By Ralph Hipp
The Jets and Steelers are playing Sunday evening on CBS for the Lamar Hunt Trophy, honoring the champions of the AFC. Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli, Todd Haley and his Chiefs squad have desperately wanted to improve the level of their play, attempting to win this trophy named for the founder of their team. By the way, do you know much about him?
Heard an interesting discussion with David A. F. Sweet, who's written a book about Mr. Hunt. He says Lamar Hunt, in the early 60s, was seriously disappointed that he couldn't co-exist with the Dallas Cowboys and would have to move his fledgling AFL franchise. It was largely due to his Kansas City friend, H. Roe Bartle, (he of Bartle Hall fame) who encouraged Lamar to move his team here. Bartle was known all around town as the "Chief" and given that, and our rich Native American history, Lamar thought he would honor Bartle and the area by calling his relocated team "The Kansas City Chiefs."
And it wasn't an easy move. Municipal Stadium was run down and more suited to baseball, the Kansas City A's and owner Charlie Finley, whom Lamar would probably rather stay away from instead of sharing the downtown stadium with his team.
One of Lamar's other major sports disappointments late in his life was Jackson County voters deciding *not to approve a rolling roof over Kauffman Stadium and his beloved Arrowhead Stadium. It would have guaranteed Kansas City a Super Bowl, and now, with the renovations the voters did approve that day, a Super Bowl at Arrowhead is still a distinct possibility
Sweet says it was a great joy, but not the most exciting moment of his life when the Chiefs and Len Dawson were able to bring home a Super Bowl trophy for Super Bowl 4, but it was close to the top. I don't know if Sweet ever described Hunt's proudest moment, but I'm sure it would have something to do with his children. As for his own family, father H. L. Hunt was the patriarch of three different families with Lamar's mother, a 2nd woman in Florida, and even one of his secretaries. Probably not the proudest part of his legacy, but Lamar, the youngest child in the 1st Hunt family, got along relatively well with his half brothers and sisters.
Sweet echoes the sentiments of many that Lamar Hunt was one of the kindest and most gracious people they'd ever met. I was on cloud 9 after walking up the stairs in the press box and saying 'hello' to him as he was on his way down just before game time one Sunday. And football was far from his only passion. Lamar Hunt not only named the Super Bowl after the Super Ball his kids played with. He had a ball starting professsional leagues in soccer and tennis. Heck, he even had wild ideas to grow professional leagues like the AFL for bowling and rodeo competitions! Mr. Hunt always believed it was easier to create your own professional team than to try to buy one from an egocentric owner. (Was he thinking of Charlie Finley when he said that?)
Here are some other things we'd like about him: He always flew coach when he was traveling, even though he probably could have bought the whole airline.
He offered Gale Sayers a whopping $27,500 a year to move from KU to the Chiefs, to sign him and allow him to stay in the area. Gale's salary with the Chicago Bears was just $25,000, but the Kansas Comet wanted to play in the more established league.
Virtually no one ever saw him lose his temper about anything. There was one case where he probably yelled "shucky darn it!" after someone moved the plants around in his office.
Well, there are more plenty more stories to share, and a 90-minute movie on Lamar Hunt's life will be shown in one of the Kansas City Public Library branches Thursday night if the weather's good. All of us here owe Mr. Hunt a debt of gratitude for his Chiefs and his amazing AFC. We'll be thinking about him this weekend during the Pittsburgh-New York Jets game. And one of them will carry home the honor that bears his name. Ralph