Chief justice: Team finally overcomes Telander curse to win Super Bowl title

K.C. returns to promised land 49 years after cutting a certain Northwestern cornerback.

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Kansas City head football coach Hank Stram and his quarterback Len Dawson are shown in New Orleans, Jan. 6, 1970, during a light workout session in preparation for the Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings.

Kansas City head football coach Hank Stram and his quarterback Len Dawson are shown in New Orleans, Jan. 6, 1970, during a light workout session in preparation for the Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings.

Charles Kelly/AP

Iguess this is my moment to say I have officially lifted the curse of failure from the Kansas City Chiefs, and they are free.

The curse?

Well, yeah. Until the Chiefs beat the 49ers31-20 Sunday night to win Super Bowl LIV, that snakebit Missouri-based franchise (yes Missouri, Mr. President) had gone 50 years without a title.

What happened not long after their last Super Bowl win in January 1970 against the Vikings? What symbolic thing?

This: the Chiefs drafted a young, authority-probing (wise-ass?) yet uncertain cornerback from Northwestern named, ahem, Rick Telander.

When I came to camp at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, in the summer of 1971, the Chiefs had played one season after beating Fran Tarkenton and the Vikings, and were hungry to win another crown and establish themselves as an official dynasty.

Unfortunately, what happened instead was they cut that frisky young Wildcat defender before the regular season — with coach and general manager Hank Stram wishing him well in his future non-football pursuits (of which he had none planned or even pondered). The Chiefs would win the AFC West that year, but then they would play in the longest game ever, losing a 27-24 heartbreaker in double-overtime to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game.

After that playoff loss, the Chiefs were consigned to irrelevance for almost half a century.

The young, dismissed Telander did not realize at first that he was the reason for the Chiefs’ failure. But it was mentioned to him more than once in subsequent years that, hey, the Chiefs have sucked since they cut you, bubby! What do you think of that?

Usually this was in a bar or someplace similar. Usually later rather than earlier.

In time, Telander came to enjoy the notion that he had laid a Billy Goat-like hex on the Chiefs as karma for being so cruel and stupid as to hurry him into ‘‘the rest of his life.’’ Of course, he always knew this was bogus since cutting him was akin to a porpoise shedding a barnacle, with the Chiefs being the swift, oceangoing mammal and he being the tiny, sessile invertebrate.

After all, on that team from which he was dismissed were nine future Hall of Famers, 11 if you counted Stram and owner Lamar Hunt. And this Telander lad was of a different category, for sure. His published diary of that training camp (‘‘Like a Rose: A Celebration of Football”) proves as much.

Here are a couple freebie stories from those camp days:

Quarterback Len Dawson was very kind to Telander, allowing him to come into his dorm room in the evenings, squat on the floor and listen to veterans such as punter Jerrel Wilson and backup quarterback Mike Livingston and Dawson himself tell stories that were R-rated at best. On the floor near where he crouched were stacked cases of beer, available to any friend of Lenny’s. Telander marveled at the stamina of these men who never seemed to sleep.

In camp there was a rookie tackle, Charles Roundtree, from Grambling, a shy, very large — OK, fat — fellow, whom the vets loved to tease. It was always, ‘‘Yo, Tree, wha’s happ’nin’?’’ followed by laughter.

When Tree was forced to stand on his chair and sing the Grambling fight song at lunch, in terror and confusion, it came out: ‘‘Fight for dear ol’ Gramblin’/We’re gonna win with a torch and no doubt/Rah, rah, rah.’’

Even I snorted into my closed hand. Of course, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. God forbid!A third-year vet on the team, former Northwestern star center Jack Rudnay, did me a favor for all time. I begged him early on to please arrange it with the elders that I wouldn’t have to stand and sing my fight song — I mean, to this day I don’t know all the words to ‘‘Go, You Northwestern’’ — and I was, like Roundtree, terrified of the certain humiliation in front of large, vicious men.

Like a backroom mob capo, Rudnay did me that favor, somehow buying me a pass from the vets in control. Fittingly, I suppose, I would be cut before anybody noticed.

But now I forgive the Chiefs. All is water under the bridge of time. I lifted the hex. It’s all good.

The only curse is on the many teams that didn’t draft Patrick Mahomes.

Hoo-ah!

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