This is the sixth in a continuing series of columns tracing Lamar Hunt's role in the marketing of the Kansas City Chiefs and the situations and circumstances he faced in doing so.* *
Chapter 1: Lamar Hunt: Consummate salesman
Chapter 2: *Lamar Hunt: A Man for all Seasons
Chapter 3: Lamar Hunt: Early Struggles
Chapter 4: Lamar Hunt: Winning cures all
Chapter 5: Lamar Hunt: Age catches up*
As the 70s wore on beloved fan favorites began to retire, or some began to see their skills decline. Bobby Bell called in quits in 1974. Buck Buchanan went the next year as did Otis Taylor and Len Dawson. More were to follow.
The new faces that replaced them fell well short of their talents and fans reacted negatively believing somehow the oldsters would be around forever. It was a feeling that persists to this day when favored stars depart, particularly in the era of free agency where players now have that choice.
But there were other more confusing matters at play. Ticket holders, so anxious for the amenities of a spanking new stadium that was revolutionary by standards of the day, quickly began to grumble about their seat locations and ironically missed some of the traditions of decrepit Municipal. Hunt did not attempt to re-create the "Wolfpack" in the new stadium, claiming "all season ticket holders are all members of the Wolfpack," a notion that did not take with some of the older fans who believed it to be correlated to a special section.
Hunt did attempt to re-create the "Huddle Club" in the new stadium, but it didn't fit in a brand new design and, anyway, who wanted to sit in bleachers anymore? Much of the old seemingly had no place in Arrowhead. Even Warpaint, a fixture at Municipal running the sidelines, found it tough going on the Astroturf carpet, and in time was gone.
Everything was changing, even a coaching legend. The team's first coach, Hank Stram, was dismissed after the 1974 season and Hunt struggled finding someone to take his place. Continuity had always been a Chiefs' strength. Stram's staff had been together for a long time. As losses mounted coaches came and went in short order. Hunt had interests in any number of well-known head coaches to include George Allen, of whom he said: "Seldom have I talked to somebody for ten minutes and heard him say more right things about what it took to be a good football coach." But he was never able to convince Allen or others of note to sign on.
Suddenly, as the '70s gave way to the '80s, it was difficult to believe that the Chiefs were ever the envy of the league and, anyway, that league no longer existed. The AFL had been such a joyous time. The former glories now left a bitter aftertaste for many, triggered the sardonic laugh in a sports bar, a smirk and some grim remark about the good old days.
Many of the ticket holders who had signed on had likely forgotten that as early as 1965 the team had failed to garner much support yet.
In that respect, many Kansas City fans had company. For years, many Pittsburgh Steelers fans have believed that their team has always been among the most loved and supported in NFL history. The difficulty with this argument is that it is historically unconvincing. It misleads in its fervent portrayal that Steelers fans were always there, no matter the results on the field, standing staunchly behind their team. In truth, it wasn't until Chuck Noll took over in 1969 and the team moved to Three Rivers Stadium that the idea of Pittsburgh as a bastion of one of the great fan bases in NFL history began to take root. Next time: Searching for answers