The Kansas City Chiefs must have thought this whole Super Bowl thing was going to be easy. After playing in the first one, and losing to the Green Bay Packers, the Chiefs beat the Vikings to win Super Bowl IV. Then…nothing. For decades the Chiefs couldn’t get over the hump and return to the big game. That finally changed this season, with Kansas City heading to Super Bowl LIV!
If you know your Roman numerals, you know that it has been 50 years since the Chiefs last appeared in a Super Bowl. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. To drive that point home, we’re taking a look at the world the last time the Chiefs were in a Super Bowl, on Jan. 11, 1970. As such, while we’re going to talk mostly about 1969, things from early in 1970 will slip into the mix as well. So let’s hop in our time machine!
Super Bowl IV was the last vestige of the old way of football in this country. You may remember in the early days, the Super Bowl was a matchup between the winner of two different pro football leagues, the NFL and the AFL. After the Chiefs beat the Vikings, the two leagues finalized their merger, giving us the one league, the NFL, that we know today.
Back in the day, college football was honestly seen as being as big, if not bigger, than pro football. This is despite the fact there was no playoff, no BCS; none of that stuff. Teams won titles based on polls, which sometimes didn’t agree with each other. That wasn’t the case in 1969 though. The Texas Longhorns and the Arkansas Razorbacks actually faced off during the regular season when they were ranked first and second respectively. Texas won, and it went on to win the Cotton Bowl over Notre Dame to end the season undefeated and was declared the champs by every major polling group.
These days, it’s almost impossible to win the Heisman if you aren’t a quarterback. That wasn’t the case in the years of “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Owens, a running back for the Oklahoma Sooners, took the Heisman home for the 1969 season, becoming the second Oklahoma player to win the award. Owens would be drafted 19th overall in 1970 by the Detroit Lions and played there through 1974 before injuries ended his career.
Since we’re talking awards, we should note who took home the big awards for the NFL in the 1969 season. Gabriel, the quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, was named the league MVP. Bud Grant was declared Coach of the Year for the Vikings. Calvin Hill, a running back for the Cowboys, was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the Defensive Rookie of the Year was some guy named Joe Greene. Whatever became of him?
Heading into the 1969 MLB season, nobody expected much of the Mets. They were in only their eighth season and had never finished higher than ninth in the standings of the 10-team National League. Then, out of nowhere, they won 100 games and beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS to become the first expansion franchise to win a pennant. New York would go on to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, earning the nickname “The Miracle Mets.”
Since the NBA and NHL have leagues that span two years, we’re going to go with the 1969-70 season for both. On the hardwood the New York Knicks, yes the Knicks, beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title. This includes the famed “Willis Reed game.” In the NHL, the Boston Bruins swept the St. Louis Blues to win their first Stanley Cup in 29 years. You may remember a famous image of Bobby Orr from this series.
How about some individual sport winners? Tennis legend Rod Laver had a year to remember in 1969, as he won all four Grand Slam tournaments. On the women’s side, Margaret Court won three of the four Grand Slams, with Ann Jones of Great Britain winning Wimbledon. In the world of the PGA, the four majors were won by George Archer, Orville Moody, Tony Jacklin and Raymond Floyd. The LPGA had only two majors in 1969, one of which was won by the legendary Betsy Rawls, who took home her 52nd LPGA tour win.
Sorry to bury the lede! We wanted to start with some sports stuff. Now let’s get to what was going on in the world not necessarily related to sports — like, for example, on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. That was kind of important, historically speaking.
In 1968, Nixon, who had famously lost the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy, was successful in his second attempt at running for president. In January of 1969, Nixon was officially sworn in as the 37th president of the United States. It went totally smoothly for him that day.
In 1969 Joe Biden was elected to his first position, winning a seat on the New Castle County (Delaware) Council. Bernie Sanders was already politically active, but at the time he was living in the tiny town of Stannard, Vermont, working as a carpenter while writing political articles and making political films. Pete Buttigieg wouldn’t be born for another 13 years. And in the interest of non-partisanship, Donald Trump had just taken a job at his father’s real estate company.
When you put together an article like this, you have to do the “here’s what stuff cost” part. A new house would set you back $15,550 on average. A new car cost about $3,270. Then, of course, there’s the price of a gallon of gas, which was a mere 35 cents.
The world had come a long way since Orville and Wilbur Wright did their thing, but commercial flight was still in a different place. In fact, in 1969 the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet was flown for the first time. Oh, and you could still smoke on planes back then.
Meir is one of the best-known world leaders of her era. In 1969, she was named the first female prime minister of Israel. She would hold the office until 1974.
Obviously, Lennon and Ono’s relationship was already well established by this time, but in March of 1969 the two officially married. They then proceeded to hold their famous “Bed-In” protest in Amsterdam.
At the time of the death of a teenager then known as “Robert R.” in St. Louis, the medical community was puzzled about what had occurred. Eventually, in 1984, it would realize what had happened. Robert is now considered the first confirmed case of HIV/AIDs in North America, a disease that would begin to wreak havoc in the ensuing decades.
