I was 9 years old in January 1967, when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers in the AFL-NFL Championship Game (which would later officially be called Super Bowl I).
I remember being excited about the game, watching it on TV from our home in Warrensburg, Missouri, and being disappointed by the loss. I really remember very little else.
But I clearly remember January 11, 1970, when the Chiefs played the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Even almost 50 years later, in my mind’s eye, I can see Len Dawson’s hitch pass to Otis Taylor in the flat. The image of Taylor juking past a couple of Vikings is plainly visible. And his unmolested run down the right sideline for a touchdown is forever burned in my memory.
For a fan of any sport, there is no purer moment of joy than the one where you realize, “Hey... we’re going to WIN THIS THING!” Other moments were to come. In my freshman year, my high school would win a state football championship. KU would win a pair of national basketball championships. And of course, the Royals would win the World Series twice. Each of those championships had those moments. But nothing compares to the heart-stopping, fist-pumping, adrenaline-crazed mania of that first one. And for me, it belongs to the Chiefs.
Still, I was — by any reasonable standard — only a casual fan. After the heartbreaking loss to the Miami Dolphins on Christmas Day 1971, I pretty much lost interest in the Chiefs.
But that would change on December 16, 1990. Under John Mackovic — and now, Marty Shottenheimer — the Chiefs had become a team on the rise.
My brother-in-law, Bob Badger, had been given a couple of lower-level end-zone tickets to the game against the Houston Oilers, and he asked me to join him. We watched as Warren Moon picked apart the Chiefs defense for 527 yards. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot today, but in 1990, it was more than anyone had thrown in a single game since 1951!
Yes... the Chiefs lost that game, but they gained two new lifelong fans.
We were nothing less than hooked by the excitement of the Arrowhead atmosphere, and couldn’t wait for more doses of it. The following season, the two of us went in on a pair of season tickets.
Normally I’d say, “and the rest is history.” But there’s another story to tell:
In 1973 — while I was still in high school — I began a career in radio. I won’t tell you the call letters of the small market stations where I spun records until the wee hours of the morning — you wouldn’t recognize them anyway! But as happens in those kinds of stations, I learned how to do a lot of things: write and edit copy, report news... just about everything. By the time I broke into the Kansas City market in the late ‘70s — where I worked at KWKI-FM and KKCI-FM — I had also gotten some experience with live sound and wanted to make that my career. By the late ‘80s, I was operating a small live sound business. One of my clients was KFKF-FM, for which I was doing broadcast remotes.
Then in 1993, I got a telephone call that would change my life. Jon Hart — one of my best friends from high school — was then producing the afternoon sports show on KCMO-AM. He called to say he was going to drive up to River Falls, Wisconsin, to spend a week at Chiefs training camp. Did I want to ride along? I said I’d love to! I figured I’d buy a cheap hotel room for the week in River Falls and have a blast.
Then it occurred to me: maybe the folks at KFKF would be interested in some reports from training camp, too. So I pitched the idea to them, and they said that if I could get myself there, they’d spring for press accommodations in the University of River Falls dorms (in those days — far from Kansas City — the media types stayed in the same dorm as the players) and I could send back training camp reports for the morning show.
So I loaded up a rack full of primitive digital audio editing gear, some cassette recorders and microphones, and headed to River Falls with Jon and KCMO’s IT guy (Neither Jon nor I can now remember his name, but he was hitching a ride to his family home in Minneapolis).
Along the way, we stopped to buy PVC pipe, a Coleman lantern lighter, several cans of hair spray and a bag of potatoes. Jon, you see, had thought it might be fun to see if we could get any of the Chiefs players interested in some potato cannon mischief during camp.
So in the back of the van between Kansas City and Minneapolis, the IT guy and I constructed a potato cannon that worked pretty well. By the end of the week in River Falls — after some experimentation, during which no one was seriously injured — we were able to fire a half-pound “baker” from the stadium press box completely across the field during practice. As it turned out, none of the players were interested in what we were doing — and a lot of the other media people regarded us suspiciously — but we sure had a lot of fun!
Meanwhile, I produced my reports for the KFKF morning show. I’ll never forget how intimidating it was to do sports “spot,” reporting for the first time by sticking a microphone into Joe Montana’s face, but I held my own. My reports were well-received back in Kansas City, and when I returned, I was asked if I wanted to cover the Chiefs for the season.
I stayed for 17.
In the 2009 season — my last covering the team — an earnest (and very excited!) young man was assigned a seat in the press box a few spots from mine. His name was Joel Thorman.
Over the course of a few games, I got to know and like Joel, and I decided to check out his web site: an amazing online community called Arrowhead Pride. I started reading, commenting and posting, and began a relationship that has lasted to this day.
I am honored to join the staff of this incredible publication. My heartfelt thanks to Joel and Chris — who were kind enough to give my early articles attention on AP — along with KOKO’s Marion Woods, who taught me well as a young man; KFKF’s Randy Birch and Dale Carter, who gave me the chance to follow this road; Pete Sweeney, who opened the gate at the end; and my beautiful and understanding wife Terri, who has supported me every step of the way.
And you. I wouldn’t be here today without the readers of Arrowhead Pride. Thank you.
is will be history.