This is it. Kansas City, your Super Bowl is just a few days away. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment.
As mentioned here last week, let’s not take it for granted, sports fans. Sure, we have the most dynamic quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes but that doesn’t mean we can assume this is going to become a habit. There is always some good fortune involved in these types of things. This year’s good fortune, for instance, could have been when the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens were upset in the divisional round of the playoffs, which gave the Chiefs a path to the Super Bowl that included the luxury of playing the AFC Championship in Kansas City instead of on the road in Baltimore.
I mean, I’m sure in January of 1970 after Len Dawson and the boys had wrapped up the Chiefs first Super Bowl title–and second appearance in the big game in its first four years of existence–there were Chiefs fans who assumed there were other Super Bowl appearances on the not-too-distant horizon. Well here we are. It was on the horizon for 50 years.
I’ll reiterate what I mentioned here last week. Soak it up. Soak it all up.
It’s impossible to put a value on what the presence of Patrick Mahomes means to Kansas City, not just to the Chiefs but to the city/metro area as a whole. Non-sports fans will be of the opinion I am overstating things but the impact and value of a nationally-recognized face, in particular one of a young adult who by all accounts is a good person off the field, cannot be overstated.
The guy is a great spokesperson for the organization and when a young superstar says he loves living in Kansas City–which Mahomes has stated–that’s a priceless Chamber of Commerce moment for KC.
I have a nine-year-old grandson, a beach-loving kid who because his dad is in the Air Force has already lived in North Carolina, Florida and now Virginia. When he was in KC for a visit in September he told me even though we don’t have beaches here in Kansas City he would prefer to live in KC when he gets older “because that’s where Patrick Mahomes lives.”
Sure, that’s the innocence of a young boy speaking, but it’s awesome at the same time.
The other day I took a little time to watch some highlights of the Chiefs Super Bowl winning season of 1969-70. Your humble Between the Lines columnist was six years old. I can recall specific bits and pieces of that season. I remember Len Dawson, not for anything dynamic he did on the field (more on that in a bit) but because he also was the sports anchor on Channel 9. I remember people referring to him as Lenny the Cool. He had a head full of hair in those days and was a good looking dude who never seemed to get excited about much.
My most vivid memory of watching the Super Bowl in January of 1970 is that I remember being in the living room of our house on a cul-de-sac in the tiny northeast Kansas town of Wathena. I remember my dad jumping off the couch with excitement when Dawson connected with Otis Taylor on a curl route near mid-field late in the third quarter. Taylor broke a tackle immediately and sprinted down the sideline. He slipped another tackle at about the 10 and cruised into the end zone for a score that put the Chiefs up 23-7. “They’re gonna beat ’em!” my dad said in amazement to no one in particular as he jumped to his feet at that moment.
It’s important to remember the Chiefs of the AFL were 13-point underdogs going into that game against the daunting Minnesota Vikings of the NFL (the AFL merged into the NFL after that season).
No one, obviously including my dad, expected the Chiefs to win.
In watching the 1969 highlight reel I was reminded that it was the defense more than the offense that keyed the Chiefs to a title that year. Dawson, in fact, missed several games with a knee injury that season, then his backup Jackie Lee suffered a broken leg and the Chiefs were down to rookie third-stringer Mike Livingston to fill in for several games. Thanks mostly to a defense led by names that live on in Chiefs lore (Willie Lanier, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, etc.) the team got on a roll while Dawson was out and the rookie was playing QB.
My point, and I do have one, is this: Len Dawson, while always a class act off the field like the Chiefs current QB, was no Patrick Mahomes. Lenny wasn’t out there launching bombs, dropping dimes, throwing left-handed if needed, extending plays and scrambling 27 yards for a touchdown at a key moment in a playoff game.
I remember having a conversation about Len Dawson with my late friend Greg Hall about 15 years ago. Time often tends to romanticize things a bit, and Hall and I agreed for some older Chiefs fans time has romanticized them into thinking Dawson was an eye-opening quarterback. He wasn’t. He was a game manager. He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (a selection that came 12 years after his career ended, by the way, which tells you there was some doubt about whether his playing days justified selection) because he won a Super Bowl in 1970 on a team with a dominating defense.
In my opinion, Lenny was a better game analyst on the radio than he was a quarterback. Unlike many teams’ color analysts on their radio broadcasts, Dawson called it like he saw it. Probably because he knew he was a Chiefs legend and could get by with it. Chiefs games on the radio were a treat when Lenny got on a ‘what are they doing?’ roll.
Today, Chiefs games on the radio are unlistenable due to the cartoonish persona of Mitch Holthus and uninspiring commentary by Kendall Gammons on the rare occasions Holthus lets him get a word in.
Dawson was a classy guy on and off the field and he absolutely deserves the tremendous respect he is given to this day in Kansas City.
But let’s not re-write history. Mahomes is at a whole ‘nother level.
(Between the Lines sometimes gets to a whole ‘nother level on Landmark Live, which you can watch on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)