Bill Althaus: Schottenheimer often showed his amiable side
Although the news seemed inevitable, I was saddened to hear that former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away Monday at his home in Charlotte, N.C.
He was 77 and had been battling the ravages of Alzheimer’s since 2014.
If you want to know about Schottenheimer’s career record, his well-documented postseason losses or the number of teams he coached, please read the story on examiner.net/sports.
This is a tribute to a man I visited on a daily basis throughout the 1990s when I was The Examiner’s beat writer for the Kansas City Chiefs.
I was one of the unfortunate members of the media who had watched a once proud franchise reach the depths of the NFL in the 1980s. I was at that Sunday regular season finale during the strike year of 1982 when the Kansas City Comets outdrew Lamar Hunt’s Chiefs on a frigid Sunday afternoon and the team owner fired the entire staff the next day.
In 1989, Hunt brought in Schottenheimer, who averaged 10 wins a season throughout the 1990s and brought respect and accountability back to a team that desperately needed it.
Later in his tenure with the Chiefs, he brought some really bad characters to the Chiefs locker room, but I can forgive him for that misstep as his “Martyball” Chiefs made Sunday fun again at Arrowhead Stadium.
No one had more fun than my son Zach, who is now 32. He loved the Chiefs and running back Christian Okoye. It was a different, more laid back time and I would take Zach to practices at the team’s training facility.
One hot afternoon, Zach and Christian decided that they would walk from the practice field to Arrowhead Stadium, where the team lockers were located.
I went to my car, drove to the stadium, and soon saw Marty and his big convertible, filled with Okoye and my son, sharing the front seat.
They hopped out of the car and walked into the stadium, while Schottenheimer called me over to his car.
“I want to show you something,” the coach said.
It was a wrinkled piece of notebook paper that Zach had given him during their car ride.
“Zach told me we’ll win this week if we use this play,” Schottenheimer said, laughing.
It was a stick-like drawing of No. 35 (Okoye) running for a touchdown.
“I didn’t have the heart to tell him we’d been using it all season,” Schottenheimer said laughing.
A few days later, Zach received a letter with an Arrowhead Stadium return address.
It was from Schottenheimer, who wrote, ‘We will certainly use your play this Sunday and I am sure it will help us win our game. I think you should be a coach someday because that is a very good play.”
It didn’t have much of an impact on a 6-year-old, but it just made me love and respect Marty Schottenheimer more than I had before.
He was a man’s man who would look you in the eye and answer any question you asked.
Every Tuesday, he would host a special luncheon outside the press box for members of the print media, and the tales that filled the banquet area are legendary.
How I wish he had won that elusive Super Bowl and brought a championship to Kansas City, but he was a winner at something far more elusive and important – the game of life.
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC