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Commentary: Reimagining Kansas City's Super Bowl Champions, The Chiefs

Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3 file photo
The crowd on the night the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs are champions, and fans are still flying high. But now that the confetti has settled it’s time to confront a difficult question: What’s in a name? Commentator Victor Wishna offers a modest proposal in this post-Super Bowl edition of 'A Fan’s Notes.'

Spring training is underway. March and its madness loom. But many of us are still stuck on our Chiefs. After 50 years, three weeks is hardly enough time to savor a Super Bowl championship.

(Speaking of which, DVR isn’t like tape, is it? I mean, if you were to watch, say, the last six minutes of a game again and again and again, it won’t wear out, right? Asking for a friend.)

The Kansas City Chiefs finally get to see their name in lights. But it isn’t entirely flattering.

For all the praise heaped on our team and our town, there’s some bad press, too, when it comes to the organization’s use of Native American imagery. As the stars on American sports’ biggest stage, the Chiefs can no longer hide behind supposedly worse offenders like the Cleveland Indians or that other football team from Washington, D.C.

I have loved my Kansas City Chiefs since maybe before I was born, but even I know that some of our fan traditions are a little bit racist — if not in intent, in effect, on a generation of fellow sports fans, which is all that matters.

So I have a simple suggestion for how to rebrand the NFL’s hottest team:

"The Kansas City Chiefs."

Let me explain. A few days before the big game, I found myself driving behind a bright red-and-yellow SUV with the vanity plate, “CHIEF 91.” And I thought to myself, “Now there’s a real fan. Maybe it’s even Derrick Nnadi or Tamba Hali, Mr. 91, himself.”

But as I passed on the left, I realized the guy behind the wheel, he was a chief alright — with the badge and flashing lights to prove it.

The point is, no need to change the name. Just reimagine it.

No need to change the team colors either or, really, the uniforms — just a subtle switch from the arrowhead logo to a KC fire emblem. I know Arrowhead Stadium is a bit more sacred, but something like “The Fire House” could catch on pretty quickly. And a steady dose of lights and sirens in the loudest stadium in the NFL could, well, ignite the crowd.

And why not honor Kansas City’s proud firefighting history? Our department was once considered the best in the world, outperforming every company in Europe at competitions in London and Paris at the end of the 19th century. The chief at the time, George C. Hale, was famous for revolutionizing firefighting, with more than 50 patented inventions.

It’s a natural fit. As current Fire Chief Donna Maize told the Kansas City Star this month, “What I really love about the Kansas City Chiefs is the excellent teamwork utilizing everyone’s strengths to achieve a common goal, which embodies what KCFD excels at each and every day.”

Imagine the partnerships with our city’s first responders, and Chief Maize ringing the new spirit bell as the team bursts from the tunnel to answer the call. A fire pole is probably too risky, but it’s perfect for KC Wolf — yeah, we can totally keep KC Wolf, too. Just give him a fire chief’s hat and maybe a Dalmatian sidekick. And if we really need something to chop with, there’s always a fireman’s axe.

So keep the best of the old, and in with the new. The Super Bowl run proved that Chiefs fans are always anxious to pay for the latest merch. And Patrick Mahomes’ contract extension ain’t gonna come cheap.

Perhaps you find this a bit alarming. Maybe you think it isn’t right — an act of stolen valor — to represent an entire class of people, distinguished by their bravery and history, as a silly sports stereotype. You would have a point.

But, like I said, it’s just an idea. We can talk about this later — and we will. Because just like the best team in football, this topic’s not going away.

Victor Wishna is a writer, editor and sports fan. He lives in Leawood.

Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.