I’ve lived in Philly for more than seven years, and though I’m proud to call this fantastic city my current residence, my true home will always be Kansas City.
Folks on the East Coast are usually surprised when I tell them – it’s information that demands reconciliation. “How do you like it out here?” “How’d you end up out here?” My parents are both from Brooklyn, so it’s not that unexpected that I could end up in this part of the country. Cheesesteaks are great (Jim’s is my favorite), but give me the fabulous barbecue of Arthur Bryant’s and Joe’s Kansas City. But what I never expected was how my Kansas upbringing would connect me and make me a better doctor for my Philadelphia patients.
“I saw you’re a Chiefs fan,” a new patient told me last year. “Oh?” I replied, wondering how this man sussed out my hardcore KC sports fandom. Then I realized he had seen a picture I posted on Twitter in full Chiefs regalia, which included a branded hat, gloves, scarf, and original vintage Joe Montana #19 jersey, with a full-on Chiefs onesie, to boot.
Though I enjoy engaging on social media, I had never before felt the collision of these worlds in the clinic room, and it made me hesitate. Though this dedicated passion to my hometown and childhood team must reveal some deeper part of who I am, I feared that exposure of this side of me to a new patient might inadvertently create distance. Especially in a city not known for its Chiefs fandom (with all due respect to the venerable Big Charlie’s Saloon in South Philly, aka Arrowhead East and Chiefs shrine in bar-form).
Yet it had the opposite effect. “I love Andy Reid," he told me.
Over the last few years, Chiefs coach Andy Reid has become a frequent topic between my Philadelphia patients and me. The respect and the affection they have for Andy seems like an old romantic relationship, with pangs of regret still raw years later. “I hope Andy wins, but watch out with those timeouts,” another patient cautioned.
To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, we all have something in common because we are all human. In my dermatology practice, I am blessed that my patient population is diverse socioeconomically, racially, ethnically, and socially. I meet people without homes and CEO donors to the health system; the worried well and the chronically disabled.
In any doctor-patient relationship, it is critical to connect, to help patients feel comfortable in a setting where they must often literally undress for a stranger. Naturally, when I moved to this city, I learned to speak Eagles (or, rather, Iggles). I watched the games, I felt this city’s devotion, and I knew that whenever there was a struggle to connect with someone in an exam room, I could always fall back on the Eagles. Yet I always wanted to be authentic, and I learned to share my Chiefs history, too.
When the Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl, it was amazing. I rushed down Broad Street to the crowds by City Hall and celebrated with everyone there (while hoping a person wouldn’t fall off a lamppost and crush me). Truly I felt the “Philly Special.”
Today, my Chiefs are now Super Bowl champions. After years of enduring some of the worst playoff losses (I recall as far back as the 1992 season, when I literally banged my head against a wall after we lost to the Chargers 17-0), my daughters and I all wear our Patrick Mahomes jerseys with pride.
Fellow suffering Chiefs fans, we have finally done it! Philadelphians left and right have said, “Go Chiefs!,” “Congrats!,” and “I’m so happy for Andy.” My patients and I can now share tales about the glory of winning these critical football games (and our shared hatred of those despicable Patriots).
Sports fandom speaks to a raw human need to come together as people, to fight through adversity, and celebrate when things go our way. Practicing medicine isn’t much different in that way. “How are your Chiefs doing?” a patient asked me last week. “Just trying to win another like the Eagles,” I replied. And we finally did.