On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The Stonewell was a known gay bar in the city at a time when such establishments had to be underground about this fact and would often face persecution. This particular incident was a breaking point, and it led to a massive riot and a series of protests. The Stonewall riots are considered one of the most important early moments in the fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
These days, most of us don’t even use ATMs as society gets increasingly cashless. However, when the first automated teller machine was installed in New York, it was a huge deal. Suddenly, you could walk up to a machine and get money instead of having to visit a bank.
In 1969, we were introduced to the hotels DoubleTree and Econo Lodge, the restaurant Long John Silver’s and the clothing brand Gap. In 1970 we got our first taste of Tom’s of Maine and National Public Radio. Yes, NPR was founded in 1970.
In 1969, Judy Garland passed away after a drug overdose. She was only 47. Interestingly, Renee Zellweger, who just starred as Garland in the film “Judy,” was born the same year. Other notable deaths from the time include Boris Karloff, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Rocky Marciano, Ho Chi Minh and Jack Kerouac.
Let’s not stay morbid. A lot of famous people were born in 1969, many in the last few months of the year, right before the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. Those include Zach Galifianakis, Gwen Stefani, Brett Favre, Trey Parker, Matthew McConaughey, Dabo Swinney and Jay Z. In January of 1970 we added Shonda Rhimes, Matthew Lillard and Heather Graham to the world.
At the Oscars, which were held early in 1970 to honor the films of 1969, “Midnight Cowboy,” a film starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, won Best Picture. It’s the only X-rated film to ever win the award, although with updates to the rating system “Midnight Cowboy” is now rated R. John Wayne won his only Best Actor award, for “True Grit,” and Maggie Smith took home Best Actress for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”
“Midnight Cowboy” may have won Best Picture, and it was second in box office in 1969, but “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was far and away the biggest hit. It made over $100 million at a time when no other film made more than $44 million. Some other big movies then include “Easy Rider” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the only James Bond film to star George Lazenby.
In 1969, a dramatic film called “Change of Habit” came out. It starred a young Mary Tyler Moore alongside The King himself, Elvis Presley. This would end up being the last movie Elvis ever acted in, ending his film career.
While Elvis was leaving the world of film, some huge actors made their film debuts in 1969. This includes Sam Elliott, Melanie Griffith, Christopher Walken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Pacino.
It feels like “Sesame Street” has been on forever, but it had to start sometime. That sometime was in 1969, when the educational children’s program aired on NET, which was the predecessor to PBS. Some other notable shows to make their debuts in 1969 include “Scooby-Doo, Where are You?,” “The Brady Bunch” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
It feels weird to say it now, but “Star Trek” wasn’t that popular in its initial run. It took a lot of effort to even get it a third season, which came to a conclusion in 1969. Yes, the adventures of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew were over before the Chiefs went to the Super Bowl…for a time being. There would be movies and spinoffs, and now “Star Trek” is considered sci-fi canon.
Soap operas have died off from their heyday, but some of them still had an incredible shelf life. For example, “All My Children” aired on ABC for 41 years. The run ended in 2011, but it began on Jan. 5, 1970, less than a week before Super Bowl IV.
The Emmys of 1969 were quite different from today's version. There was only one supporting category for men and one for women, there was an award for performance in a single episode of television and one for “Outstanding Achievement in Sports Programming.” The winner for best drama was “NET Playhouse,” while "Get Smart" took home the Emmy for Best Comedy. However, we can still look at the nominations to get a sense of what was popular on TV at the time. Along with “Get Smart," "Bewitched" also got a few nominations as did “Mission: Impossible” on the drama side. Also, since variety programs were still popular in 1969, we have to shout out the winner in that category: “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.”
We said the Beatles would come up later, and here we are. In 1969, the Fab Four gave their famous rooftop concert in London. It would be the last time the band every performed together live. Later in the year, the band finished the “Abbey Road” recording sessions, the final time the four would perform together as a band full stop.
You would think the Beatles news would be the biggest in music in 1969, but that would be inaccurate. After all, Woodstock happened in 1969. Yes, the one, true Woodstock. The one that really counted. It took place over a few days, changing the landscape not just of music festivals but also of music in general.
The hard rock legends Led Zeppelin had quite the year in 1969. They released their first album, the self-titled “Led Zeppelin,” early in the year, and then some months later, they dropped “Led Zeppelin II,” which featured the song “Whole Lotta Love.”
Here are some other prominent albums that came out in 1969: “Kick Out the Jams” by MC5, “The Velvet Underground” by The Velvet Underground, “Tommy” by The Who, “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart and a self-titled album from David Bowie, which was later renamed after the hit song from the album, “Space Oddity.”
Let’s return to football to close things out. Lombardi coached those Packers that beat the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl. In 1969, Lombardi surprisingly left Green Bay to spend a season coaching Washington. Then on Sept. 3, 1970, Lombardi suddenly died of cancer. The trophy given to the Super Bowl winner is now called the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Fifty years after Lombardi’s death, the Chiefs will be playing for it.
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