The presence of the Kansas City Chiefs here Sunday brings back memories of the Vikings' first Super Bowl in January 1970. The Vikings lost to the Chiefs 23-7 in old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, which has since been demolished. Chiefs coach Hank Stram was wired for sound and acted like a real clown on the sidelines, which no doubt irritated Vikings coaches and players and made the defeat harder to take.
Multimillionaire Lamar Hunt, owner of the Chiefs, earlier had outbid the Vikings for the services of two former Gophers, Bobby Bell and Bob Stein, and put together a strong team by outbidding all of his competitors.
The loss to the Chiefs was especially surprising considering the Vikings were 12-2 and headed into the game as 12-point favorites. They had been one of the most dominant teams in NFL history, outscoring their opponents 379-133 over the course of the 14-week regular season.
The most points the Vikings had given up all year was 24 in their season-opening loss to the New York Giants, and they didn't allow more than 14 through the rest of the regular season. In the playoffs they beat the Rams 23-20, then beat the Browns 27-7 in the NFL Championship Game.
The Chiefs finished the regular season 11-3 but didn't even win the AFL West, having to instead win two road games to reach Super Bowl IV. But none of that mattered once the game started.
I have to believe that loss, because of the way Stram acted on the sideline, probably bothered Vikings coach Bud Grant as much as any in his long coaching career.
Grant was looking for revenge, and he got the opportunity when the NFL schedule-makers pitted the Vikings against the Chiefs in the opening game of the 1970 season.
Grant seldom showed film of previous games with upcoming opponents on Saturday night before they played the next day. But in this situation, players reported that Grant didn't have a word to say about the game plan. He just showed film of the Super Bowl loss.
The result was the Vikings were at their best that day and they completely dominated the Chiefs, beating them 27-10. And Stram, rather than be a clown like he was during the Super Bowl, was at a loss for words after the game in the Chiefs news conference. They would finish 7-5-2 that season and miss the playoffs. The Vikings would again finish 12-2.
An unlimited number of prayers should be said for the recovery of former Gophers player and current Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders, who is seriously ill and resting at the University of Minnesota Hospital.
Saunders acquired pneumonia while taking chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and the word around Target Center on Wednesday night at the Lynx game was things are not good. His son, Ryan, who is a Timberwolves assistant coach, has spent most of his time in the hospital, along with the rest of the family, at his father's bedside.
My heart bleeds for Flip, who I've been close to since he stepped on the Williams Arena court in September 1973, 42 years ago. We've spent a lot of time together. He's a tremendous father, and his wife, Debbie, is a superwoman.
Things were going great for him with the Timberwolves and he was looking forward to an outstanding season. It is such a sad story that it brings tears to my eyes.
Gophers could throw
It would seem that something has to give in the Gophers football game against Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nebraska has allowed 348.5 passing yards per game, the worst in the nation in Division I. But the Gophers' passing average of 176.5 per game is currently ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker tried to stay positive when he talked to the Omaha World-Herald following the Huskers' 23-21 loss to Wisconsin last week when they allowed 322 yards passing.
"You know what's great? We got things to work on," he said. "We're going to go out there — we wish we were doing it in another vein — and there are no moral victories. We've got to go back to work."
The Gophers should get plenty of opportunities to pass Saturday.
•The Vikings have to conquer a post-bye week jinx Sunday. They have lost five consecutive post-bye games, including last year in a 21-13 defeat to the Bears. There are only five players left on the team from the last time they won following a bye, on Nov. 15, 2009, against the Lions.
•Nebraska is the fifth unranked opponent the Gophers will face this year, but starting next week they play three consecutive highly ranked teams in No. 12 Michigan, No. 1 Ohio State and No. 17 Iowa.
•Overlooked from last week's University of Regents meeting was that besides approving various new athletic department facilities, they also said yes to starting construction of the new baseball building at a cost of $1.325 million, which was raised by alumni. The building will be constructed on the site of Siebert Field.
•Going into the Nebraska game, Gophers wide receiver K.J. Maye is having a great year with 22 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns and rushing the ball four times in crucial situations for 17 yards.
•Looks like the Gophers football team is going to have a fourth outstanding Barber, after having brothers Marion Barber III and Dominique play for them, as well as their father, Marion Barber Jr. Thomas Barber, who has committed to Minnesota, is playing for Armstrong and recorded seven tackles, a tackle for a loss and forced a fumble in a recent 42-6 victory over DeLaSalle. … Another future Gopher, Carter Coughlin, whose father, Bob, and grandfather Tom Moe were Gophers athletes, is having an outstanding season at linebacker for Eden Prairie. … Another Gophers recruit, Lansing (Mich.) Catholic dual-threat quarterback Tony Poljan, passed for 243 yards and rushed for 147 in a 48-6 victory over Eaton Rapids on Oct. 9.
•Elk River native and former Gophers All-America defenseman Paul Martin played in his 700th NHL game Tuesday, joining Neal Broten, Mike Ramsey, Reed Larson, Trent Klatt, Aaron Broten and Thomas Vanek as the only Gophers to reach that milestone. ... Other former Gophers hockey stars in the NHL: Blake Wheeler is off a good start with two goals and three assists in four games for the Winnipeg Jets. Phil Kessel has a goal and an assist in three games for Pittsburgh. Defenseman Erik Johnson has two goals and an assist in three games for Colorado.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org