September 7th, 1980 My grandpa Leon Atkison took me to my first Kansas City Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium. I was 13 years old. When I was a child in elementary school I had written the Chiefs a fan letter. As a reply I got a box delivered to my house full of Chiefs stickers and a notebook. I thought that was so cool. One of my earliest memories is watching football, probably Thanksgiving day at my grandma Letha’s house across the road from her restaurant “The Garbage Can Café” Family, food, and football.
On opening day of the 1980 football season my cousin was playing in the Marshfield High School Marching Band and got to perform at halftime of the Chiefs game. Several of us loaded up in my dad’s 1978 Chevy conversion van and headed for Kansas City. My grandma Lois Atkison, Pam and Pat Day went. Maybe my cousin Steve Atkison and my brother Doug. I think Kelly Day was playing in the band. We visited with my grandpa’s sister before the game. She lived in the Kansas City area. I remember that trip so well. My grandma overheard me telling a dirty joke. I was so embarrassed. The Oakland Raiders beat my Chiefs that day 27-14. We got revenge in October that year when we beat them in the black hole. Dan Pastorini broke his leg in that game and Jim Plunkett come in to replace him. I was watching the game on TV and can still hear the announcer’s comment “Pastorini bounces!” He had landed awkwardly on his leg and the recoil made it appear that he had bounced. The crowd in Oakland cheered the injury of their QB because Al Davis had traded Kenny Stabler for him. Pastorini was never a crowd favorite in Oakland. Plunkett took the Raiders all the way to a Super bowl victory that same season.
All these years later I remember the kindness of my grandparents taking me to the game. I remember the day of visiting with my cousins and my great Aunt. I remember seeing Arrowhead Stadium for the first time. I remember the cool orange van we rode in. Most of all I remember getting to see in person, the players of the day playing the game I love.
That was the first trip of many. I remember watching a Patriots game in the pouring rain from the upper section. It was raining so hard I was afraid the river running down the steps of the stadium would wash us all away. I remember being in the end zone in January of 1994 when Nick Lowery kicked a game winning field goal in OT against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs and ending up in the middle of a dogpile in the stands. I remember watching a gutsy Dan Marino playing with broken ribs and wearing a flack jacket against us. I remember Joe Montana beating his former team the San Francisco 49’ers. I have been to Chiefs games with my Grandpa Leon and Grandma Lois, my Dad and Brenda, with my wife Kim and Alyssa and Shelby, With my Uncle Jim and Chad, Matt, and Troy. I have been on the jumbo tron shirtless in 18 degree weather. These days I watch from the warmth and comfort of my living room. Bo told me I have never taken him to a game. I guess I better be getting tickets for next year so I can pass along to my kids what my forefathers have done for me.
As a Chiefs fan I reflect on the players I have cheered for. I remember being Steve Fuller in Bobby Lewis’s front yard. Lifting my heel while calling out the cadence to send my imaginary wide receiver into motion. I think of Christian Okoye “the Nigerian Nightmare”, Joe Delaney who died saving a drowning child, Derrick Thomas who is buried just 30 minutes from where the Super Bowl is going to be played. Will Shields whose daughter is friends with mine. Countless others who have put on our uniform who have helped get us to where we are today.
I have seen 13-3 seasons and I have seen 2-14. Some of my kids were asking why this meant so much to me. 50 years. I told them when you have been waiting for something for 50 years, well …. I hope they never have to wait for something for 50 years. There is no way to explain.
On Sunday I will be in my living room with anyone who wants to be with me. I will be watching the boys in Red and White and cheering for them to get the win. There hasn’t been very many Sundays during football season that I haven’t watched or listened in live on the radio to see how my team is doing. Even in those 2- and 3-win seasons. It has been a long time coming. Good Luck fella’s. No matter the outcome you have made one Chiefs fan a happy man. GO CHIEFS!