One More Reason to Win it Now for Lamar Hunt

On Tuesday afternoon the NFL lost one of the games signature pioneers when New York Giants icon Wellington Mara passed away at the age of 89. It brings to mind that owners like our very own beloved Lamar Hunt are not going to be around forever. That's why the Kansas City Chiefs need to make the most of their 2005 season.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt symbolizes everything that an owner should be in the NFL. With the Daniel Snyders and Jerry Jones of the league trying to change the game each and every year, Wellington Mara like Mr. Hunt has always put the league and the game first. The NFL is successful because of visionaries like Mara and Hunt.

Back in the 1960's when the NFL was changing the landscape by broadcasting its games on Television; Mara told then commission Pete Rozelle that he was willing to share the lucrative New York television rights and fees with all the other owners so each team could survive. Granted the television rights fees where nowhere close to what they are now; but that gesture sent a message to every NFL owner that sum of the league was better served sharing revenues instead of acting selfishly like they did in other professional sports.

Lamar Hunt did his part by convincing Rozelle and Mara that merging his rival AFL league with the more stout and prestigious NFL was something that would benefit everyone. Hunt earned a great deal of respect for Wellington Mara and no two owners of that era had as much of an impact on the merger than those great titans.

"I knew him first as a friendly adversary and later, after the 1966 merger, as a compatriot and partner in what I believed to be the most successful sports league in the world," remembered Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt. "Most of all I will always remember his wisdom and grace."

Hunt and Mara are considered the Grand Marshals of the NFL. With Mara's passing, Lamar Hunt's presence in the scope of the NFL is even more important to Chiefs fans. Mr. Hunt has had to deal with his own health problems the last several years but he remains a very active part of the organization. Though his son Clark Hunt is taking on a greater role within the organization; make no mistake about it, this is still Lamar Hunts football team.

The city of Kansas City owes a tremendous debt to the entire Hunt family. Don't worry this is not going to turn into a debate about the stadium issue. Instead to point out the obvious that we can't take him for granted any longer.

Lamar Hunt wants to win just as much as the fans want the Chiefs to win each and every Sunday. He's still active participant on game days. He roots, cheers and remains one of the most positive cheerleaders in the locker room win or lose. For that, he has our respect. But for him and the organization, he's yet to receive the AFC Championship Trophy that bares his name. He deserves it. There are no more excuses. This entire organization needs to get it for him this year.

In the offseason, the organization did a lot of soul searching. With the blessing of Lamar Hunt, he gave the green light to spend his millions on acquiring better talent. With that said, Chiefs President Carl Peterson and Head Coach Dick Vermeil use that as an inspirational tool to make this season very special for Lamar Hunt. They understand what this season is all about and are driven to succeed for their Owner and Founder.

After the Washington Redskins game, Lamar Hunt crossed the podium in front of Vermeil. It was an emotional game for the Chiefs Head Coach. But the game was secondary for a few seconds as Vermeil stopped talking and focused on Mr. Hunt walking across the room. It gave me chills. No words were said but you could tell that Vermeil sensed this team was getting better and that they had advanced a step further in attaining their Super Bowl dreams.

My grandfather told me that you could always tell the soul of a man based on his eyes. Vermeil's eyes said it all when he watched Mr. Hunt walk in front of him. Vermeil clearly knew why he was brought to Kansas City. Does he want to win another Super Bowl for himself? Sure he does. But if you asked Vermeil what it would mean to him to present Lamar Hunt with not only the AFC Championship but the Lombardi Trophy as well; the words wouldn't come out. Instead a fountain of tears would fill the press room.

With those heart strings being tugged, Vermeil is trying to do everything he can to make that a reality for Lamar Hunt. The players and the entire organization for that matter have bought into the fact that this is going to be year they kick in the door and get it done. Forget the fact that they haven't won a single playoff game in the Vermeil era. Forget the fact that they under-achieved a season ago. Forget all that. The past is dead and it can't be changed. The present is all that matters.

Nobody knew that more than Wellington Mara who held out through the weekend just long enough to see his football team win one more game. On Sunday with his health rapidly declining, he woke up minutes before Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw a last second touchdown pass to Amani Toomer. After the play, he smiled and went back to sleep. On the other hand Chiefs fans were smiling because New York beat the Denver Broncos.

But for Mara it was a culmination of his relationship with the franchise that his father purchased back in 1925 when he was just nine-years old. Five years later at the ripe young age of fourteen he and his older brother Jack were given the title of Co-Owners with their father, Timothy J. Mara.

For Mara he went from team ball boy to owner. To his credit over the next 80 years of his life he made every single person in the organization both past and present, feel like family. Today is a sad day for the NFL. With the labor issues in doubt, owners becoming greedier by the day and player salaries increasing with each season, the old guards are thinning out.

But for Wellington Mara who is now watching games in Heaven and Lamar Hunt who hopes this season leads to a Super Bowl appearance by his Chiefs; they can feel good that they changed the NFL landscape forever.

They made contributions that made the National Football League the greatest entity in the history of professional sports. Wellington Mara stood tall back in the 60's and so did Lamar Hunt. They were adversaries who saw the greater good for the league and they were visionaries. It makes you wonder why others sports leagues don't follow their examples they implemented over forty years ago.

After Sunday's game in New York when the players understood that Wellington Mara was near death, they chanted the name ‘Duke' over and over. That was Wellington Mara's nickname. They paid their tributes to a man that knew loved each and every single one of them not as football players but as men.

Those sentiments are no different in Kansas City. You ask every person who has ever been part of this organization about Lamar Hunt and they'll shower you with accolades, stories and tears that could fill up Arrowhead stadium ten times over.

But the best story might yet be told. For Chiefs fans, they hope that chapter in the Lamar Hunt legacy is written on January 22nd, 2006. That's when we all hope that Carl Peterson and Dick Vermeil present our beloved Chiefs owner his rightful AFC Championship Trophy that symbolizes his name as one of the greatest founding fathers in the history of the NFL.

AFL FOUNDING FATHERS: Representatives of the Embryo American Football League pose in a football-like formation in New York City, Oct. 28, 1959. Posing in the front row from left are, Robert L. Howsam, Denver, Colo.; Max Winter, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Lamar Hunt, Dallas, Texas, the League's founder; and K.S. Adams. Jr., Houston, Texas. In the back row from left are, Barron Hilton, Los Angeles, Ca.; Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Buffalo, N.Y.; and Harry Wismer, New York. (AP Photo)

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