Bowled Over

Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs

On January 15, 1967, the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I. The Chiefs’ presence in the first Super Bowl was fitting because the owner of the Chiefs, Lamar Hunt, was one of the key architects of the championship game.

The first Super Bowl pitted the championship teams from each of the two professional leagues then in existence, the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). The AFL owed its existence primarily to the efforts of Lamar Hunt, who between 1958 and 1959 failed to convince the NFL to sanction an expansion franchise in Dallas, Texas. Hunt, the son of a wealthy Texas oilman, still dreamed of owning a football team. In addition to starting an AFL team in Dallas, Hunt convinced affluent individuals interested in owning football teams to form AFL teams in Denver, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Buffalo, Houston, and Boston.

The AFL’s inception in 1960 meant that no decisive national championships occurred between the two leagues that routinely battled for players, coaches, and fans. In 1962, Hunt moved his team, then called the Dallas Texans, to Kansas City, where Mayor H. Roe Bartle promised a larger fan base free from the competition that the Texans faced from the Dallas Cowboys NFL team. In part to honor Mayor Bartle, whose nickname was "The Chief," Hunt settled on the name "Chiefs" for the newly relocated team.

In June of 1966, the two leagues announced merger plans which would allow for an AFL-NFL World Championship Game to be held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That season the Chiefs routed the Buffalo Bills to claim the AFL championship and earn the right to play the Green Bay Packers for the championship. On the January 15, 1967, in front of a crowd of 61,946, the Packers led at halftime by just 14 to 10 in the thrilling contest. The Packers then pulled ahead for a 35 to 10 victory in the second half, leaving the Chiefs empty-handed in their first national title game.

Two years later, Lamar Hunt made another major contribution to the history of professional football. When playing with his children’s bouncy "super ball," Hunt came up with a fitting name for the football championship: the Super Bowl. This combined the modifier "super" with the series of "bowl" games already established in college football.

The Chiefs’ loss to the Packers thus came in a game that retroactively earned the title "Super Bowl I." A better legacy for the Chiefs emerged in 1970, when the team, led by star quarterback Len Dawson, beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV by a score of 23 to 7. Despite the team’s early history of success, the Chiefs have not returned to the Super Bowl since 1970.

 

Read biographical sketches of important people in Kansas City Chiefs history, prepared by the Missouri Valley Special Collections, The Kansas City Public Library.

 

Check out the following books about the history of the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

Continue researching Kansas City Chiefs history using archival material from the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

 

References:

Hoskins, Alan. Warpaths: The Illustrated History of the Kansas City Chiefs. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company, 1999.

Montgomery, Rick and Shirl Kasper. Kansas City: An American Story. Kansas City, MO: Kansas City Star Books, 1999.

Schirmer, Sherry Lamb and Richard D. McKinzie. At the River’s Bend: An Illustrated History of Kansas City. Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, 1982.

About the Author

Dr. Jason Roe is a digital history specialist and editor for the Library’s digitization and encyclopedia website project, Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. He earned a doctorate in American history from the University of Kansas in May 2012 and is the author of the Library’s popular “This Week in Kansas City History” column. For assistance with general local history questions, please contact the Missouri Valley Special Collections.
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