The Significance of Kansas City Chiefs’ Return to Championship Game

Fifty years ago this month, yours truly was not even born. Nevertheless, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in the World Championship of Professional Football on January 11, 1970, which was the final matchup between the American Football League and National Football League before the merger between the two adversaries was completed after four years. The Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl IV was also notable for being the first franchise to win a championship with having African-Americans comprising the majority of the team.

            Late owner Lamar Hunt, founder of the AFL, and head coach Hank Stram earned plaudits for having a broadminded approach to the procurement of talent by employing the services of Lloyd Wells who is said to have played an integral role in finding players from historically black colleges and universities. This development helped the AFL to fortify its rosters with talent to the point where it was almost an even playing field between the NFL and AFL. When the salaries of these players began to escalate, the two loggerheads were left with little choice but to create a merger in 1996 which led to a Common Draft and the institution of a championship game that became known as the Super Bowl.

            On Sunday, the Chiefs were finally able to secure their return to the Super Bowl after defeating the Tennessee Titans 35-24 in the AFC Championship Game that has Lamar Hunt’s name on it after a 50-hiatus the day for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In that spirit of their predecessors, Kansas City will take its diverse roster of talent and see what the talented, young quarterback Patrick Mahomes can do as they meet the San Francisco 49ers in Miami for Super Bowl LIV.

            Moreover, the exploits of Mahomes and his improvisational skills in throwing the football against the vaunted 49ers’ defense should lead to a compelling championship game compared to the hypnopompic quality of Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta. The dichotomy in styles of a prolific aerial assault and a balanced attack will provide even neutral observers reasons to watch the contest besides the commercials alone.

            If the Chiefs manage to become champions after five decades, head coach Andy Reid may be the happiest Chief of them all. Reid’s coaching career commenced approximately 12 years following the Chiefs’ last involvement in the Big Game as a graduate assistant at BYU. He has been involved in many areas in college and professional football over the decades and is seen by many as being quite deserving of obtaining the ultimate victory as head coach, but San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan has other ideas such as redeeming himself from the 28-3 debacle from his days in Atlanta.

            Of course, few people expect Reid to have a microphone attached to him as the late Stram did in 1970. Reid’s personality is seen as being more akin to the stereotypes of the Midwest by some, yet he will garner a bit more élan if he has an opportunity to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 2nd. Somehow the Lombardi and Hunt trophies should be a great sight adjacent to each other.

Super Bowl History Rankings

53.       Super Bowl XXIV (1990)

            San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10

            New Orleans, LA

52.       Super Bowl LIII (2019)

            New England Patriots 13, Los Angeles Rams 3

            Atlanta, Georgia

51.       Super Bowl XLVII (2014)

            Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

            East Rutherford, NJ

50.       Super Bowl XXVII (1993)

            Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17

            Pasadena, CA

49.       Super Bowl XXII (1988)

            Washington 42, Denver Broncos 10

            San Diego, CA

48.       Super Bowl XX (1986)

            Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10

            New Orleans, LA

47.       Super Bowl XXIX (1995)

            San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26

            Miami, FL

46.       Super Bowl XIX (1985)

            San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16

            Palo Alto, CA

45.       Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)

            Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21

            San Diego, CA

44.       Super Bowl XXXV (2001)

            Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

            Tampa, FL

43.       Super Bowl I* (1967)

            Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10

            Los Angeles, CA

42.       Super Bowl VI (1972)

            Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3

            New Orleans, LA

41.       Super Bowl XVIII (1984)

            Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington 9

            Tampa, FL

40.       Super Bowl 50 (L) [2016]

            Denver 24, Carolina Panthers 10

            Santa Clara, CA

39.       Super Bowl XXXI (1997)

            Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21

            New Orleans, LA

38.       Super Bowl II (1968)

            Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14

            Miami, FL

37.       Super Bowl IV (1970)

            Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7

            New Orleans, LA

36.       Super Bowl VIII (1974)

            Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7

            Houston, TX  

35.       Super Bowl XI (1977)

            Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14

            Pasadena, CA

34.       Super Bowl XII (1978)

            Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10

            New Orleans, LA

33.       Super Bowl XV (1981)

            Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelphia Eagles 10

            New Orleans, LA

32.       Super Bowl XXI (1987)

            New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20

            Pasadena, CA

31.       Super Bowl XXVI (1992)

            Washington 37, Buffalo Bills 13

            Minneapolis, MN

30.       Super Bowl XXVIII (1994)

            Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13

            Atlanta, GA

29.       Super Bowl XLI (2007)

            Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17

            Miami, FL

28.       Super Bowl XXXIII (1999)

            Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19

            Miami, FL

27.       Super Bowl XL (2006)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10

            Detroit, MI

26.       Super Bowl XIV (1980)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19

            Pasadena, CA

25.       Super Bowl XLIV (2010)

            New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17

            Miami Gardens, FL

24.       Super Bowl V (1971)

            Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13

            Miami, FL

23.       Super Bowl VII (1973)

            Miami Dolphins 14, Washington 7

            Los Angeles, CA

22.       Super Bowl XVII (1983)

            Washington 27, Miami Dolphins 17

            Pasadena, CA

21.       Super Bowl XVI (1982)

            San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21

            Pontiac, MI

20.       Super Bowl XXIII (1989)

            San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

            Miami, FL

19.       Super Bowl XXX (1996)

            Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

            Tempe, AZ

18.       Super Bowl XLV (2011)

            Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

            Arlington, TX

17.       Super Bowl XXXII (1998)

            Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

            San Diego, CA

16.       Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)

