SI Vault
How Sweet It Is
Michael Silver
September 25, 1995
By once again beating Al Davis's Raiders, the Chiefs felt they got their just deserts
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 25, 1995

How Sweet It Is

By once again beating Al Davis's Raiders, the Chiefs felt they got their just deserts

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

He let down his guard, just for a moment, and that lapse revealed more about the bitterness of this rivalry than would a thousand press conferences or exclusive interviews. As a veteran football coach, Marty Schottenheimer is practiced in the art of masking his emotions and concealing his enmity, but this was an exceptional circumstance. The team Schottenheimer coaches, the Kansas City Chiefs, had just stolen another game from the team Schottenheimer despises, the Oakland Raiders, and the victors had done it by following his time-honored formula: Hit back, keep it close, minimize mistakes and wait for the Raiders to self-destruct. Celebration was called for, but Schottenheimer's performance revealed something more. There was unmitigated glee and evidence of the kind of deep satisfaction that comes when you have vanquished an enemy while defending the honor of those he has wronged.

As Schottenheimer burst into the throng of red-jerseyed revelers who had gathered in the end zone over the motionless body of Chief cornerback James Hasty, he began letting off steam. First Schottenheimer fought his way to Hasty, who had raced 64 yards after an interception to give Kansas City a 23-17 overtime victory and now lay flat on his back, and planted kisses on the winded player's forehead. Then Schottenheimer grabbed defensive end Neil Smith and screamed, "I told you they'd f——fold!"

For the 11th time in the Chiefs' last 12 meetings with the Raiders, Schottenheimer's theory had been largely validated. The victory in front of 78,696 fans at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday moved the Chiefs (3-0) ahead of the Raiders (2-1) and into sole possession of the AFC West lead, and Schottenheimer shared the glory with those who craved it most. In the jubilant K.C. locker room he presented game balls to two of his assistants, offensive line coach Art Shell and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and gave a hug to running back Marcus Allen. What Shell, Cunningham and Allen share is a harsh history with their former boss, Oakland owner Al Davis, who drove them away. It would be convenient to say Schottenheimer wanted to stick it to Davis for these three employees, but he also had his own, unspoken motivation. "Someday, when I'm done coaching, I'll explain why I feel the way I do about the Raiders," Schottenheimer said.

He's hardly the sole Raider-hater in Kansas City. Chief president and general manager Carl Peterson, who stopped speaking to Davis four years ago, expresses disdain for him. Even Kansas City players who don't know Davis have heard enough about how meddlesome he is with coaches and players to stoke their emotional fires. As Smith said Saturday, "The way they [Shell and Allen] were mistreated, there's something going on over there that's not right."

Emotion and resolve cannot usually carry a football team to victory, especially one that is facing a more talented opponent. Yet the Chiefs beat a Raider team that, under first-year coach Mike White, looks far more imposing than its recent predecessors. Oakland dominated for three quarters and held a 17-7 lead before the Kansas City offense woke up. And after watching Chief kicker Lin Elliott gag on a 24-yard field goal attempt that could have won the game in regulation, the Raiders moved into field goal range four minutes into overtime.

Then the Raiders made two crucial mistakes. On first-and-10 from the K.C 28, Raider tight end Kerry Cash—not to be confused with his identical twin, Chief tight end Keith Cash—was called for holding. The Raiders set an NFL record with 156 penalties last season, and White, who got the coach's job after Shell was fired last February, has made a point of reducing the violations. In its first two games, victories over the San Diego Chargers and the Washington Redskins, Oakland was flagged just eight times, an NFL low. But the Raiders reverted to historical form on Sunday—Cash's penalty was Oakland's 11th of the game, and it led to Kansas City's winning points on the next play.

The Chiefs got help from the officials on Hasty's return too. The interception came as Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler threw a short pass over the middle toward receiver Tim Brown, who was interfered with by a most unanticipated defender, umpire Jeff Rice. With Brown tangled up in black-and-white, Hasty caught the ball and lived up to his name, displaying the breakneck speed that had instigated a tug-of-war between these two teams for his services last spring. The Raiders wanted to sign Hasty, a former New York Jet, after he visited their facility, but his next stop was Kansas City, and, says Peterson, "we simply wouldn't let him leave until a deal was done. Contrary to what one person may believe, not everyone wants to be a Raider."

Hasty's decision to join the Chief's was yet another sidelight to a rivalry that makes the one between AT&T and MCI look like good-natured fun. Brown's reaction to Hasty's TD was particularly heated. Brown attributed Hasty's good fortune to Kansas City's 12th man—and he wasn't talking about the crowd. "Eleven-on-11 and we win that game; 11-on-12 is unfair," Brown said, alluding to umpire Rice's ill-timed dash toward the line of scrimmage that caused him to collide with Brown.

Moments later, a 51-year-old executive nearly set the land-speed record: Peterson left his luxury box and sprinted down six (lights of stairs in half a minute. He would spend the next several hours celebrating Kansas City's second consecutive overtime victory, and, no, he did not stop to shake Davis's hand. Later, sipping chardonnay with friends in his office. Peterson explained why, after entering the morguelike Raider locker room to congratulate White, he walked past Davis without so much as a nod: "Four years ago we beat them here in a hard-fought game, and Al and I were on the elevator. I put out my hand and said, 'Listen, it was a great game between two teams, it's too bad somebody had to lose.' He just glared back and said, 'Not now, Carl. Not now.' Since then, I don't even try."

Scores of reporters shared a similar experience in the days preceding this game. The Raiders' commitment to reticence was evident before a press conference last Wednesday when executive assistant Al LoCasale informed beat reporters that White would not be taking questions. When a reporter asked for an explanation, LoCasale shot back, "That's a question." White also implemented the no-question policy during his conference call with Kansas City reporters, who quickly concluded that Oakland was playing a tape of White's statements. The Raiders denied this, but the Chiefs got the message loud and clear: Be it live or Memorex, White was uptight. "The success we've had against the Raiders was because they always had that doubt in their mind," Smith said Saturday. "And evidently something's on their mind this time, too, because they're tight."

Continue Story
1 2