The Kansas City Chiefs have lost 31 of their last 36 games, but someone at One Arrowhead Drive is enjoying themselves. In fact, something downright subversive is happening at Truman Sports Complex. The same NFL franchise that brought you Warpaint, the Tomahawk chop, Stealth Bomber flyovers, Ace Frehley performing the national anthem, and Bush campaign events are now doing…NBC sitcom parodies? What exactly is going on here?
Early this season, kcchiefs.com brought you “The Chiefs,” a parody of “The Office” that posits KC Wolf as the new “Director of Shenanigans” whose fur and clumsy feet make life difficult for prissy women in the copy and break rooms. There are some funny moments here, like KC Wolf high-fiving Chiefs President Denny Thum and the dive tackle of some guy in a Raiders hat who’s probably just doing advance work to make sure Al Davis’ oxygen tank will work in the private suite.
But something this weird and pointless can’t simply be taken at face value. They mastered the faux-documentary camera angles, created several props, coached the actors…a lot of time went into this by people who know what they’re doing with a camera (the second time I watched it, I laughed out loud at the picture of Todd Haley chewing somebody out to the gentle piano of Scranton). They even hold the reaction shots just a beat too long, as if there’s a real attempt at satire here.
There has to be something else at work. Is KC Wolf a metaphor for the last ten years of the Carl Peterson Era—KC Wolf as The Arrowhead Experience, which Carl spent his energy turning into profit rather than actually building a winning football team. But this is a lost opportunity, right? Doesn’t it make more sense to turn Carl Peterson into Michael Scott, desperately trying to be cool with Tony Gonzalez and rapping with Larry Johnson?
Better is the Chiefs’ new “30 Rock” parody “One Arrowhead” (yes, the Chiefs’ official address is One Arrowhead Drive), featuring Voice of the Chiefs Mitch Holthus as Jack Donaghey, former Chiefs wideout Danan Hughes as Tracy Jordan, and “Cheerleader Kerri” as Liz Lemon. Consider the detail here: the rhythm of the opening credits framed by Chiefs fans that looks like a reddened version of the original, the shots of Arrowhead spliced together like Rockefeller Center, the perfect timing of the smash-cut flashback gags (with “30 Rock” style strategic product placement), the camera’s tracking of the always-moving Donaghey character, the peppy music that greets Liz Lemon at the office…this is lovingly made skit. Again, a lot went into this—Mitch Holthus’ Alec Baldwin is very practiced; he nails the Baldwin mannerisms as much as you’d hope a play-by-play radio guy could. There may not be brilliance here, but there’s clearly extraordinary competence at work.
The Promotions Department must see this as some sort of ongoing saga—notice the continuation of the plot from “The Office” parody. The question is how to make sense of this. The only theory I’ve got is that this is some pent-up anger at Carl Peterson in the promotions department, and these are just subtle satires of King Carl’s management style. There’s actually some overlap here: the tough-negotiator, hardened worldview, arch-conservativism worldview is common to both the Peterson and Donaghey ethos.
But that seems a little high concept for the average Chiefs fan, don’t you think? Still, the production quality shows that at least some time, money, and creative energy went into these skits. But, again—why? I understand that when you’re battling the Lions, Browns, Raiders, and Rams for League Joke honors, you’ve got to think outside the promotions box to get people to the stadium. That’s how the Royals end up with Hot Dog Derby t-shirt night.
But which constituency of Chiefs Nation are NBC sitcom parodies aimed at? Can’t be disaffected western Kansas Bronco haters. Closet liberals from Johnson County who’ll pay $150 a ticket just to skip church and load the Tahoe up with smoked meat and baked beans? Maybe. Have the Chiefs raised ticket prices so high that only fundraiser-circuit city liberals can afford them? Perhaps. But still, this media personality speaks more to your average Chiefs fan (even if beer commercials try to convince us this is an average Chiefs fan). I mean, do these guys look like they think Tina Fey is even a little hot?
This advertizing campaign makes only slightly less sense than “From the fifty, anything’s possible.” That slogan at least symbolizes the grand mistake of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, who actually thought they had an 8-8 team. A more honest Chiefs promo would have Trace Adkins baritoning “Backed up against goal line, anything is possible.”
From a distance, it seems like the Promotions Department has no idea what to do with this crappy football team, so they’re just entertaining themselves. Fair enough, and more power to them. I can’t wait for KC Wolf to go back to community college or become head of Kansas City Parks and Recreation.