Thomas Wisdom choked up when the Kansas City Chiefs earned a spot in the upcoming Super Bowl.
Wisdom was 6 years old the last time K.C. played in the big game. That was 50 years ago. Now he’s a Scheels employee in Omaha, and this week, he has helped oversee his store’s Super Bowl gear.
“It’s gonna be a magical Sunday,” he said this week while showing off some of the stuff in the Village Pointe store. “It’s gonna be a madhouse when — when — the Chiefs win.”
You wish you could feel Wisdom’s joy. As a Denver Broncos fan for almost 60 years, you find that there is no game in which you would root for the Chiefs unless Moscow were to get an NFL franchise.
There are too many memories of agonizing Chiefs-Broncos games. There are too many experiences in Arrowhead Stadium watching games with yokels doing their tomahawk chopping. “O-o-O-o-o-o . . . O-o-O-o-o-o,” they go. Bozos.
Back to Wisdom and, whoopee-yay, the Chiefs being back in the Super Bowl, against the San Francisco 49ers. The World-Herald’s photo and video editor, Z Long, grew up in Ellinwood, Kansas, and suddenly Z’s all in with the Chiefs. Z goes to Scheels to look at their stuff and intends to shoot a lovely video. An editor assigns you to chronicle Z’s visit because you are known for your neutrality, objectivity and fairness.
“Remember,” the editor told you, “our readers expect neutrality, objectivity and fairness.”
“Oh,” you said, “most assuredly.” (“Gawd,” you thought, “the disgusting Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl.”)
Z is a loquacious individual with abundant enthusiasm for whatever Z’s doing or thinking about. “Well, I grew up in Chiefs country,” Z said. “All of us liked to impersonate Christian Okoye, the Nigerian Nightmare.” Today, Z’s wearing a black scarf that resembles the one quarterback Patrick Mahomes sometimes wears on his head during games.
Z and Wisdom hit it off swimmingly. They mention Mahomes, of course, and old guys from past Chiefs teams. You chronicle away in your notepad.
Wisdom displays Chiefs T-shirts, hoodies, lanyards, beads, chains, tumblers, ball caps, stocking caps, footballs, koozies, Chiefs socks, Mahomes socks and coffee cups.
“The game doesn’t start till 5:30, so you’ve got all day to prep yourself,” Wisdom tells Z. “You can layer these beads all day long.” By now Z has put on a red Chiefs chain.
Scheels doesn’t share sales information, holding it as close as the Chiefs’ playbook for Sunday. What we learned early this week is that the Village Pointe Scheels has received about a dozen shipments of Super Bowl attire and items. And Chiefs gear sells well here because KC is just a three-hour drive south.
If the Chiefs win Sunday night, Scheels reps will immediately acquire fresh Super Bowl champ goods in KC and bring it back. If the 49ers win, it will take a bit longer to get championship items.
There’s an old guy (exactly my age) named Brian Wiebelhaus with a Chiefs hat on, looking at Chiefs stuff. He used to have season tickets, he says, and already owns Mahomes and Sammy Watkins jerseys that he displays in his restaurant and bowling alley in Crofton, Nebraska. And a Mahomes-signed football. “And the rest is Nebraska Cornhuskers,” he says of his memorabilia.
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The Chiefs and Broncos grew up together in the 1960s in the upstart American Football League. They should have a sort of kinship. But there are too many years of slights and indignities. You would listen with your dad to games on KOA radio in Denver. The Broncos reeked back then. Your dad would pound the table and cuss. You would throw things and cry.
One time in the 1960s, Chiefs coach Hank Stram had his team carry out an onside kick (and succeeded in recovering it) in a game against the Broncos that the Chiefs won 56-10. For those who don’t follow football, trying an onside kick when you’re blowing out the other guys is bad form. Old Broncos fans remember these things.
Z is 38 and doesn’t know the history of the Broncos’ many virtues and the Chiefs’ scandalous mean-spiritedness. It comes back to Z’s little hometown in Kansas. Out there, Z alleges, is a whole collection of long-suffering Chiefs fans.
“This is more of a tribute to all of my friends who I grew up around,” Z says sentimentally of the video he’s making.
You fear that Wisdom might tear up again.