These St. Louisans are all in for the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl 58
There's long been a contingent of Chiefs Kingdom in St. Louis. During the AFC Championship game, the St. Louis market at the third most viewers tuning in — despite, at times, vocal opposition to both the teams and the National Football League.
Growing up with deaf parents, Jennifer Page knew she wanted to help people reach their highest potential through rehabilitation.
When it came to looking at colleges as a Ritenour High School senior, she applied for a six-year advanced medical program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — and got in. The high school cheerleader would make the trek to the other side of the state in pursuit of her medical degree and starting a new chapter of her life.
During 1986-87, Page’s second year at UMKC, the university was awarded a Division I men’s basketball team. She was hooked. “It was a very exciting [time] at UMKC,” she said. Then came an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. “The coaches for that college cheerleading program were looking for people to try out for the [Kansas City] Chiefs."
After consulting a close cheer friend and her now-husband, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, she decided she would try out for the squad. She made the cut.
“It was really my sanctuary because I really didn't do a lot of school activities,” she said of cheering for the NFL team, acknowledging the workload a medical school education brings. “I considered it a weekend warrior. I worked really hard during the week and cheered really hard on the weekends.”
Page admits the team was not very good in the first few years she cheered for the team. “Tickets were cheap,” she said. “But, the fans that were there were diehards.”
Now, Page said she’s excited to see the team once again back in the Super Bowl this weekend and taking on the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think if any team deserves this, it's the Chiefs,” she said. “We have had diehard fans for so long, and to be able to enjoy this success is well rewarded.”
Scores of St. Louis-area residents share Page’s hopes of capturing the Super Bowl LXIII title in Las Vegas, which would mark the team’s third in four years.
The Chiefs-Baltimore Ravens AFC matchup last month had roughly 55.47 million viewers tune in to CBS across the country — marking the largest audience on record for an AFC title game, according to Nielsen. Of that audience, the St. Louis market had the third most viewers tuning in despite, at times, vocal opposition to the team and the National Football League.
Kaw is the law
Many say St. Louis’ scorn toward the NFL doesn’t come without reason.
The league approved St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s bid to move the team back to Los Angeles in 2016, later resulting in a $790 million settlement with the city and St. Louis County. The local governments accused the league of not following its relocation guidelines, breach of contract and intentionally misleading the public.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen recently surveyed city residents about how they would like their $250 million share of the settlement spent, including options for investments like water main replacement and raises for city employees. The board will present its findings at an online hearing at 8 p.m. Feb. 15.
"It was just the purest form of hatred towards Stan Kroenke," said Chris Daming, a business executive from Webster Groves, of the move. He is a former St. Louis Rams fan who now roots for the Chiefs. "It just kind of made me question humanity a little bit. I was the eternal optimist thinking they would stay."
Daming is one of many regional residents who have moved on to supporting other football franchises after the Rams’ move. He said that while there was some initial anger about the move and a brief boycott of professional football, he felt like he needed a new NFL home after St. Louis won its settlement against the NFL.
“We were kind of able to stick it to them that way,” Daming said. “You live a lot happier life if you just simply, instead of hanging on to this hatred, you move on and find something new to love.”
While not all St. Louis football fans may share Daming’s support of the Chiefs, thousands have joined him in adjusting their focus to also supporting the St. Louis Battlehawks — a spring football team playing in the newly formed United Football League, previously known as the XFL.
The new semiprofessional league saw success in St. Louis with more than 38,000 fans in the Dome at America’s Center last spring for the team’s home opener, the largest attendance in the league last year.
The UFL recently announced it will host its championship in St. Louis on June 15 after seeing the fan base’s support for the Battlehawks.
“A big part of it was it was almost like a way to kind of stick it to the NFL to say: ‘Hey, we are, we are a football city. We can show up,’” said Daming. “It just feels... like a kind of turnaround story of redemption.'"
The Chiefs' home in St. Louis
While the Rams brought St. Louis the city’s only Super Bowl with the Greatest Show on Turf in 2000, a contingent of Chiefs fans have long found their corner in the Gateway to the West.
Kendel Beard, of Webster Groves, and a small group of fans started what he calls the largest Chiefs fan club in St. Louis in 2008. The 58-year-old originally grew up loving the St. Louis (Football) Cardinals, known as the “the Big Red” until their move to Phoenix in 1988.
“It broke my heart,” Beard said. “I thought about rooting for some other teams, like the [Dallas] Cowboys and the [Chicago] Bears that just didn't take. Then, I realized there's a pretty good team out in Kansas City that's in our state.”
What started as a gathering of seven or eight fans per game at Weber's Front Row in Webster Groves has grown to gameday gatherings of hundreds. “We thought if we ever get over 50 people we'd be happy. We thought that would be the max we could get,” he said. “Now, if we have just 50 people, we’re disappointed."
Beard said he, and many other fans, saw the team's highs and lows over the years — including head coach Andy Reid’s first few years with the team. The missing piece? "We drafted Patrick Mahomes and now look at what we've done," he said. "We've got the elite of the elite. Under Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the Chiefs have soared to new heights in the last five to six years."
If the Chiefs win, it would be the first time a team won back-to-back Super Bowl championships since the New England Patriots in 2003 and ‘04.
That possibility has sparked countless conversations about a new NFL dynasty in Kansas City and comparisons to the Patriots’ historic success under former coach Bill Belichick. That Mahomes has yet to turn 30 years old is even more encouraging.
A win on Sunday also would thwart Super Bowl revenge for San Francisco. In Miami four years ago, the 49ers held a second-half lead over the Chiefs, only to see Kansas City rally and claim the Lombardi Trophy.
That’s a sight Beard said he would love to see once more.
Weber's Front Row’s owners recently announced the bar would be closing on Feb. 25, leaving Beard and other fans to wonder where they will go once the season ends this weekend. Beard said he and his club’s co-founders aren’t going to worry about that and remain focused on enjoying the last gathering under the current setup.
“We want to focus on the Super Bowl and have some more fun first with Weber's Front Row,” he said. “We want to go off with a good send-off.”
Where to watch the Super Bowl
Super Bowl LVIII will air live Sunday on CBS at 5:30 p.m. Central time. Nickelodeon will air a children-focused broadcast of the game, including many of the network’s popular characters in the show.
Streaming is available on the CBS Sports app and Paramount+ — a service that fans can get a seven-day trial of for free. Subscribers also will be able to watch on fuboTV, YouTube TV and Hulu+Live TV.
TicoSports will stream a Spanish-language radio broadcast of the game at Tico-Sports.com.
KCUR's Greg Echlin contributed to this report.
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