This is the twelfth in a series of examinations of football-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous football legends.
FOOTBALL LEGEND: The Pittsburgh Steelers chose Mike Tomlin for their head coaching job over Ken Whisenhunt.
This story really got a lot of play during the 2009 Super Bowl, as the Arizona Cardinals were pitted against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Whisenhunt had been a longtime assistant under legendary Steeler coach Bill Cowher, so when Mike Tomlin had gotten the job replacing Cowher, it was seen as though Tomlin got the position over Whisenhunt.
However, that’s not how the situation really unfolded.
Whisenhunt accepted the job as the Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals before the Steelers even finished their interviewing for the head coach job.
Most likely, Whisenhunt felt that his “real” competition for the job was fellow Steelers assistant coach Russ Grimm. In fact, Whisenhunt had already begun to make plans on how to divide up the Steelers personal between he and Grimm.
Instead, the Steelers hired the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.
So instead of having the Steelers job, Grimm went to go work with Whisenhunt in Arizona.
And in each of their second seasons for their respective teams, Whisenhunt and Tomlin faced off in the 2009 Super Bowl, with Tomlin’s team winning the game.
Tomlin might have won the game, but many media outlets also gave him a “victory” over Whisenhunt in the head coaching “game” that just was not true.
FOOTBALL LEGEND: The Kansas City Chiefs sold 25,000 season tickets for their first season without the ticket buyers even knowing what team they were buying tickets for.
The famous 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and Colts (sometimes referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”) helped to start a sizable rise in popularity for professional football in the United States, as the dramatic nationally televised game caught the attention of millions. One of those millions of enthralled viewers was named Lamar Hunt, an heir to an oil tycoon who was determined to be a part of the world of professional football.
Hunt had already tried to convince the National Football League (NFL) to allow him to open an expansion team in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. They turned him down. After the 1958 title game, though, he was absolutely determined to get into pro football. Hunt’s next attempt was to buy into the league in 1959, but right before he purchased a large stake in the Chicago Cardinals, it occurred to Hunt that he might as well just form his OWN professional football league, especially since that way he could get the Dallas team that the NFL would not give him. By the end of the year, he had formed the American Football League (AFL) with seven other team owners.
Hunt’s team was called the Dallas Texans and they played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. However, much to Hunt’s chagrin, before the AFL began, the NFL decided that they WOULD expand to Dallas after all! They offered Hunt the chance to have his Dallas team play in the NFL, but by now, Hunt was determined to give the AFL a chance. So instead, he had the great fortune of having to have his brand new pro football team compete with a SECOND brand new pro football team in Dallas, the Dallas Cowboys. Only the Cowboys were part of the established NFL (they also got the coach Hunt wanted, the Defensive Coordinator of the 1958 Giants, Tom Landry – although Hunt certainly made out okay with picking Hank Stram as his head coach), so even though the Texans actually won the AFL Championship in 1962, it was clear to Hunt that he would never be able to compete with the Cowboys in Dallas. So after their championship season, Hunt quietly decided to shop around for a new home for his team.
Hunt began to make the rounds (quite secretively) to various cities that were within shouting distance from Texas, as Hunt wanted to be able to commute back to his home in the Lone Star State. He almost had a deal to move the team to New Orleans, but Tulane University refused to share their stadium with a professional team. Mayor H. Roe Bartle of Kansas City, though, was very aggressive in trying to get Hunt to move to Kansas City. Just HOW aggressive he was is quite impressive!
You see, with a championship team “for sale” like this, Hunt had a good deal of leverage. So one demand he made to Bartle was that they had to guarantee season ticket purchases matching the Texans’ average attendance back in Dallas. Seeing as how that was 25,000, selling that many season tickets would be quite a daunting task. That was roughly twice as many season tickets as the Texans sold in Dallas, so it would not be easy for Bartle to meet this demand. But it was even harder when you realize that, since Hunt did not want anyone to know that he was planning on moving the team (can you even imagine a professional team today moving away the year after they won the championship? It would be bedlam!), Bartle could not even promote the new team as being the Texans!!
