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Hail to the Chiefs

Faithful readers of this column know my love for the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, my love of the Kansas State Wildcats, my love of the Kansas City Royals and my love for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs! The 2019 AFC Champion Chiefs are back in the NFL championship game for the first time in 50 years.

The Chiefs were the AFL — American Football League — 1969 champions. It was the final season of the AFL and NFL. They beat the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings 23-7 for the 1969 championship in Super Bowl IV in January 1970.

Why did I lead with my love of Secretariat? Watching the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC playoffs brought the greatest race horse to my mind. He liked to come from behind to win and he did it in the first two races of the 1973 Triple Crown run then Secretariat went to the front at the Belmont Stakes and won on a record pace and a record margin of victory (31 1/2 lengths).

The Chiefs have a three-game playoff series — just like the Triple Crown — and they have come from behind twice. Both wins avenged regular-season losses by the Chiefs.

Kansas City overcame a 24-0 deficit with 28 points in the second quarter on its way to a 51-31 win over the Houston Texans in the divisional round. The Texans had defeated the Chiefs 31-24 at Arrowhead in October.

On Sunday in the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs fell behind 17-7 and back they came again to lead 21-17 at halftime over the Tennessee Titans. Kansas City pulled out to a 35-17 lead and captured Kansas City’s first AFC Championship since the 1969 season with a 35-24 victory. The Titans had rallied to beat the Chiefs 35-32 in Tennessee on Nov. 10.

Secretariat avenged his loss in the race right before the Kentucky Derby in winning the Derby and beat Sham in the next two races for his 1973 Triple Crown.

Now, we’ll see if the Chiefs can finish the quest for the 2019 World Championship in the 2020 Super Bowl against the San Fransisco 49ers on Feb. 2 in Miami. Kansas City lost to the 49ers, 27-17, in preseason this year at Arrowhead Stadium.

A quick trivia note: there have been five former 49er quarterbacks play for the Chiefs and one former Chiefs’ quarterback play for San Fransisco. Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac and Alex Smith came to KC with 49er ties. Bob Gagagliano started with KC and ended up with Niners in 1986.

It will pit myself against my Newton Daily News sports co-worker, Troy Hyde. We’re both lifelong fans of our respective NFL teams. Of course, San Fransisco is up on Kansas City in Super Bowl appearances and wins — 49ers 5-1 and the Chiefs 1-1.

I am old. How old? I’ve seen — covered one (1985) — the Royals play in four World Series, winning two. Now, I will see the Chiefs play in three Super Bowls.

Don’t really remember a lot about Super Bowl I or as it was known in 1967, the AFL-NFL Championship Game. I was 9 and hadn’t really invested in my football passion yet. I watched the game with my family and was disappointed with the loss. The biggest memory is my parents receiving a “sympathy” card from my aunt and uncle (Dad’s brother), who were Green Bay fans. The Packers beat the Chiefs for the 1966 championship 35-10 in January 1967.

That’s another thing. The Super Bowl was played in January usually around the middle of the month. It got later and later. Now, 18 of the last 19, which includes Super Bowl 54 this season, have February dates.

My Chiefs were one of the best in the AFL. They reached the 1969 championship with Len Dawson, who had missed some of the regular season with an injury, at quarterback. Mike Livingston guided the Chiefs to six wins in his starts when Dawson was hurt.

I know the offensive stars but also that defense was tremendous — Willie Lanier, Curley Culp, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas, Johnny Robinson.

I fell in love with defensive football with that group of players for Kansas City. I love linebackers because of Lanier and Bell.

Then came Gary Spani, who is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but a player who was outstanding toiling for a bad Kansas State football team and was drafted by the Chiefs, playing 1978-86 on teams not so good. He held the Chiefs’ single-season tackle record from 1979 until 2002. Of course, Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith were defensive monsters.

I could go on and on through the years of players, but I don’t have the room so I won’t.

I won’t talk trash about San Fransisco either. I won’t say no team can stop the Chiefs’ offense. I do want Kansas City to win and I’ll be cheering for that outcome.

Go Chiefs!

Contact Jocelyn Sheets

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