[Editor’s Note: The original idea for this story included write-ups on a place for Charlotte fans to watch the Kansas City Chiefs play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, as well as a place to watch their opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles. However, our request for an interview with someone at Big Ben’s Pub, where an Eagles fan club meets, was declined. So, to Eagles fans: We tried.]
I arrived in North Carolina last November for a job opportunity, having left Kansas City behind, ready to trade my hometown for the Tar Heel version of the big city. I got here around the same time Baker Mayfield did, a chance for a potential new slate, but any real football fan knows you just don’t trade in your franchise loyalty — not when your quarterback is Patrick Mahomes, your tight end is in the top three in reception yards among all receivers, and your defense is finally delivering.
The Chiefs’ kingdom. It was something to hang on to when I signed a lease on an apartment, got to work, met the locals, and realized that something unignorable was still bothering me. At first, I thought it was the high cost of living, only it was a mild case of homesickness, exacerbated by all the excitement that comes with the first half of the NFL season.
And so, to cure my Kansas City Blues, I went to Tyber Creek Pub to find a little bit of Arrowhead Stadium. There I met with Owen Ballard, an admin for the Charlotte Chiefs Fans Facebook group.
Ballard is originally from Pennsylvania but grew up rooting for the Chiefs, having inherited the fandom from his father. It was in 2018 when Ballard got involved with the group, the year Mahomes became starting quarterback. At the time, the Facebook group only had about 16 members not including Ballard.
Having yet to decide on a home bar to watch games at that point, the group would just rotate around Charlotte to different places during the season. It was during the summer of 2019 that the group decided to make Tyber Creek Pub their home base.
“We got together and were like, ‘Let’s pick a home bar.’ We came here (to Tyber Creek), scheduled a meeting with the manager at the time and said, ‘We’d love to do this every week’ and they were like ‘Let’s do it.’” Ballard recalled.
Since then, Ballard has watched almost every Chiefs game at the pub, and in the process watched the amount of people who attend increase, too. On Facebook, the group has gone from 17 members to 566 in just four years.
Ballard said he’s witnessed it turn from a simple watch-party to a community.
“I joke around and say it’s the best time you can have outside of Arrowhead,” Ballard said. “The amount of people that come up to me and tell me ‘I’ve met this person or this is my friend now,’ is the best part about it.”
My first time at the pub was during a Week 13 regular season game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. When I pulled into the parking lot, the outside patio at the pub was filled with young parents chatting over drinks while kids ran around a large moon-bounce castle. Not what I was expecting.
I walked in, taking comfort in the Chiefs flag hanging outside, but didn’t see many Chiefs fans in the downstairs bar. Apparently, the kids and parents were there for some unrelated event. I took a few more steps toward a flight of stairs and heard a raging kingdom above me. I ran up and saw the sea of red: my people.
Travis Kelce jerseys, red sweatshirts and Kansas City hats everywhere. A DJ was playing music during commercial breaks. People were walking and chatting from table to table. I found out not everyone was from Kansas City; there were die-hard fans from all over the country and, in true Midwest fashion, everyone was friendly. People were shouting, cursing Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and buying drinks for one another. I knew by the end of the first quarter that this would be my spot for the rest of the year.
Another person I met while attending games was Nate Stodghill. A Kansas City native, Stodghill’s face was covered in red-and-black face paint when we started talking at the bar.
He told me a story that serves as a great example of how this community has come together:
During Super Bowl LV in 2021, in which the Chiefs played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the group was able to sweeten a disappointing loss to Tom Brady (we won the previous year!) by raising money for a Kansas City organization called Parenting Children with Special Needs that Stodghill used to work with. Charlotte Chiefs Fans raised $800 dollars to buy a customized wheelchair for a girl who needed one that night.
Stodghill insisted that, while the Chiefs’ recent success may attract more folks than were involved in years past, it’s the environment and friendliness of everyone at Tyber Creek that hooks them in and convinces them to come back.
“One of the biggest things I hear from newcomers is they’re nervous because they don’t know anybody, but my answer is always the same: ‘Dude everybody’s a Chiefs fan,’” Stodghill said. “As soon as you meet us, it’s like you’ve known us your whole life.”
It might be a cliche, but sports bring people together. Fandom has the power to heal loneliness and throw any other division you may have with someone out the window, as I’ve witnessed at any number of similar fan club watch parties around the city since moving here.
I also know this is true from my own experience; I was one of those people who reluctantly showed up alone for Week 13 and have since been to every game at Tyber Creek Pub. I’ve shared the joy of winning, the sorrow of losing and a large amount of drinks with people I never would have met without this community.
Now here we are; the Chiefs play the Philadelphia Eagles this coming Sunday during Super Bowl LVII (that’s 57 for those non-Romans out there). Chiefs kingdom will be out in full force at Tyber Creek Pub, so there’s no need to watch alone.
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