Kansas City Chiefs legend Len Dawson has been sent into hospice care at the age of 87.
Just as Kansas Citians were set to begin their first weekend with Chiefs football since late January, news started to surface on Twitter that Chiefs legend and Super Bowl IV MVP Len Dawson had gone into hospice care. Dawson is 87 years old.
Frankly, there are not many names in the history of Kansas City sports that carry as much weight as “Lenny the Cool”. The first true superstar Kansas City Chief, Dawson’s only competition as the King of Crown Town would realistically be former Royal George Brett and current Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In a city with an extremely old and rich history of sport and those who master the craft, those three have set the standard for greatness.
I won’t lie, growing up in southern Missouri I didn’t have the luxury of hearing the local radio calls that made Dawson and broadcast partner Mitch Holthus legendary in the booth. In fact, quite the opposite. For much of my childhood when the team was less than exceptional, I had to privilege of listening to whatever C-team announcing crew CBS wanted to trot out for a Sunday noon game between the Chiefs and whoever they were matched up against.
I was born 12 years after Dawson hung up his cleats, in fact.
But some people become so big and so meaningful to a franchise, community, and fan base that you don’t necessarily have to experience them to be aware of and respect their enormity. That was and continues to be Len Dawson.
His accomplishments as a player are well known. On top of the Super Bowl IV victory and game MVP honor, Dawson led the Chiefs (then Dallas Texans) to an AFL title in 1962 while also being named the league’s MVP for that season. It was his and the franchise’s first of three AFL championships.
Four years later, in 1966, Dawson led the Chiefs to a matchup with the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I. I’ll admit, I’m overly nostalgic, but the thought of one of Kansas City’s own being part of the first Super Bowl in a head-to-head matchup with Packers legend Bart Starr is something that arouses a sense of pride in not just being a Chiefs fan but being a Kansas Citian.
That’s what Lenny did for KC. After his playing days, he became a pillar in the local sports media world as Sports Director at KMBC-TV and as a color analyst on the Chiefs Radio Network. Dawson’s media contributions don’t end at the local level, though. He hosted Inside the NFL on HBO for 24 years before retiring in 2001. He also did a stint on NBC before settling in as the calming voice on airwaves across the metro and surrounding area for 32 years.
Call him a legend. Call him an icon. Whatever label for transcendence you want to apply, Lenny fits the mold.
Dawson became not just a fixture of the Kansas City sports scene, but a fixture in Kansas City homes for decades through television and radio. And in that, the people of Kansas City found comfort and warmth in seeing Lenny’s face and hearing his calm, Cool voice for all of these years.
Here’s to hoping that he and his family can find some of the same comfort and warmth that he gave us all of these years in what will certainly be a difficult near future. Thoughts, prayers, whatever positive vibes you like to put out there in the world, put them out for Lenny the Cool and the Dawson family.