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Rocky’s World: The battle for the Preston Road Trophy

The story of the trophy that the Hunt family and Jerry Jones have fought over for more than two decades.

NFL: NOV 05 Chiefs at Cowboys Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They say you can't go home again— that you can never regain a life you left behind.

Things that are gone are just gone — forever relegated to the ever-fading vapor of our unreliable memories. If we try to return home — to recreate the life that was lost — it can never be the genuine thing. Instead, it will be a hollow shell in the shape of a time and place that no longer exist.

The Preston Road Trophy is awarded to the winning team whenever the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys play against each other.

And like all trophies, it has a history.

It begins with the Chiefs' origin story — which reads like a John Steinback novel. The enigmatic son of an oil tycoon dreams of starting an NFL franchise in his hometown of Dallas. Texas. He tries to parlay his massive inheritance into achieving his dream — but this southern boy is rebuffed by the league, denying his ambition.

Chief’s Chief Photo by Shel Hershorn/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Instead of licking his wounds, the bold young heir shifts gears, attempting to purchase an existing franchise — the Chicago Cardinals — with the intent of moving it to Dallas. This plan is also unsuccessful.

Still, the young man is undeterred. He gathers together a group of businessmen he knows — all of whom, like himself, had been denied NFL franchises. Together, they start their own league. They call it the American Football League.

Pundits call Hunt a fool — and his group of AFL owners "the Foolish Club." The young man — just 27 years old — is wagering a small fortune on a very risky investment. They might be right. Maybe it is a foolish idea.

But sometimes, when you're young, it's better not to realize when you're acting foolishly. Some of life's most significant rewards often happen you don't worry about the consequences — when you just take your shot.

In the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, Boston Red Sox fan Sean (portrayed by Robin Williams) famously turns down a chance to attend the sixth game of the 1975 World Series because "he had to see about a girl" — thereby missing the 12-inning Boston victory that remains one of the greatest contests in series history.

For Hunt, "the girl" was the Dallas Texans.

Incensed at Hunt's audacity (and after a little bit of blackmail from oilman Clint Murchison Jr.), the NFL quickly moved to place a team of its own in Dallas. And the Cowboys were born.

During the first three seasons of their existence, both teams called the Cotton Bowl home. Right off the bat, Hunt's Texans outdrew the Cowboys, averaging an AFL-best 24,500 fans per game — partially because the NFL team just wasn't very good.

1960-Dallas Texans vs Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum - AFL American Football League
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Texans. Johnny Robinson(42) runs the ball while trying to avoid a tackle from Chargers defender Jimmy Sears(26).
Photo by Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

But despite having the more successful (and popular) team, Hunt knew it wasn't going to work; Dallas wasn't big enough to support two professional football teams. If the Texans were to survive, the team would have to leave the city where he grew up — and where he had dreamed of owning an NFL franchise.

Hunt scoured the country for a possible landing spot. He considered Atlanta and Miami — but then, Kansas City mayor H. Roe Bartle stepped in. He persuaded Hunt to relocate the Texans to Missouri on the promise that Bartle could triple the Texans' season ticket sales.

By 1966, the team's "Red Coaters" — a group of local businessmen that Bartle had organized — had fulfilled that promise. Chiefs games regularly drew more than 40,000 fans to the city's Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn.

Fast-forward to 1998. 35 years have passed since the Chiefs left Dallas. It has been a decade since Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys. The two billionaire owners now find themselves neighbors on Preston Road, where Hunt and his family had settled before Jones came to town.

But Hunt never forgot his history with the team whose owner had moved in down the street.

“Lamar never, ever forgot that rivalry,” former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said in 2017 as the Chiefs and Cowboys prepared to play each other. “He was on the board of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and I would sometimes go to the game with him. He was very proud of that stadium. He would walk me all around it and tell me the history. I could tell there was still a piece of him disappointed that he had to pull the Dallas Texans out of there to become the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Then this new, brash owner of the Dallas Cowboys moves right down the street from him.”

For Hunt, beating the Cowboys wasn't just about a particular game. It was about proving which team was better. It was about where each team called home.

So Hunt decided that there should be a symbol representing the NFL bragging rights in his neighborhood. Naturally, he called it the "Preston Road Trophy." And ever since, when the Chiefs and Cowboys have played each other, the traveling trophy has gone to the winning owner's home.

“It was typical of Lamar,” said Peterson. “He came up with this idea. It was his personality, but I know Jerry got such a kick out of it. It was just a wooden trophy but it was important. Lamar certainly enjoyed it. I know Jerry really appreciated it, too.

“It’s not much of a trophy to look at, but to the Chiefs — and I think to the Cowboys — it had some sentimental value.”

During an interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas — Jones recounted one time where he wanted to show the trophy to some friends. There was just one problem: the Chiefs had won the last meeting, so Jones did not have the trophy. He called Hunt, asking if he could borrow it for a while to show it off.

“The first time I asked him he said, ‘Oh, no, I don’t believe I’ll let you have possession because we’ve earned the possession. We’ll let you drive by with your friends and I’ll put it in the window and look at it.’ Later on [when] I had it, same thing. He wanted to show some people the Preston Road Trophy. I would let him have it. I made his wife come and get it and sign a receipt for it and be sure to bring it back in a day.”

The Cowboys won their 2017 meeting with the Chiefs 17-28, so the Preston Road Trophy resides with Jerry Jones.

Picking where his father left off, Clark Hunt has already reached out to Jones to remind him not to forget to bring the trophy when the two teams play at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

"I ran into Jerry about a month ago," Hunt told reporters on Thursday, "and I reminded him that he needed to bring the trophy. We'll see if he follows through — but we plan on getting it back, for sure."

Lamar Hunt was a consummate gentleman. At face value, the Preston Road Trophy appears to be a friendly wager between two neighbors. But on further review, you get the sense that it means more than that: it's the Hunt family's way of winning back a little piece of the Dallas dream that was taken from their patriarch.

But it's like the Garth Brooks song: "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

The story of Hunt's romance with the city of Dallas (and the birth of the Kansas City Chiefs) feels very much like a man reflecting years later on his first love — how they left you standing alone on the dance floor, holding the crumpled corsage you had bought for them.

At the time, you thought you would never find a love like that again — that nobody else could make you feel that way. But then, time passed. Life went on. You finally meet your spouse — and there, in the arms of love, you learn what home truly feels like.

The Chiefs have found their home in Kansas City. Now they just have to get their trophy back.

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