This One Was For Lamar Hunt

You couldn't ask for a more perfect ending to a day that had been anticipated since the Chiefs schedule came out last April. The crowd was so electric that it could have lit up a foreign country. The NFL Network made its broadcasting debut and, best of all, Kansas City defeated Denver, 19-10.

But something, or more to the point, someone, was missing. AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt was in a Dallas hospital, unable to witness the second largest crowd in the history of Arrowhead stadium. After the game, Chiefs President Carl Peterson gave a very touching speech about Hunt and what he means to the franchise. Hunt was hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon, and you know how serious it had to be for him to miss the one game that featured the NFL back in Kansas City on Turkey day.

In the 60's, this game was an AFL staple. Every Thanksgiving the Chiefs hosted another AFL team. But that run ended in 1969, and since then the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions have enjoyed the event.

When the NFL Network kicked around the idea of awarding a city its first Thanksgiving telecast, there was little debate as to which owner would be the benefactor. Hunt got the nod.

It was unfortunate, to say the least, that Hunt was forced to miss the game with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the house. But Lamar's son, Clark Hunt, who resides as the Chiefs' Chairman of the Board, stood tall and carried on the charge by his father.

"I've had the opportunity to watch my dad, over the last 15-20 years, work to try and convince the NFL to bring a Thanksgiving game back to Kansas City," said Hunt. "We had three games back here before the merger. Ever since that time, he's wanted to bring a game back. He's just thrilled."

Still, it wasn't easy for Peterson to address the situation after the game.

"In typical Lamar Hunt fashion, his comment to me and us was to please give my apologies that I could not be there today," said Peterson. "But I will be there in spirit, and he was."

Hunt is the Godfather of this organization. His work in shaping the AFL into a real power forced the NFL to join forces or risk extinction. What he's meant to Kansas City is something that can't be measured solely by the Chiefs.

He's painted this town red and made the Chiefs the premier entertainment attraction on the sports landscape since he moved the team from Dallas in the 60's. He doesn't make Kansas City home, but this is his home. He built the house that fans enshrine with their passion for the Chiefs, and it showed on Thursday.

The atmosphere before this game was unlike anything I'd seen in my years as a fan. The crowd inside Arrowhead, a heart pounding 81,000, felt a pride they haven't felt in that stadium since the night the Buffalo Bill strolled into Arrowhead for a Monday Night Massacre back in 1991.

The NFL owes a tremendous gratitude to Hunt and they should award the Chiefs a primetime Thanksgiving night game every single season. It's the right thing to do, and something that Clark Hunt vows to get done.

"The Commissioner was here tonight and I point to him that this was a pretty good show for the National Football League," he said. "With the great evening, we'll be asking the League to bring the game back very soon, if not next year."

That would be a fitting tribute to the elder Hunt. It would be well-deserved, but there's another honor that has eluded him these past thirty years.

With this victory in hand, the Chiefs are a contender for the division and a playoff spot. They control their destiny at this point. If they run the table, they are in the playoffs.

If they can win three, or possibly two playoff games, then the AFC Trophy that bears Hunt's name would reside in Kansas City. That's not a stretch of the imagination any longer. Based on some of the weird and wild things that have happened to this team already in 2006, it wouldn't shock me at all if the football gods shine down upon the Chiefs and anoint them a team of destiny.

It happened last year to the Pittsburgh Steelers and it could happen this season for the Chiefs and Hunt.

Not many men have been such a key ambassador to this community. Hunt is a man who believes in doing everything the right way and the honest way. With his health a concern, it's time we all give thanks to his generosity and his gifts over the years.

It's time that we give something back to him. It starts with the coaches, the players and the fans. It's time we all do it for Lamar. Because in life, you just never know how long this ride will last.

But after the game, Clark Hunt said his father was doing much better. And that might have been the best news of all on Thursday.

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