            St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

            Atlanta, GA

15.       Super Bowl III (1969)

            New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7

            Miami, FL

14.       Super Bowl IX (1975)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6

            New Orleans, LA

13.       Super Bowl XXV (1991)

            New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

            Tampa, FL

12.       Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)

            New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

            New Orleans, LA

11.       Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)

            New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

            Houston, TX

10.       Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)

            New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

            Jacksonville, FL

9.         Super Bowl XLIII (2009)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

            Tampa, FL

8.         Super Bowl XLVII (2013)

            Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31

            New Orleans, LA

7.         Super Bowl X (1976)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

            Miami, FL

6.         Super Bowl XLII (2008)

            New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

            Glendale, AZ

5.         Super Bowl XLVI (2012)

            New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

            Indianapolis, IN

4.         Super Bowl XIII (1979)

            Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

            Miami, FL

3.         Super Bowl XLIX (2015)

            New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

            Glendale, AZ

2.         Super Bowl LII (2018)

            Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33

            Minneapolis, MN

1.         Super Bowl LI (2017)

            New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 [OT]

            Houston, TX

David Stern: The Commissioner that I Remembered the Most

As news of the recent, unfortunate passing of former National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern began to intensify, many current and former athletes along with media personalities understandably became panegyric upon reflections of a man who was essential to the success of one of the best-run enterprises in North America. Stern, who was initially along the periphery of events, was an eyewitness to a professional sports league that was in transition.

Not long after the merger between the National Basketball Association and the American Basketball Association, Stern became a prominent member of the NBA’s general counsel. Although the merger was seen as a necessity in stabilizing professional basketball in the United States, the development was anything but a harbinger of health and prosperity for the NBA in the mid to late 1970s.

During the time, the prevailing attitude of media and fans alike was that the NBA was devolving into a moribund outfit with a perception that the preponderance of its athletes was illicit drug users. These rumors were pervasive to the point that fans chose sides in whether to romanticize or vilify these athletes in Wild West fashion probably due to a lack of understanding between the patrons and players resulting in a schism.

Nevertheless, the new NBA should have flourished with the infusion of talents such as Julius Erving (Dr. J.), George Gervin (The Iceman), and Artis Gilmore, but the phlegmatic public was far from enamored with professional basketball at the time. These problems resulted in the NBA Finals being aired on a tape-delay via CBS late in the decade because airing it on primetime seemed like a waste, especially when the network had the option of airing The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Dallas on Friday nights. Thus, the 1978 and 1979 NBA Finals between the Seattle SuperSonics and Washington Bullets seemed more like a ruse than reality.

The NBA was eventually granted a stay of execution following the sensation of the 1979 NCAA Championship game between Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores that became a fixture in basketball lore. The national championship game was so intriguing that fans eagerly followed these young men into the NBA the next season anticipating greatness.

The winds of change were afoot with the behind the scenes guidance of Stern by the early 1980s. With the NBA’s once nearly sunken vessel righted, outgoing NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien gleefully handed over governance to his apprentice, Stern, and the NBA was finally poised for prosperity and unprecedented league expansion as recruits Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton arrived.

Commissioner David Stern used his skills for jurisprudence and willingness to embrace mass media to advance public relations with the league so that average sports fans could relate to these athletes in more of an artistic fashion. The NBA players were more like skilled actors than perspiring behemoths and broadcast television could not get enough of it because they needed something to rely upon after the Super Bowl concluded.

Stern’s stewardship of the NBA from 1984-2014 will be written annals of Northern American sports history as to how effective leadership can catapult an organization from the nadir of its modern history to the apex of achievement to date. Yes, there were labor issues periodically like any other professional sport, but he was adept at maintaining professionalism and urbaneness during negotiations that ostensibly helped the owners and the Players Association be at least tolerant of each other.

 Perhaps, Stern’s most notable blunder was his endorsement of the microfiber basketball during the 2006-2007 season. The players were not impressed with the tactile nature of the ball that was unfamiliar to most. Nonetheless, Stern was willing, albeit reluctantly at first, to reverse his decision and return to using the previous basketball that was in existence since circa 1970.

Stern seemed like a balance between an autocrat and ambassador depending upon what was necessary for the benefit of the NBA and the game. With billions of dollars at stake, effective governance is of the utmost importance. Stern possessed these qualities and bequeathed an organization to Commissioner Adam Silver in a much better condition than what was handed to him back in 1984. Let that be his epitaph.