So when Bartle got together a group of Kansas City businessmen (he affectionately referred to the 20 or so businessmen as “The Gold Coats”) to sell (or get down payments on) the 25,000 season tickets, the men were not able to say what the name of the team was, who the owner was, where they would play, what football league they were going to play in, not even when their first game would be! All they had to go on was “we’re getting a pro football team – will you buy season tickets to see them play?.” With just that to go on and a four month deadline to sell the 25,000 tickets, the Gold Coats did it in two.
Naturally, though, the season ticket drive only worked for that first season. After a few mediocre seasons in Kansas City, the Chiefs were regretting the move, with attendance dwindling to under 20,000 a game after the 1964 season. After slight improvement in 1965, the Chiefs made major strides in 1966, while Hunt was also negotiating something much more important to the Chiefs’ future success – a merger between the AFL and NFL. In 1967 the NFL and the AFL agreed to begin doing yearly championship games between the championship winners of each league. The Chiefs managed to make it to the first “Super Bowl” (a name coined by Hunt himself) and following the game (which they lost), the Chiefs were now so popular in Kansas City that they had to add 7,000 more seats to their home stadium! Meanwhile, a bond issue was passed in Jackson County to build a brand new stadium for the Chiefs and Kansas City Royals!
So all the work Bartle and the Gold Coats did finally paid off. At least Bartle’s work will forever be recognized – you see, years earlier, Bartle founded the Native American-based honor society known as The Tribe of Mic-O-Say within the Boy Scouts of America. This earned him the life-long nickname of the “Chief.” When Hunt agreed to move to Kansas City, he wanted to keep the name “Texans” (which is ridiculous, of course, but Hunt felt it was no odder than a Los Angeles basketball team calling themselves the Lakers after moving from Minneapolis). A fan poll was taken, and the top vote-getters were the Mules and the Royals. However, the Chiefs also got a decent amount of support (about 40 votes out of a 1,000 or so votes cast) so there was pressure on Hunt to adopt the name to honor Bartle’s work in bringing the team to Kansas City. Eventually, Hunt capitulated so, in a way, Bartle will always be a part of Kansas City Chief history!
FOOTBALL LEGEND: The beginning of the second half of Super Bowl I was re-played because NBC missed it.
The very first Super Bowl between the AFL and the NFL was such a unique event at the time that no one was exactly prepared on how to handle the event.
One area that was very much unsettled was who would AIR the game! NBC had an exclusive contract with the AFL while CBS had an exclusive contract with the NFL.
So the two networks came to an agreement that would not be seen again until over forty years later (at the end of the 2007 season) – the networks would SIMULCAST the game!
CBS had their announcers: Ray Scott, Jack Whitaker and Frank Gifford and NBC had theirs: Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman.
However, while each network had their own announcing team, they both shared CBS’ feed. Since the game was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum, home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, CBS had priority. So during the game, NBC’s announcers and crew had to go by whatever the CBS sports director decided to show – as you might imagine, it was not a smooth experience (although we really don’t know for SURE what it sounded like, as “tragically,” there are no full recordings left of the first Super Bowl – the network tapes were “wiped”).
Nothing was odder, though, than what happened when the third quarter began – an event happened that really showed you how awkward the whole affair was. You see, when the Green Bay Packers kicked off to the Kansas City Chiefs to start the second half, NBC was still in a commercial!
So, not a big deal, right? So NBC was a little late – they’ll catch up, no?
The on-field officials were notified of the “problem” and actually called the play dead and had them RE-KICK the kick-off!!!
Can you imagine something like that happening in the Super Bowl in 2011?
But back in 1967, things were a good deal less assured.
At least things began to get straightened out the next year, and Super Bowl I remains the only Super Bowl ever to be shared between two networks.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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