In the Front Row: So long, and remember the good times
So this is how it ends. No party; no fanfare; you're just going to quietly slip out of town and head south, and I'm going to forever be nothing more than a twinkle in your eye that your fans in St. Joseph won't understand.
We both knew it couldn't last forever. A small, upper Midwest town like me and a famous, original American Football League franchise like you. We both understood our time together would be seasonable and temporary. But boy we had some good times together in 19 years, didn't we?
Remember the very first summer? The great Kansas City Chiefs were coming to set up their summer training camp in River Falls. And the town turned out in full force, hanging red banners from the light posts and cheering as you rode down Main Street on our fire trucks.
It was like Mayberry welcoming the gold truck.
And how about the next year? Again we greeted you with open arms and a fire truck parade, with as much enthusiasm as the previous summer. One of your assistant coaches even felt comfortable enough to lob water balloons at your players as they waved from atop the fire trucks.
Coincidently, that was the same year Clyde Bellecourt and his American Indian Movement showed up in town to protest your "Chiefs" nickname. The group barged into the parade carrying banners and signs denouncing you. As the police tried to hold the group back, a barrage of water balloons tossed by your mischievous assistant coach rained down on your players.
The next day the headline in the Kansas City papers read something like: "American Indian protesters throw water balloons at Chiefs."
Then there were the Joe Montana years. Talk about good times. The bars and restaurants were full of people just hoping to catch a glimpse of the future Hall of Famer. And you didn't disappoint. Your fun-loving coach at the time, Marty Schottenheimer, used to give your players plenty of free time to get out on the town, as long as they got back to the dorms in time for curfew.
I remember one time when the players were wrapping up a happy hour at a local establishment and Montana took one last swig off his can of beer and set it down on a table. As he walked away, two local women began wrestling over the can of backwash and had to be separated by one of the burly bouncers.
Schottenheimer knew how to throw a training camp. There were the Oklahoma Drills, where fans could get right down on the field, just yards away as a ball carrier tried getting through two tacklers. And every year before he broke camp, Schottenheimer would take his players over to the Ramer Field baseball diamond and hold a home run derby.
But then you fired Marty. And Gunther Cunningham turned training camp into boot camp. Then Dick Vermeil ran the show, and Herm Edwards up until last year.
It seemed like when Montana and Schottenheimer left, we just began going through the motions, and we both knew the end was inevitable.
But hey, no hard feelings right? You've got to do what you feel is right, and if that means building a multi-million dollar indoor, climate-controlled practice facility at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo., and moving training camp there to placate your local fans and politicians, so be it.
Incidentally, we're trying to upgrade our own Ramer Field right. You know, new lights, turf, bleachers, etc. Don't feel obligated or anything, but it would certainly be a nice gesture if you could help out.
Good luck this season, and I hope they throw a parade for you next summer when you move to St. Joe's.