change.

The narrative has been exaggerated in some ways, but right or wrong the Chiefs have an owner perceived to be detached and a general manager perceived to be arrogant. Kansas City fans have made the Chiefs one of the best-supported franchises in the NFL, but people here won't stand for perceiving detachment or arrogance. Ask David Glass.

The Chiefs are active in local charities and in May gave each season ticket holder a customized jersey, among other attempts to reach fans. Those are all good things, but it's important to recognize that it's also buried under a growing feeling among fans that the franchise cares more about profit margin than wins.

Cassel became the most visible symbol of every bit of this frustration — 19 years without a playoff win, tightened tailgating restrictions, a growing loyalty to the bottom line over goodwill — and that's not fair. He is a terrific backup quarterback being presented as a good starting quarterback, and so he receives more personal criticism than he should. In that way, the same organization that's made Cassel wealthy has also let him down.

This is all out there for everyone to see now. Nationally, people now think of the Chiefs as the team so bad their fans cheer injuries. Here in Kansas City we know there are a million fallacies in that, but if that's where it stops then we've all missed a critical opportunity.

Fans need to be better than to cheer an injury. The organization they pour money and passion into needs to be better than to let this much frustration build, too.

Some of this can be solved with a few wins. But the Chiefs are delusional if they don't see bigger issues that need to be addressed.

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