I wasn’t quite 6 years old the last time the Kansas City Chiefs played in the Super Bowl.
My parents were not big sports fans, though my mother enjoyed watching the upstart Kansas City Royals and professional wrestling, a bond we shared throughout my childhood.
It wasn’t until the death of my father that I was allowed to watch a Super Bowl on television. Almost a year to his death, the Denver Broncos played the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 15, 1978 in the New Orleans Superdome.
The only thing I remember about that game was watching Cowboys coach Tom Landry pacing the sidelines with his trademark fedora. While Landry became a legend and actually was a really nice guy, the look somehow seemed arrogant to me. I don’t remember when the Cowboys were dubbed “American’s team,” but it rubbed me the wrong way then and it still does today.
Thus, I decided to cheer for the underdog Broncos — it seems as if I’m always cheering for the underdog. Of course, the Broncos lost the game 27-10, but watching the NFL on television for the first time whet my appetite for years to come.
Technically, I wasn’t a Broncos fan — I was more of a Cowboys hater. When my mother moved us to southern California, I befriended the kid across the street from me, who was from Pittsburgh. The fact that I really liked playing receiver led me to cheer for wide receivers, and the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers duo of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were in their prime at that time.
I didn’t run out and buy Steelers merchandise, though, and no matter what, I still looked in the newspaper to see the scores of Chiefs games and where they were in the standings. After all, they were my hometown team, across the parking lot from the Royals.
The 1980s were not a fun time to be a Chiefs fan, but there were two players who cemented my fandom.
Of course, the first was a wide receiver, as I was enthralled with Stephone Paige. No. 83 had a stellar nine-year career with the Chiefs, catching 65 passes for 1,021 yards in the 1990 season. The other was No. 20, free safety Deron Cherry, who played 11 seasons in Kansas City.
The 1990s were around the time the team began reaching their near-peak of success, and the Chiefs trading for my favorite player, Joe Montana, for the 1993 season was one of the happiest sports moments of my life, cementing my love for the red and gold.
The Chiefs actually had the best won-loss record in the 1990s — but no Super Bowl appearances.
Running back Joe Delaney died in the summer of 1983 while saving some children from drowning. Then linebacker Derrick Thomas — along with Neil Smith, one of the cornerstones of the newfound success — died as a result of a car accident in 2000.
Like the cross-parking lot Royals, I began to wonder if they weren’t cursed. They played in what became known as Super Bowl I, and they won Super Bowl IV — a 23-7 triumph against the Minnesota Vikings. But that was the last time they reached the Show, 50 years ago.
The Royals finally broke through during the magical 1985 season to win their first World Series. The Chiefs tried, they really tried. They had some great regular seasons — 13-3 in 1995, 1997 and 2003 — but nothing to show for it.
After a 30-year drought, the Royals returned to the World Series, losing in 2014 to San Francisco before defeating the New York Mets in 2015. It seemed just a matter of time before the Chiefs would get their turn.
They traded up in the NFL Draft to select a quarterback out of Texas Tech who drew head shaking reactions at best and laughter at worst. But in his first full season as a pro, Patrick Mahomes won the Most Valuable Player award while leading the Chiefs to the threshold of the Super Bowl last season.
Kansas City lost to a coin toss in the AFC Championship game, but it gave us long-suffering Chiefs fans hope. In addition to Mahomes, management put together some solid acquisitions, taking a few chances in the process. Guys like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu have become among the best at their positions.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Chiefs return to the Super Bowl to face the town that the Royals faced when they returned to the Show.
I would like to think last year’s loss to a coin flip was the Chiefs’ 2014, and that this is their year — our year.
Unlike the Royals, with guys like Mahomes, there’s no reason to believe the Chiefs will fall back into obscurity if they win.
CourierTraveler sports editor Joey Sprinkle can be emailed at SportsEditor@CTNewsOnline.com.