Area fans celebrate their team’s playoff win and Super Bowl status
Ozark County native Clay Pettit, an Army colonel currently serving in the Pentagon, is a diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan. That’s why he was up on the roof of his cousins’ Isabella home Sunday, trying to hook up the TV antenna.
Clay had come back to Missouri for the weekend to watch the Chiefs’ playoff game against the Tennessee Titans with his wife Shonnie and sons, not at their Springfield home but in Isabella with Clay’s mother, Mary Pettit, at the home of their cousin Ned Upton and his wife Dorothy.
The Uptons, who retired back to Ozark County several years ago, have been Chiefs fans since they moved to the Kansas City area in 1967. That was three years before the Chiefs defeated the Vikings to win Super Bowl IV in 1970. Ned remembers watching that Super Bowl game on TV 50 years ago with Dorothy and one of their neighbors. “I do remember watching when we won it,” Ned said. “I remember I didn’t sit down the whole game.”
As longstanding Chiefs Kingdom loyalists, Ned and Dorothy were eager to watch Sunday’s playoff game with their fellow Chiefs-fan cousins. But there was a problem. Ned and Dorothy watch TV on Dish Satellite, and Dish hasn’t carried the feed from CBS affiliate KOLR-10 in Springfield recently due to contract disputes. The situation has frustrated the Uptons and thousands of other Dish customers in southwest Missouri, especially on Sunday, because the Chiefs vs. Titans game was carried on channel 10.
“We’re below the road a bit, and it’s a really tall antenna,” Ned said Monday, “but it’s been 15 years since I’ve had to use it.”
Starting before kickoff, Clay struggled for two hours trying to get the old antenna to work so the six Chiefs fans could watch the game. Instead, the cousins listened to the game on the radio, updating Clay on key plays and scores while he was “up on the roof for over an hour in the cold wind,” he said. It was no use. The antenna connection just wouldn’t work.
At halftime, he gave up and went to his mom’s house nearby with Mary and the Pettits’ younger son Scott, to watch the rest of the game on her antenna-connected TV. Ned, Dorothy and Shonnie stayed behind and continued listening on the radio, with texted updates from Clay. (The Pettits’ older son, Daniel, had stayed in Springfield.)
“When it got down to two minutes, and they were leading by 11 points, I knew the Chiefs had won it,” Ned said. Afterward, the cousins reunited at the Uptons’ house to celebrate their team’s 35-24 win over the Titans, earning the Chiefs a trip to Miami to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.
Meanwhile, in Arrowhead Stadium …
While the Uptons and Pettits were trying to watch Sunday’s game on TV, 250 miles north in Kansas City, Gainesville-area residents David Murphy and his son, Aidan, 17, were happily climbing to their favorite seats on Row 42, Section 326 in Arrowhead Stadium. “All the way to the top,” David said. “You can see the entire field, and you’re against the wall, out of the weather.”
David has been a Chiefs fan since boyhood, when his family moved from Miami (where he had been a young Dolphins fan) to Kansas City, where he saw his first in-person game, a Chiefs vs. Broncos bout, in 1983. “I was in the Boys Club, and the Optimist Clubs would give us tickets,” he said.
He continued his love for the Chiefs through the 1990s and while he was serving overseas with the military. He even got a Chiefs tattoo when he was a 19-year-old Marine. “It’s been a fun journey,” he said. And it’s even better now that he’s sharing it with Aidan.
David is already making plans for watching the Super Bowl game on TV. No party, no friends, he said. “I don’t want to watch it with a bunch of people talking and asking questions,” he said.
Several rows below the Murphy men in Arrowhead Stadium, Gainesville School superintendent Jeff Hyatt and his wife, Shelby, also watched the game, nearly deafened by “how loud that place gets,” Hyatt said. Like Murphy, he’s been a Chiefs fan since he was a boy; he grew up in the Sparta-Ozark area. He went to his first Chiefs game right after high school. In recent years he and Shelby have tried to make it to one or two games a year. On Sunday “we picked the right one,” he said.
Now Hyatt is wishing he was a millionaire “and could fly down there to Miami and get one of those $5,000 tickets” for the Super Bowl. But of course he’d want to take Shelby, doubling the cost. The only way that would be possible is to dip into their daughter’s college fund, he said, laughing, and that’s probably not going to happen.
Remembering the 1970 Super Bowl
Ava native Ed Hesterlee now lives near Jacksonville, Florida, but he lived in Kansas City nearly 30 years, beginning in 1969 when he enrolled in the University of Missouri-Kansas City Pharmacy School. He didn’t have the money to attend games in person, he said, but he followed the Chiefs, and he remembers that, “when they won the Super Bowl in 1970, all hell broke loose. It was like the town erupted.”
He recalls being in restaurants when Chiefs Coach Hank Stram or Chiefs players Len Dawson or Bobby Bell might walk in, “and people would give them a standing ovation.”
When Hesterlee and his wife were back in Kansas City in November, visiting friends, they picked up a big batch of Oklahoma Joe’s famous Kansas City barbecue, packed it in coolers, drove it back home to Florida and stored it in the freezer. They brought it out Jan. 12 to enjoy while watching the Chiefs’ win over the Houston Texans. And they had enough for leftovers while they watched the playoff game Sunday. It was the perfect menu for watching the team’s march to victory. “I’ll always be a Chiefs fan,” Hesterlee said.
A 12-year-old girl ‘keeping notebooks of stats’
Gainesville resident Barbara Loftis was texting with her daughter Chris Sprague during Sunday’s game, sharing comments about the game. Chris, who teaches band and music at Bradleyville School, was born in Kansas City, and she said Monday she’s been a Chiefs fan for 41 years – since she was 10 or so and her dad, the late Jim Loftis, explained the game of football to her while they lived in Kansas City.
“By the time I was 12, I was keeping notebooks of stats,” she said Monday, laughing at the memory. She was in college when she went to the Chiefs’ 1991 playoff game, when they defeated the Oakland Raiders. People sitting around her “didn’t know a lot about football,” she said. “I was commentating, saying what was going on, what was happening. At first they were thinking, ‘What’s a snot-nose college girl know about football?’ But then they started listening.”
These days, she said, “I watch all the Chiefs’ games. I don’t miss a play.” If the game is on a Sunday night and she has to miss it because of church, she records the game, turns off her phone and avoids all media so she can watch the game in full when she and her husband, Matthew, get home.
She has a lot of Chiefs apparel and paraphernalia, but the most-used item may be a Chiefs stress doll that pulls apart. “Its head and legs come off,” she said. “I have it at school, and when my students come in and see that the doll is intact, they know life is good. If it’s pulled apart … they know they better not poke the bear that day.”
One advantage these homebound Chiefs fans had Sunday over those who were in Arrowhead Stadium was that (except for Clay Pettit, up on the Uptons’ roof) they could follow the game in climate-controlled conditions. Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the wintry temperature was brisk, to say the least. “When we left home, the temperature gauge on the car said, 23, and it was 15 by the time we got to the stadium,” Hyatt said.
No matter, said David Murphy. “It’s never cold in that stadium – unless they lose.”