The Talk of Fame Network introduces another in our “5 Games” series of podcasts this week with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The concept of the podcast is to visit with an historic football figure about five significant games in his career. We visit with Lanier about a couple games between the Chiefs and their bitter AFL-rival the Oakland Raiders, a Super Bowl, the longest pro football game ever played plus, interestingly enough, an exhibition game.
On this podcast we’ll discuss with Lanier the 1971 AFC semifinal game on Christmas Day between his Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, AKA the longest pro football game ever played. It was a game that sent the two franchises in opposite directions – the Dolphins would go on to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls and the Chiefs would go the next 14 seasons without qualifying for the playoffs.
The Dolphins won, 27-24, on a 37-yard Garo Yepremian field goal in the second overtime, 82 minutes and 40 seconds into the game. Going down to defeat was, according to their coach Hank Stram, the best Kansas City team ever assembled. And Lanier agreed.
“It was more seasoned,” Lanier said. “The year we won (1969), I was a third-year player. (Linebacker Jim) Lynch was a third-year player. (Cornerback Jim) Marsalis was a first-year player. That 1971 team was more seasoned. There was a mix of maturity, youth, history and abilities that hopefully would have been able to have more success…but it didn’t quite work out that way.”
That also was the last game the Chiefs ever played at Municipal Stadium. They moved into Arrowhead Stadium the following season…and lost their aura.
“Psychologically, you only went to Municipal Stadium on game day,” Lanier said. “So whenever you left home on that day, that was the only time you were in that stadium. Going to Arrowhead, it became your facility during the week and the place you played the game on Sunday. Even though it was a superior facility, it seemed to have a sameness about it. So possibly, in whatever way, maybe you didn’t assign it a higher significance because you were going there five times in a week anyway. Now you’re going back on Sunday.
“So whatever the aura that might have been come from playing at Municipal Stadium, an older facility that did not have all the great creature comforts… It was more like an old home or old shoe that fit well that causes you to be very confident when you go in and sit down. It didn’t have all the accoutrement of this huge facility with everything -- bangles and bales. That’s a great part of a stadium, nothing against it, but the place where you gain your comfort of having the other team show up and you were able to beat them handily shifted once we ended up at Arrowhead. The spiral as it started to unfold there continued for a very long time.”
Lanier also recalls his conversation with President Richard M. Nixon about the Christmas Day game, the surprising misses of three field goals by Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud and how, in his opinion, the better team lost to the Dolphins.
In the final episode, we’ll talk to Lanier about a 1967 exhibition game against the Chicago Bears – the first NFL opponent the Chiefs would play after their Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or VokalNow.com