Christmas is not another day, even to NFL players who often times find themselves playing that day or preparing to play a day or so later. Grow up in Kansas City in the 1950s and 1960s and you’ll find any sports fan worth his salt that recalling with some pain the Kansas City Chiefs Christmas Day game of 1971, the final game played at the city’s old Municipal Stadium.
Oddly enough, to late Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, he considered that game to be a memorable one even though it ended in defeat and signaled – although it was later – the beginning of the decline of the franchise until its renaissance almost twenty years later.
Hunt said of that team: “1971 was the best team we’ve ever had in Kansas City and this was the emergence of the [Miami] Dolphins as a great team.” The Dolphins had lost in the playoffs the previous year and lost in the Super Bowl to Dallas after the win Kansas City.
“The Christmas Day aspect is very vivid to me,” Hunt remembered, “because there was a great hue and cry; the league was criticized for scheduling the game on Christmas Day.”
“It was a terrifically well-played game. Miami scored with about a minute left in regulation time [tying the game, 24-24], and Ed Podolak returned the kickoff 78 yards. We ran several plays and Jan Stenerud attempted the field goal from the mid-20s and missed. He also missed one in the first overtime, a bit longer [a 42-yarder that Miami’s Nick Buoniconti blocked].
“The first one was real makeable. Then [Garo] Yepremian made his field goal in the sixth quarter [after 22:40 of overtime].”
“I remember my son [now Chiefs chairman] Clark, who was 6, went with us very early that morning to Kansas City so we could watch the first game, which would have been Dallas and Minnesota, and we kicked off our game at 4. It was real warm, about 60 degrees. We were sitting in the old press box, which is very narrow and has a long, continuous table that you slid your chairs under.
“About the fifth quarter – it was already dark – Clark went to sleep, and he slept through the longest game. I didn’t have the heart to wake him up.
“It was one of the three or four most memorable games I’ve been involved in. The other thing I remember about it is that that was the day that Curt Gowdy invented the expression ‘sudden victory.’ Unfortunately, it wasn’t a sudden victory for us.”