The Kansas City Chiefs' run to the Super Bowl brings memories of the team's victory in its last appearance in the game 50 years ago.
Hank Stram's Chiefs upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in the 1970 Super Bowl at New Orleans' Tulane Stadium. That was the fourth Super Bowl since the long-established NFL merged with the upstart AFL.
Sportswriters still thought the NFL the dominant league, despite the stunning victory by Joe Namath and the AFL's Jets the year before in the third championship game. The NFL's Green Bay Packers crushed the Chiefs and Raiders in the first two Super Bowls, and most believed the fearsome Vikings would dominate the Chiefs, who had finished fourth in the AFL regular season.
But Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson, a journeyman until the formation of the AFL, sparked the Chiefs to an overwhelming win, outshining the Vikings' lauded Fran Tarkenton. Kansas City's defense led by Willie Lanier and Curley Culp proved tougher than the Minnesota "Purple People Eaters" led by Alan Page.
The game was played at old Tulane Stadium, home of the Sugar Bowl before the Superdome's completion. I saw many New Orleans Saints and LSU-Tulane games at the steel structure, built in 1926 and painted green for Tulane's Green Wave. A friend of mine lived in Midtown New Orleans, and we walked several blocks from his home on Willow Street to Saints games, buying cheap tickets from scalpers. The stadium on Tulane's campus was torn down in 1980, its upper levels rusted out by the city's relentless humidity.
Kansas City's strength coach in the team's early years was Baton Rouge's Alvin Roy, one of the first proponents of weight training for athletes. Roy claimed credit for building up Billy Cannon, LSU's Heisman Trophy winner in 1959.
Roy had a weekly 15-minute exercise show Saturday mornings on my father's television station, and I lifted weights at Roy's health club in a futile attempt to lose pounds. The health club was down the hill from the TV station's location on Highland Road. I don't know what happened to Roy's business; that neighborhood deteriorated during the 1970s.
LSU's Johnny Robinson, recently elected to the NFL Hall of Fame, starred at cornerback for the Chiefs. Robinson played in the same backfield with Cannon on LSU's 1958 national championship team and the 1959 team that beat Ole Miss on Cannon's famous punt return in fog-shrouded Tiger Stadium.
Robinson played both offense and defense on coach Paul Dietzel's No. 1 White Team. The Go Team played offense only, and the Chinese Bandits were defensive specialists. Odd as it seems now, individual substitutions weren't allowed then, so each squad's 11 players came in at the same time.
The national champion LSU team beat Clemson 7-0 in the 1959 Sugar Bowl at Tulane Stadium, where the Chiefs won 11 years later. The Tigers' 1959 team also played in the Sugar Bowl, losing 21-0 in its second meeting of the season against Ole Miss, one of the most painful losses of my childhood.
After the 1960 game, Cannon signed competing deals to play for the NFL's Rams, and the new AFL's Houston Oilers. Cannon eventually went with the Oilers, giving the fledgling league credibility. Robinson signed with Lamar Hunt's Dallas Texans, who moved to Kansas City to become the Chiefs.
Robinson played a part in one of my worst childhood memories. For Christmas, I asked for an LSU jersey with Cannon's number 20, and my anticipation grew as the big day approached But on Christmas morning, I instead received a jersey with Robinson's 34. I remember my keen disappointment.
But as Hank Stram would say, "Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!"