The 1969 Super Chiefs

There have been some very good teams in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, but only one great team. 

When I originally ran my survey to find some perceptions on which team Chiefs’ fans thought was the greatest ever, I was pretty sure it would easily be the 1969 version, the franchise’s only Super Bowl champion. I was wrong. The ’69 group received just 45% of the vote. The 1971 team received 21% of the votes as the Chiefs greatest team ever, and the 1993 Joe Montana Chiefs received 26%.

How is that possible?

After initially being baffled, it was easy to figure out. Sports fans romanticize losing teams more than winning teams, and usually love a team that didn’t win it all more than the one that did. I’ve heard from fans, former players, and others that felt the ’71 team was better than the 1969 champs. Why? They lost a game they should have won, that’s why. The 1993 team lost the AFC Championship game, but the team had one of the greatest QBs ever—and the fact that they played just 20 years ago as compared to 45 might have something to do with it as well. In addition to the three teams I listed in the survey, a couple of people voted for the 1997 team, another Chiefs’ team that failed to win a playoff game.

I could go into detail about why the 1969 team is the best, but I’ll keep it brief. In no particular order, here’s the main laundry list of why this was a special and great team.

  • The team overcame losing its starting QB for half the season.
  • The defense gave up just 20 points in 3 post-seasons games.
  • They beat the defending world champs in the first round of the playoffs.
  • They beat the Raiders, finally, after losing to them 7 out of 8 times.
  • The won the Super Bowl.

It’s a simple list. Check out my Chiefs Encyclopedia or SUPER CHIEFS books for more stuff, but really, being the franchise’s only champion is why the 1969 Chiefs are the best-ever. As for the other three teams named in the survey, no. I loved the ’71 team, but something was missing from that team, whether it was a drive and hunger to win or just a couple more star players to put it over the top.

I love the "Choir Huddle" used by the Super Chiefs, and I've used several different photos of it in my books. This is a shot from Super Bowl IV.

I’ve always thought the “Choir Huddle” used by the Super Chiefs was cool. This is a shot from Super Bowl IV.


For the most part, I watched Super Bowl IV by myself. For some unknown reason, my mom made my dad take her and my sisters shopping during the game. Shopping. For whatever reason, Dad followed the marching orders that day. A month earlier he had taken me to the Chiefs’ Buffalo game at Municipal Stadium, a cold wonderful memory, one of the best times I ever had with my dad.

The night before the game, when I heard Jimmy “The Greek” explain why the Vikings would humiliate the Chiefs in SB IV, I was pretty upset. But by the end the game and the Chiefs had easily won, I learned a lesson about experts and their opinions.

My family returned from the shopping expedition in the fourth quarter, so I had to share the glory of the win with them anyway. Over the years I’ve thrown the Super Bowl shopping spree in my mom’s face, always laughing about it, still never getting an explanation of why she decided that that Sunday was a shopping day that had to be done with my dad.


Here’s one of the sections from my SUPER CHIEFS book, Dawson talking about the bogus gambling allegations that had been levied at him a week earlier, and Stram remembering how the team had been before the Super Bowl I loss.

The Champions

In the crowded locker room following the 23-7 win against the Vikings, shouts and hugs were everywhere—it was a totally euphoric atmosphere. Television and newspaper reporters interviewed anyone and everyone, moving from player to player.

“This is a much greater thrill than anything that has ever happened,” Lamar Hunt said in the middle of the celebration. “This is it.”

Sitting alone was Otis Taylor, and the great receiver could not control the wave of emotions that swept over him. He was crying.

Len Dawson had conquered the unfair gambling allegations, completing 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. It had been a hard year for the future Hall-of-Famer—the knee injury, losing his father, then the ridiculous gambling accusations.

On this day, he was named MVP of Super Bowl IV.

“No, the gambling thing didn’t give me any extra incentive,” Dawson said to the reporters. “How could it? I approached this game as a big game, as an opportunity to be the best. You don’t need outside motivation.

“Winning a game like this is a big thing because if you win you don’t have to explain anything. We’ve been explaining our Green Bay game (losing Super Bowl I) for three years.”

And then there were the questions asking Stram to  compare this team to the one that lost to the Packers.

“I was criticized then,” Stram said of the Super Bowl I loss. “Our defense wasn’t that good then. But I don’t have time to gloat now. I will just hold to my philosophy, and that includes winning with grace and style.

“On that long bus ride from Long Beach to Los Angeles for the first Super Bowl, the team was quiet and preoccupied. They were afraid of the game, of coming into the presence of greatness—the Green Bay Packers. They still respect the Packers, but today they were relaxed and easy and laughing on the way to the stadium.”

KC Chiefs Survey

I have heard many times the last 15 years or so from several different sources that the 1971 Chiefs (who lost the NFL’s longest game to the Miami Dolphins in the 1971 playoffs) were actually better than the Super Bowl champs from 1969. I’ve never thought that myself, but several players told me they thought the 1971 team was better. A few sportscasters who knew both teams somehow deemed the ’71 version to be better.

I plan on writing about the results of the survey, so let me know which team you think is the Chiefs’ greatest ever. Here’s the survey link:

Thanks for your help.

