Just imagine, this fall we may have the chance once again to see former Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer strolling the sidelines, while Paul Hackett calls the plays from the booth.
And all we would have to do is drive to Omaha.
According to ESPN.com, as many of you have probably already seen, Schottenheimer—with Hackett along for the ride—is set to become the new coach of the sixth and newest team in the UFL (United Football League), the Virginia Destroyers. I didn’t really know much about the UFL—which puts me into a special category known as “the overwhelming majority of Americans”—but a quick consultation with the Google reveals that the UFL’s second-newest team is the Omaha Nighthawks. With only six teams, I’m guessing there’s a pretty good chance Omaha would get at least one day of Martyball.
I heard this news yesterday while driving back from Tulsa, where I had been lucky enough to score an extra ticket from a friend to the Texas-Arizona and Kansas-Illinois games in the Second Third Round of the NCAA tournament.*
*I was told that if I could somehow work this into my column, I’d be able to tax-deduct the whole trip.
The arena was almost entirely full of KU fans. There was a smattering of Arizona red, Texas burnt orange, and whatever you call that garish Illinois orange—though even those fans seemed to be outnumbered by locals in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State gear and other regional sports attire. I even spotted a few Chiefs shirts and hats.*
*I’ve always been amused by people who come to games dressed in out-of-place-but-tangentially-related sports paraphernalia —that KU or Mizzou sweatshirt at a Chiefs game, a Yankees jersey at a Royals-Twins game, etc. It’s as if to say, “I may not own any shirts with the home team’s logo, but I do have an allegiance to another institution that is vaguely connected to these proceedings due to its geographic proximity or participation in the same sport/league/conference/division as the teams we are watching right now.” Or something like that.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to a delightful, chatty older couple from Oklahoma City, who had relocated from KC because, as KU basketball fans and Mizzou football fans, they “never felt completely welcome” there. They began to tell me how much they liked to drive around to see sports and other special events. Last week, they had driven two hours to a WWE Smackdown event, just to see what it was like (and drove back after a couple matches) and in April, the Missus will be driving back to this very same arena with some friends for a Lady Gaga concert: “I love Lady Gaga!” she said. “Even though I’m old enough to be her Lady Grandma!”
In the past, the couple’s fall touring schedule also always included a couple of Chiefs games at Arrowhead. But with all the uncertainty and general bitterness brought on by the current labor situation, they didn’t expect they’d commit to making the trip back—especially now that they were investing in season tickets to their hometown Oklahoma City Thunder.
So as I heard about Marty on the radio, and recalled my conversation with Lady Grandma, I realized that—despite the seemingly complete stalemate that is the NFL right now—perhaps the landscape is changing. One couple in Oklahoma decides to stay away from Arrowhead. A successful former NFL coach invests his reputation in an upstart league. It adds up… After all, Marty and a few other old coaches aren’t the only ones considering a change. It’s unlikely, but if this keeps up, who knows how many NFL All-Pros might be jumping to the UFL next fall—or, for that matter, playing soccer?*
*Tomorrow, of course, Chad Ochocinco will be in Kansas City to begin his four-day tryout with Sporting KC (formerly the Wizards, who were formerly the Wiz). According to Sporting KC’s official press release, Ochocinco is a “trialist”—another annoying example of how American soccer (at least they still call it soccer) feels like it needs to adopt the muddled lingo, grammar, and verb tenses of Euro-football-speak to claim legitimacy, such as naming a team “Sporting.” The British, in particular, don’t know anything about English. On my first trip to London,** I opened up the in-flight magazine and there was a column with the headline, “Why are England crap at sport?” There are so many things wrong with that one, brief sentence; it is almost poetic in its construction.
**Whoa, can I deduct that trip now, too?
For right now, I’m not that worried that the worst-case scenario is coming—I’m just all over the place about how I feel. But I’ll keep my eye out for the Omaha Nighthawks schedule. And when the game against Marty is announced, I’ll let you know.