This one’s for Chiefs Kingdom and Andy Reid and no more gut punches. This one’s for Mike Coschka and Derrick Thomas.
It’s 11 a.m. on Thursday, two days before Coschka will drive to Kansas City to see if he’s finally allowed to smile in January.
Coschka is in Pat and Mike’s, the bar he started in 1987. The Chiefs bar, they call it.
Soon the regulars will start showing up for the hot beef lunch special. But now it’s empty and Coschka pulls me over to Thomas’ framed jersey on the wall. He tells a story.
Coschka can’t remember the date, but it was Oct. 7, 1991. Buffalo at Kansas City for Monday Night Football.
“We went down early and we’re at Independence Mall and there’s Derrick Thomas standing right there,” Coschka said, referring to the late hall of fame linebacker.
“We started shooting the breeze with him. I asked him what he was doing here on game day and he says he’s been up since 5 a.m., he’s got to do something with himself.”
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Coschka told Thomas about Pat and Mike’s, and how they had tickets in the first row in the end zone by the bandstand with a Pat and Mike’s banner they drape over the side. Then Coschka got a brilliant idea: He walks to a nearby sports shop and buys a Thomas jersey. Thomas gladly signs it to “Pat and Mike’s.”
“So we’re at the game, and during warmups, Derrick runs through the other team’s warmups and up to see us,” Coschka said. “He shook our hand and said, ‘Hey, Mike, how you guys doing?’ Everybody in our section didn’t know what to think.”
Then there was the time Coschka met former Chiefs defensive end Neil Smith.
“Neil Smith showed up at my house on New Year’s Eve,” Coschka said. “I don’t know why he was in Omaha — he played at Nebraska, so he still knows people here — but he was literally driving down my street.
“He said he saw all the Chiefs stuff I have outside in the front yard and he was two blocks away and said, ‘I have to go back.’ He came in and hung out for a while. I’ve got a bathroom that’s nothing but Chiefs. He went up and signed the wall.”
Coschka is South Omaha born and bred, Gross High Class of 1983. He’s been a Chiefs fan since he can remember — and this was back in the 1970s, the bad Chiefs. The day in 1989 that Team President Carl Peterson hired Marty Schottenheimer as coach, Coschka said this is different. He drove to Arrowhead and bought season tickets, and that reminds him of another story.
“I went into the ticket office and asked, ‘What do you have available?’ ” Coschka said. “I remember the gal laughing at me. She said, ‘Just go out there and tell me what you like and we’ll see what we got.’
“I came back and said do you have Row 1? She said yes we do. Boom.”
Go Chiefs fans. This year, I’m pulling for the hardy lot of them.
Go Reid. A football lifer, the big kid in the punt, pass and kick video. Every fan base should get a turn, especially those that have the cruelest cuts.
Coschka can recite them by broken heart.
“Playoff games,” he said. “Home, away. Last time we played the Colts, Andrew Luck fumbled near the goal line and it came right back to his hands and he scored the winning touchdown.
“The Steeler games. The Broncos. Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and John Elway. Schottenheimer could not beat (Elway).”
The toughest gut punch? Had to be that Colts playoff game at a frigid Arrowhead in 1996, one that is best described by two words.
“Lin Elliott,” Coschka said. “He missed three field goals, not even long field goals. I could have caught one of them but it was too damn cold. It was like zero degrees, minus-20 wind chill. Your beer would freeze by the time you got to your seat.”
A lot of those memories were washed down by cold beer at Pat and Mike’s. Coschka opened the place with his brother Pat and declared it a Chiefs hangout. Over time, word spread around Omaha. The crowds grew.
There are Chiefs signs and banners all over Pat and Mike’s, just north of 90th and Maple. And maybe a little Bronco blood on the floor. Remember the famous Monday night game at Denver, Elway vs. Montana?
“When Willie Davis caught that winning touchdown from Montana, we had several Denver fans in here and they didn’t like it,” Coschka said. “There was a fight, right over there.”
The legend and reputation grew. One of the Chiefs’ cheerleaders makes an annual appearance at Pat and Mike’s to sign calendars. Anheuser-Busch gave the bar its special Arrowhead brew Kingdom Ale, and now it’s on tap.
Omaha has Bears and Vikings and Packers, and if you go west of Lincoln, it’s Orange Crush country. But Chiefs Kingdom makes up a lot of real estate in eastern Nebraska. They’ve come together at Pat and Mike’s in Chiefs gear and had great memories — most of them in the brilliant regular seasons of Schottenheimer and Reid.
“Lot of sour faces walking out of this door,” Coschka said.
There’s always next year and there’s always hope. But this year it feels different for Chiefs fan, and it’s all because of the player Coschka calls “The Kid.”
Patrick Mahomes has wowed Chiefs fans and stretched their imaginations to a place they didn’t know existed: Super Bowl contenders. Dare we say favorites?
Well, there’s that defense. And without running back Kareem Hunt, it gets tougher. Did we mention the defense?
But Mahomes, an MVP candidate, is the quarterback/leader/hope the franchise hasn’t had since Len Dawson. More than his 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns and ridiculous no-look, side-armed passes, it’s his attitude that should serve K.C. well.
The Kid is a swashbuckler, a daredevil under center.
When things get tight in January for Reid and Chiefs fans, and hope-not-to-lose rises, Mahomes figures to go the other way.
He’s loose. He attacks. He plays to win. And that mentality might drag Kansas City over the finish line past the Colts on Saturday and, possibly, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at home in the conference final.
“I’ve been doing a little reading this week on Mahomes,” Coschka said. “He said they’re going to put the foot on the gas and they’re not going to put on the brake. They don’t care if they’re up 21 points.”
Coschka admitted he’s a “little worried” about the defense. But he’s confident enough in Mahomes that he booked a hotel room the last week in January in Atlanta — site of the Super Bowl.
“I haven’t done that in the past,” he said. “I’m not trying to jinx them.
“It happened to the Cubs. They did it. It’s going to happen for us. I hope it’s this year.”
Coschka sold the bar a few years ago to Jenni Garvey, another Chiefs fan. One of the stipulations in the sale was that Coschka still got access to two of the bar’s four Chiefs tickets.
“If they do make it to a Super Bowl, the only regret I’ll have is I won’t be there,” Coschka said of Pat and Mike’s. “This little bar won’t know what to do.”
Here in a brave new January, they’d all like to find out.
Photos: Nebraska football's Super Bowl streak
There has been at least one former Husker on a Super Bowl roster for 26 straight years, the longest streak in the nation. Some players like Neil Smith, Grant Wistrom and Scott Shanle played big roles in the Super Bowl, while other years the streak was kept alive by players on the practice squad or injured reserve. Here's a look back at all the ex-Nebraska players on Super Bowl rosters dating back to the streak's start during the 1993 season.