Dee Ford woke up early Monday in a home across the pond, as they say, and then glanced at the phone on the nightstand.
The notifications had been buzzing all night. There were hundreds of them, a seemingly endless scroll of Twitter messages.
“You ruined my whole year,” one wrote.
“How the (bleep) do you sleep at night?” wrote another.
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What happened? Ford wondered.
But before we get any further, there are some things you should definitely know about Dee Ford: She is a 47-year old English woman; she watched her first American football game only five years ago; and she’s never been to Kansas City.
Oh, and one more thing: She had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the AFC Championship Game.
Confused? You aren’t alone.
See, Ford, who shares a name with the Chiefs linebacker who made a crucial blunder in the team’s loss to the Patriots on Sunday, is on social media under her own name. The exact handle: @dee_ford.
The Chiefs veteran does not have a Twitter account. But after he was lined up offside on a play, negating an interception that could have sealed a Kansas City victory and trip to the Super Bowl, fans let Ford have it.
The wrong one.
Because it apparently would take too long to verify they were tweeting at the correct person, Chiefs fans unloaded indecent messages toward a woman in Kent, England, tagging @dee_ford, just to make certain she saw them.
“The phone was going off literally nonstop,” she said. “Some of the things were quite vicious. The things they’re saying, he doesn’t deserve it.”
This story actually dates back five years, when Ford was still a college football player at Auburn. He won the senior bowl most valuable player award in February 2014, ahead of the NFL draft. By mistake, someone in the Auburn athletics department tagged the wrong Dee Ford in a congratulatory tweet. Fans replied, also congratulating a woman who had never watched a snap of American football.
“Luckily, it was all good stuff at that time,” she said.
This might become a regular thing, she thought. So what better way to handle it than to learn the sport?
She watched a couple of football games. She purchased a book to understand the rules. “And I was completely hooked,” she said.
The final step of fandom was finding a team to follow.
Ah, but of course: Follow Dee Ford. She cheers for the Chiefs, along with Auburn. In the fall, Auburn invited her to a football game. She accepted. Loved it.
Three years ago, the Chiefs played in London at Wembley Stadium. She attended that one, too. Met the Chiefs linebacker’s family. Spoke to him on the phone. They laughed about the Twitter connection.
“He’s genuinely one of the nicest people,” she said. “He’s always been good about this. He’s a really humble young man.”
She knew the Chiefs were playing Sunday and that it was a big game. She followed Ford all season and knew he’d had a productive year, with 13 sacks.
But the AFC Championship was on too late in her hometown. It was nearly 2 a.m. her time. No problem. She could check the result in the morning, she figured. Just log onto the internet and see what happened.
When she saw the notifications, she knew.
“I haven’t forgiven you. Hope you suffer the entire summer knowing u let your team down,” a user wrote.
“You took food from my families (sic) mouth tonight cause you couldn’t get ya 300-pound ass on your side,” said another.
And many others that are frankly too vulgar to mention in a newspaper.
To her credit, Ford has something of a go-with-the-flow approach to it. She’s cordial with those who make the mistake. Funny, even. “300 pounds? How dare you, sir,” she replied.
There seems to be a bit of an enjoyment to the attention that comes with it. Among her 5,500 followers, many are fans of the football player and acutely aware of who they’re actually following.
“I try to be funny with it,” she said. “If I didn’t take it that way, it might be quite upsetting. I’m glad I’m taking the flack and he’s not, because some of the things are quite nasty. I wouldn’t want him to see it.”