KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rob Riggle spent one long January day in 2019 trekking through snow and ice in Iceland to get to a remote location to film an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” At one point, he climbed a 40-foot ice wall. To his recollection, he ate a deer head for one of his meals. He would sleep that night on a glacier. He called the experience “hellish.”
He had one thought comforting him throughout the day. There was some semblance of satellite service, so he could follow the Kansas City Chiefs in their first AFC Championship Game in 25 years. “The game started at maybe midnight and I couldn’t get it on TV,” Riggle recalled of the Chiefs’ epic game against the New England Patriots. “But I had to know what was going on, and I could get updates maybe every five or 10 minutes. “I thought we had the game won. It was like 3 in the morning, and I should have been sleeping because I had another full day of hiking and trudging through snow. But I followed it getting updates every five or 10 minutes. I wasn’t going to miss that one.”
The Chiefs would lose 37-31 in overtime to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Riggle wasn’t the only famous fan disappointed in the outcome. Rock star Melissa Etheridge on occasion sings the national anthem before games at Arrowhead Stadium and won’t miss the Chiefs on TV, even when she’s on tour. Actor Eric Stonestreet, who starred in ABC’s “Modern Family,” has a suite at Arrowhead. Paul Rudd has frequently been spotted on the sideline before games and celebrated with quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the field after the Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
The list goes on. Actors Jason Sudeikis, Heidi Gardner, David Koechner, John Amos and Henry Cavill and NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer root for the Chiefs. Amos once had a tryout for the Chiefs as a running back. Gardner has said she would like to arrange for Mahomes and Travis Kelce to be guest hosts for “Saturday Night Live.” Why the Chiefs? It might seem random or that they are Johnny-come-latelies since the rise of Mahomes, but most of these famous fans actually have ties to the Kansas City area. And like all longtime Chiefs fans, they have earned these prosperous times because they suffered with the team through a lot of lean years and many disappointing losses before Mahomes became the starter in 2018.
“I keep having to pinch myself,” Etheridge said. “But I am now a fan of one of those teams with a special quarterback, and we’re expected to make it to the playoffs, and it’s not a surprise when we win a Super Bowl.” SOME OF ETHERIDGE’S earliest memories are of watching the Chiefs on TV from her Leavenworth, Kansas, home with her father, John — in particular, the Super Bowl IV win in 1970 over the Minnesota Vikings. “All those years since then, I would watch other teams with their great quarterbacks like Green Bay with Brett Favre and then Aaron Rodgers, and Indianapolis with Peyton Manning, and see them become dynasties, and I would think, ‘All we need is that one quarterback,'” she said.
“Then when the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, I was like, ‘Is this it? Is this the one?'” Etheridge lives in California now but says game day is Chiefs day in her home and added her kids “can basically get anything they want from me as long as they leave me alone to watch the Chiefs game.” “In the early ’90s, I was a little lost because I was in California and I’d get a Chiefs game on TV only now and then,” she said. “But when DirecTV started, I was right back in it again, every second of it.”
When she’s on tour, her bus is equipped with satellite television so she can watch the Chiefs. Occasionally when the signal isn’t clear, she’ll ask the driver to move to higher ground so she can watch uninterrupted. “That’s a real first-world, rock star problem,” she said. Others have their own Chiefs game-day routines. Stonestreet has his suite at Arrowhead where friends and family are welcome — but only if chatter is reduced. He doesn’t want to be distracted from the game. Last October, he was asked by officials with the NASCAR race in Kansas City to give the “Gentlemen, start your engines!” call, and he happily accepted. Then he realized the race was on a Sunday. A Chiefs Sunday.
“They asked me to do it maybe two months earlier, and I said I was in while not even thinking about it,” Stonestreet said. “A few days later, I texted them back and I said, ‘Hold on just a minute, I may have overcommitted because if that’s a home game, I can’t do it.'” It turned out the Chiefs were playing in Nashville that day against the Tennessee Titans, so he kept his commitment. He had to make alternative arrangements that day to watch Kansas City in a disappointing 27-3 loss. “I’m in the pits during the race and everybody is watching the race — except I’m over [there] sitting on a toolbox watching the Chiefs on my phone,” he said.
RIGGLE LIVES IN California but usually makes it back to Arrowhead for a couple of games every season. He also has done some promotional work for the Chiefs for their website or for use on the Arrowhead video board before or during games. He has even beaten the drum before games, an Arrowhead tradition. He hit the drum so hard one time he broke the drumstick. “Going to Arrowhead is a special thing,” Riggle said. “The tailgating is so unique. The parking lot smells like heaven, especially on a crisp, autumn day. It’s the best, the absolute best environment. You run the gantlet of emotion and memories and joyful times and close games and big wins. “Nothing but joyful memories there for me.”
Riggle once had a role on the Fox pregame show. He would always pick the Chiefs to win, even in 2012, when the Chiefs went 2-14. He has been that kind of fan. He said he remembers going to games in the 1980s, when Bo Jackson played for the Royals but against the Chiefs as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders. “Quite literally, one week we were hanging signs [at Kauffman Stadium] saying, ‘Bo knows baseball’ and ‘We love Bo’ and cheering for him and loving on him because he was the greatest thing on Earth, and then he comes back a week later to Arrowhead with the Raiders, and everybody was just all over his case,” Riggle said.
He won’t be heckling any of the Raiders on Monday night when they play against the Chiefs at Arrowhead. But Riggle will be wearing the red Chiefs T-shirt he said he’s put on for every game for the past seven years, or since it was what he was wearing for a 2016 game when the Chiefs made a dramatic comeback to beat the Chargers. Etheridge is readying for a series of shows in New York, but she will be watching nonetheless. Stonestreet will be in his Arrowhead suite, no doubt asking for quiet. They will all be pulling for the Chiefs.