A Synergy of Blue: Finding Baseball Again in Kansas City

There is an old saying that can be applied to almost any kind of human endeavor. Raise your hand if you haven’t heard this before:

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

If you didn’t know, the quote is from Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher who lived more than 2,300 years ago. This saying is pulled out frequently when talking about underdog teams in sports, teams without a real superstar, but it is almost always used when a team’s winning appears to be nothing more than a fluke. I’m pretty sure that the 2014 KC Royals were not what Aristotle had in mind when he laid out this quote for the ages, but the idea of the Royals, as applied to anything else, might be.

Like an explosion across the ballparks of America, the Kansas City Royals have landed in the World Series, embracing their team synergy like no other I’ve ever seen before.

Synergy—I’ll save you from clicking over to—comes from the Greek word synergia, and means “when combined elements produce a total effect greater than the sum of the individual contributions.”

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Synergy. I’ve always loved the word, always loved its meaning, which in visual terms, looks something like this: 2 + 2 + 3 + 1 = 16.

It is an intangible concept at best, but one that can be applied to almost anything—food, science, nature, even love and baseball. A lot of corporations grabbed onto the word and spoon-fed it to their employees to enhance teamwork and spirit. And here’s the thing: You can apply the concept of synergy to almost everything except—and feel the irony—math. And if you’re any kind of baseball fan, you know that math—numbers—is what baseball is really about to almost everyone: From RBIs, fantasy games, to a ballplayer’s WAR number, ticket prices, salaries, even the cost of a replica jersey.

It’s the math, baby.

And the 2014 Royals’ math doesn’t add up. But the synergy flowing in out of Kauffman Stadium does.

There's a lot of heart in this Kansas City team.

There’s a lot of heart in this Kansas City team.

I was originally going to add a link to the song “You Gotta Have heart” from the 1958 movie Damn Yankees!—hey, these Royals have heart—but the tune is so dated and slow that listening to it is not fun. And if anything,these Royals are fun. With their non-Red Sox-like beards, cool haircuts, baggy pants, speed motions, and goggles-wearing style, they’ve rekindled my unconditional love of baseball, something I didn’t think was possible.

For most of the past 20 years, the Kansas City Royals were worse than the replaceable-part ballplayers they rolled out onto the field. It never seemed the team should be as bad as it was, and while almost all Royals fans knew in their hearts that the team would suck one way or another, the annual high number of losses always left them wondering how a team could be so damn bad.

A few lowlights from the not-so-royal years: trading away three Cy Young Award winners (although the third trade was a great one), not having an owner for SEVEN years, trading away a trio of all-star outfielders for virtually nothing in return, hiring the worst manager in the history of the game, cutting all ties to Latin America scouting, adding BLACK to the team uniform, signing Juan Gonzalez, hiring a manager who had never worn a major league uniform before, losing 100 or more games four times in a five-year period—it goes on and on and on. Terrible, awful, and sad. The butt of all bad baseball-team jokes, the butt of all losing jokes, just the butt, period.

One player in particular personified these the lifeless, heartless Royals: Jeff King. I don’t like picking on King, but he, more than anyone else, exemplified the rudderless, heartless bunch residing at Kauffman Stadium until about six or seven years ago. Why? He quit.

A good first baseman for the Royals, King came to KC from Pittsburgh in 1996. He averaged 29 home runs and 112 RBIs in his first two seasons with Kansas City, and hit 24 home runs with 93 RBIs in 1998. I liked him a lot. But on May 23, 1999, the $4 million-a-year first baseman quit the game and walked away.

“My head is here, my heart is not,” King said when he left the Royals. “I think it just came to the point that as much as I hoped and wished, my heart was not totally committed.”

No heart.

For these reasons (and there are a lot of other bad Royals things I’ve failed to mention), the last few years I’ve often questioned my Royals fandom, even my love for baseball in general. My team was horrible, and there seemed to be no relief coming.

Then Kansas City won 86 games in 2013. Hope, and a lot of it, was high for the 2014 team. But something was wrong at the beginning of the season. The team wasn’t as good as everyone thought it should be, and it appeared that the manager, Ned Yost, couldn’t manage his way out of a wet bag on most nights. The 2014 Royals were deemed a huge disappointment by myself and almost everyone else in the world of baseball experts and fans by the All-Star Game. The team was 7 games back on July 23, and I wanted the roster blown up, the manager and GM fired, the Royals sold to an owner who wanted to win, and so on.

So, how wrong was I? Pretty darn.

Two months later, the team was in the playoffs. And now the World Series. The 2014 Kansas City Royals are also being called a team of destiny. I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that the team is absolutely a total piece of synergy, and the perfect sports example for Aristotle.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Pythagorean Theorem (math!) of baseball is a pretty good gauge to use in determining what a team’s total number of wins should be—using the formula, the numbers the 2014 Royals put together should have won them just 84 games, not enough to make the playoffs. On the field, the team won 89 games and a playoff spot. They’ve also won over a lot of hearts the last three weeks as America has gotten a good look at their incredible, magical tickers, and synergy in its finest form.

Aristotle would be proud—Let’s Go Royals!