In pursuit of a higher level of consciousness, not to mention a higher passer rating, Steve Bono, the Kansas City Chief quarterback, has embraced a rather rigid approach to life. He is a stickler for detail, a man meticulous in his mannerisms and particular in his tastes. At 33, Bono is firmly set in his ways. There's no gentle way to say it, so let's hear it from the people who know Bono best.
"He's totally anal," says Tina Bono, Steve's wife of seven years.
"He's always been a neatnik, just like his father," says Cornelia Bono, Steve's mom. "He'd rather be on the cover of GQ than SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
"There's nobody who can starch a shirt like Steve Bono," says former NFL receiver Michael Young, who was Bono's roommate at UCLA. "He is incredibly.... What's a better word for anal retentive?"
Sorry, there is none. Mr. Bono, how do you plead?
"That's what I am," Bono says. "I'm not going to lie about it."
He is also humble and unobtrusive, as well as being one of the most unlikely success stories in recent NFL history. He is the man guiding the offense of the league's top team, the Chiefs, who are 9-1 after Sunday's 22-7 win over the San Diego Chargers and the latest entry in the Who's Finally Going to Win a Super Bowl for the AFC Sweepstakes. With the off-season retirement of Bono's buddy and mentor, Joe Montana, K.C. was supposed to collapse like a sand castle at high tide. Instead, the Chiefs have ruled their conference, and Bono, in his first season as a full-time starter, has inherited Montana's crown without getting a big head.
The King is dead, long live the King of Clean. His Royal Neatness comes from a blue-collar family, but he has always adhered to a starched-collar ideology. Take it from Bono's father, Biagio, who recalls a telephone conversation with his son after Steve had thrown for a UCLA-record 399 yards in a 1983 game against BYU. "I asked him, Are you going to go out and celebrate?' " says Biagio. "He said, 'Yeah, Dad, but first I have to wipe up the bathroom floor.' "
Steve, the NFL's answer to Frasier's Niles Crane, color-coordinates his closet, folds and hangs his clothes immediately after removing them and waits to do his ironing until the last possible minute before he dresses, the better to ensure there are no unsightly wrinkles in his garb. He has been known to go ballistic over a misplaced stapler, and he counts the 1985 day on which his Minnesota Viking teammates dumped out the contents of his briefcase as one of the darkest he has endured.
"During training camp his rookie year, the guys noticed that he carried this very organized briefcase everywhere he went," Tina says. "One day they turned it over and let everything drop on the floor. He called me in a panic; you would have thought somebody had died."