By halfway through the program, it appeared that everyone at the standing room only gathering at Miners Hall Museum last Sunday was feeling the Prosac-without-the-prescription uplift of accordion and polka music (as evidenced by their smiles and tapping feet).
Not to mention the ballroom and dance hall stories — laced with good times, love and gratitude — shared by those in attendance.
I’m betting that the same will be true this afternoon all across the Chief’s Kingdom as Kansas City takes the field in the Super Bowl.
It’s great to be back. We’ve waited a long time.
I am a little disappointed, though, it’s against the 49ers rather than the Packers, as I wanted to avenge our loss in the first AFL-NFL championship (later to be called the Super Bowl) in 1967.
Like a lot of Chief’s fans I was totally irked by Packer’s coach Vince Lombardi’s postgame statement, “I don’t think that Kansas City compares with the top teams in the NFL.”
Although Broadway Joe Namath and the Jets made him munch his words a little two years later by beating the Baltimore Colts, it was sure sweet when the Chiefs beat Minnesota the following year in Super Bowl IV, thereby serving up a full plate of raw crow to Lombardi.
Part of my ire at Lombardi was that in dissing the Chiefs he was dissing Henry Louis “Hank” Stram, Kansas City’s coach, greatly loved by players and fans alike,
who would go on record as one of the most successful coaches in professional football history.
Known affectionately by his players as “The Mentor,” he was a shrewd evaluator of talent. Five of his players — quarterback Len Dawson, linebacker Willie Lanier, linebacker Bobby Bell, defensive lineman Buck Buchanan and kicker Jan Stenerud — were voted into the Hall of Fame.
Chief’s linebacker Willie Lanier said of Stram, “All of us had a great joy in being able to experience the sport at the level we did because of his creative mind and the kind of personality that he put around you.”
“He knew how to win,” Len Dawson was quoted a saying. “A lot of people thought we always had the best talent, but that wasn’t always the case. He knew how to take advantage of our strengths and the opponents’ weaknesses. He was responsible for doing a lot of the things in the ’60s that teams are still using now.” (Note: Stram never had a defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator or special teams coach during his tenure with the Chiefs.)
Among Stram’s innovations were the “triple stack defense” and “the moving pocket,” which he used in Super Bowl IV to confound Vikings defenders and keep their mammoth defensive linemen from reaching his fleet-footed quarterback, Len Dawson.
Sound familiar? Current Chief’s coach Andy Reid, ranked by coaches and players alike as creator of the most innovative offensive schemes in the NFL, also has a fleet-footed quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, who’s seen by many to be most dangerous when he’s roaming out of the pocket.
And, just like Stram, Reid is much loved by his players, both current and former. To a man, they’d all love to see him win the big one. Reid, though, doesn’t come off as obsessed with winning a Super Bowl, or be feeling as much pressure going into the game as most of the media talking heads.
But Stram and Reid are like night and day when it comes to their overt personalities. Where Reid is soft spoken, Stram was a natural showman. Clutching a rolled up game plan in his fist, he shouted instructions from the sidelines — resplendent in his signature red vest and expensive toupee — like a carnival barker.
Stram might be best known for being the first coach to wear a wireless microphone for NFL Films during a Super Bowl game. Recorded comments from that game have become classics, the most quoted being "Just keep matriculatin' the ball down the field, boys."
He also chided a referee at one point, "How could all six of you miss that play?"
And was he consciously (or subliminally) calling out Vince Lombardi when he shouted out this assessment of the Vikings' ineffectual offensive play, "You can't do that in OUR league!"
So, as we gather to watch Andy Reid lead the Chiefs to victory today, lets not forget to raise one to Hank Stram and his teams that got it all started.
And if, God forbid, we lose the game, let it all out. Go ahead and gnash your teeth, moan, blame the team, blame the coach, blame the refs and curse Satan while you sing mournful dirges all through the night.
But tomorrow morning around 7:15 a.m., tune your radio to KKOW 860 AM (or go online at https://mytuner-radio.com/radio/kkow-860-am-425658/ ) for the morning polka. As you listen, smile, tap your toes and be grateful for all the good times we’ve had in the Chiefs Kingdom through the years.
— J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and celebrant. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Training in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 620-231-0499, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762