Clayman's Corner: Trying On the Warpaint

This is the first in a season-long series chronicling a Los Angeles native and lifelong sports follower's mission to become a Kansas City Chiefs fan. After all, he doesn't have a football team of his own, does he?

All I know about the Kansas City Chiefs is that they somehow made it to the first NFL/AFL Championship Game (later to be known as The Super Bowl), where they were destroyed by Bart Starr, Max McGee, Willie Davis and the rest of the mighty Green Bay Packers, 35-10.

I know that only 60,000 people showed up in the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum, with ticket prices at $8.00. Had the Packers played the Pomona College Sagehens they probably would have drawn a better crowd. We knew Hank Stram, while far more dapper, didn't have a chance against Vince Lombardi.

Those are the kinds of things an L.A. native knows about the Chiefs.

There's also that geographically non-sensible rivalry with the Raiders (of course, the Raiders and King Al are only slightly easier to love than an ex-mother-in-law).

And, yes, we know of our own Marcus Allen who, courtesy of the Chiefs, got the opportunity to get into the NFL Hall of Fame, thumbing his and K.C.'s noses at King Al in the process, quietly and with remarkable class.

Of course, there's Dick Vermeil, he of the steel jaw and soap opera ducts. As a UCLA fan, I can't absolve him for leaving and giving us 20 years of Terry Donahue. Not to mention taking over my former team, the Rams, after 10 years in the booth and working his magic all the way to the championship they never could win while in L.A. for almost 50 years.

If only Vermeil had beaten the Raiders back in the '80 Super Bowl with the Eagles, in which case all would be forgiven forever. Unfortunately, we got "Just win, baby."

As to Kansas City itself, I only know that Harry S. Truman was big in those parts, and the political machine was (and perhaps still is) profound; that everything is up-to-date there; and that I recently shared a Maui Jacuzzi with a guy from K.C. whose girlfriend was one of the most adorable young women this side of my wife.

Which makes sense, since about the only other thing I know is that y'all have "some crazy little women there" and I was in the hot tub with one.

Oh, and let's not forget Kansas City baseball. Or maybe we should. Hey, I've always dug the waterfalls, and George Brett, pine tar or no, was far more palatable to me than, say, Barry Steroid.

Or Mark Mc-Wired.

That takes care of my encyclopedic knowledge of the Chiefs and Kansas City. I think you can see I have a steep hill to climb in my quest to become a full-fledged fan, but I'm willing to, as they say, tackle it.

Which brings me to football itself. I quit my first Pop Warner team at 13 years-old and never looked back. As Lombardi once replied when someone called football a contact sport, "Football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a hitting sport."

I guess I'm a wimp, but that "hitting sport" business was not for me, although I did manage to play a lot of basketball. I know, not the same, but how many football players still play pickup 30 years later?

I grew up going to the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch UCLA and still have my dad's 50-yard-line seats (now at the Rose Bowl), which are useful every other year for getting to see the National Champs from across town in person.

The other team I watched at the Coliseum was the Los Angeles Rams. To give you an idea of what that was like, the Rams were once depicted this way by legendary sportswriter Jim Murray: "A coach once described his squad as ‘A Team Called Desire.' This Rams team should be referred to as ‘A Team Called The Hell With It.'"

They were good, but never good enough. Roman Gabriel, Jack Snow, Dick Bass, Deacon Jones, Pat Haden, Ron Jaworski, Vince Ferragamo, Merlin Olsen, Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer, Isaiah Robertson notwithstanding, the best thing to come out of those years was a broadcaster named Dick Enberg.

We had a coach named Chuck Knox who was probably as frustratingly almost-but-not-quite-there as Marty Schottenheimer. We also had a guy named George Allen, whose only failing was in drawing the Minnesota Vikings in their frozen tundra for what seemed like every NFC Championship game.

(I attended the one they played here. It rained the entire contest, something so rare in L.A. that residents were spotted running into the streets and begging the gods to forgive their sins. We lost something like 10-0.)

As a young man I produced the TV games for USC, the Southern California Sun, Rams and Raiders pre-season football, as well as the John McKay, John Robinson and Chuck Knox Shows.

But my greatest football moment was back around 1980 when I was heading production for Norman Lear. We had just brought in a pair of new writers on "The Jeffersons," Dave Duclon and Ron Leavitt. Dave and Ron had been working on "Cheers" over at Paramount, and one of the first things they did upon landing was to get a few of us into the Paramount football pool.

It was five bucks a pop, picking winners for all the games. The payoff was $400 a week, with a large amount reserved for season champ and other accomplishments.

Well, I was thrilled when Ron sent over the $400 for my first week's winnings. I wasn't in town and didn't play the second week, but guess what? In week number three, I won again.

Ron, who would later create and exec produce the show "Married With Children" with another "Jeffersons" writer, Michael Moye, sent over the second stack of bills with a note I still have. On a piece of paper with his name embossed at the top and "The Jeffersons" at the bottom, Ron handwrote "To Richard Clayman! (Expletive)! & (Expletive)!"

Al Bundy would have said it better, but this isn't cable TV.

Anyway, you get the idea. As the season progresses I'll get to know folks like Trent Green (who I hear can actually put a Titanium stint in a vein, not use any anesthetic and still play a hitting sport) and Priest Holmes (about whose name I promise to avoid all weak heavenly puns – I hope), as well as becoming reacquainted with what its like to be a fan of real football team. At least my new found team won't be moving to Irwindale anytime soon.

And for those who don't yet know that you're dealing with a certified football genius here, just go ask Al Bundy. He'll tell you.

Richard Clayman may be contacted at Top Stories