Mind Over Sports


Posted on: February 13, 2012

Most people don’t realize it but President Richard Nixon was a great fan of the NFL. And it was because of his efforts that he unknowingly helped the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Here’s what happened: A few days before the Super Bowl, while the Chiefs were in New Orleans preparing for the game, it was announced nationally on NBC-TV News that Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson and other NFL players were being investigated by the federal government for their possible participation in sports gambling and that Dawson was going to be summoned to testify in Detroit. Dawson was despondent. But a few days later, on Super Bowl Sunday, January 11, 1970, just before the Chiefs departed from their hotel for the stadium, Chiefs Head Coach Hank Stram received a telephone call from Washington, D.C. “I know there is nothing to the rumors about Dawson,” said President Richard Nixon. “He shouldn’t be upset by them. Will you please tell him for me.” Stram promised to convey the message and then boarded the bus for Tulane Stadium, where overnight rains had made parts of the field soggy and footing uncertain. But Dawson played one of his best games, completing 12 out of 17 passes for 142 yards and was named Super Bowl MVP. Later, Dawson received a phone call from the White House in which President Nixon said, “The world looks up to pro football players for courage.” And Dawson replied: “Thank you, Mr. President. We try to exemplify the best in professional football. I appreciate it, Mr. President, but it wasn’t me, it was the whole team that did it.” Had Nixon not made that pre-game phone call, and removed that dark cloud from above Dawson’s head, Dawson probably would have played poorly and the Vikings would have won.

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