Tuesday was a really rough day to be a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. If Chiefs Kingdom thought the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl on Sunday was hard, it paled in comparison to the loss of former head coach Marty Schottenheimer and former beat writer Terez Paylor on the same day. While on paper these may have seemed like very different men, they actually shared something very special: a passion for football that they shared with so many others.
After a full day of teaching, I actually heard the news of the loss of both of these men at the same time when I finally had time to sit down and see what was going on in the sports world. I just sat there staring at my phone. While the circumstances of their deaths may have been very different, they both made a strong emotional impact on this Chiefs fan. The reason for that was because of the passion they brought to their jobs and the joy that they brought to so many people in the Chiefs Kingdom.
Marty Schottenheimer was the coach of the Chiefs when I first became a fan of the team. For people of my generation, our childhood memories of this team are filled with images of Christian Okoye mowing over defenders and Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith swarming the quarterback all while the packed stands of Arrowhead filled the stadium with a deafening roar. That’s what made me fall in love with the Kansas City Chiefs, and that all can be traced back to the man who forged the identity of those teams. Marty Ball was Kansas City Chiefs football.
I still believe that many of my generation have our identity as Chiefs fans rooted in what Schottenheimer created in Kansas City. Passion. Joy. Strength. A team that would smash you in the mouth. A crowd that would roar both in delight for a big play and to intimidate when the other team had the ball. He fueled our rivalries with teams like the then Oakland Raiders. We hated the Raiders because the team hated the Raiders and the team hated the Raiders because Marty hated the Raiders.
Marty and Terez made us love the Chiefs all the more.
We may now live in an era where offense is king and passing the football is the most important part of the game, but we still carry that passion and intensity as fans from the Marty-era into the games today. When Arrowhead is packed and the roar of the crowd forces the opposing offense into penalties, that pride and passion is the same as it was all those years ago. When Chris Jones or Frank Clark gets through and slams the quarterback to the ground the same frenzy and fire fills Arrowhead that did when Derrick Thomas or Neil Smith did the same thing.
If you listen to the men that played under Marty or coached alongside him, they all speak of his passion, his drive, his absolute authenticity. He LOVED football and that love and passion was infectious and spread to the other coaches, the players, and even into the stands to us fans. He may not have ever won a Super Bowl, but to this day, there isn’t a coach that did more to make me love this team than Marty Schottenheimer.
I don’t know if Marty Schottenheimer and Terez Paylor ever met, but man, there are some striking similarities between these two. From the first moment you watched Terez talk about football, you could just feel his energy, enthusiasm, and love for the sport. It oozed out of every fiber of his being. If you read some of the tributes to Terez in the Kansas City Star, where he worked as the Chiefs beat reporter, you see many of the same things said about Terez as have been said about Marty.
His love for football was infectious. His drive to be the best at what he did motivated his colleagues to want to do better themselves. He found true joy in what he did. One may have been a coach for the team in the ’90s and the other a beat reporter for the team almost 20 years later, but the joy and passion that they had for their jobs and the game of football was a benefit to anyone around the Kansas City Chiefs. They both brought so much joy to those of us that follow the team. They helped our love of this team grow. What better legacy is there?
That’s why today is such a sad day. The world lost two amazing men that brightened the lives of those they came in contact with, and while they both did so in jobs that revolved around football, that joy and light transcends the game. Their example is something we should all strive to follow. We should all want to wake up each day with the drive and love for what we do that mirrors both Marty and Terez.
While there is some solace in Marty’s passing in that his spirit is no longer trapped in a body and mind that was failing him, the loss of Terez Paylor at just 37 years can’t be seen as anything but a shocking tragedy. He was so young, so full of life, that it really doesn’t seem possible that he is gone. I loved his writing and he was a must-follow on Twitter, but I always loved hearing him on the radio or on camera most because you got to really see and hear his enthusiasm. His training camp recaps were must-watch for any diehard fan and the build up to the draft just won’t be the same without his “All Juice” team.
For those not in the know, having “juice” meant that you had a fire, an energy, that something really popped off the film when watching the player. While he used the term to describe players he loved, the truth is that Terez had as much “juice” as anyone you will ever see. If there was an “All-Pro” team for NFL writers, Terez would have been on it and if you got all those best writers together, Terez would have been one of the guys all the others were drawn to because of that joy and energy he put off, the same way football coaches and players were drawn to Marty Schottenheimer.
There is no doubt that today is a sad day in Chiefs Kingdom, but I think the best thing that we fans can do to honor both of these men that brought so much energy and joy to us fans is to follow their example. Bring the “juice” to whatever it is you do. Strive to inspire the people around you like both of these men did. Make sure you find the love and joy in what you do just like they did.
While they may be gone, they certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon. I’ll think of Marty every time the crowd roars when the defense is on the field for a big third down. I’ll think of Terez every time I see a guy bring that “juice” on the football field and envision the big grin it would have brought to his face. Both of these men helped grow my love for Kansas City Chiefs football and I will be eternally grateful for that. So rest in peace, gentlemen, and thanks for everything that you gave to the Kingdom.