Q&A with author of ‘Martyball’

10/18/2012 3:26 PM

05/16/2014 8:02 PM

Editor’s note: Blair Kerkhoff talks to authors of sports-themed books in an occasional series for The Star.

With the Chiefs floundering, it’s a good time to remember better times at Arrowhead Stadium and the Marty Schottenheimer era provided them. Several chapters of Schottenheimer’s biography, written with former Star sportswriter Jeffrey Flanagan, who now writes for Fox Sports Kansas City, are devoted to his Kansas City years.

“Martyball,” published by Sports Publishing, is available in area bookstores, online and at The Kansas City Store.

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What’s the origin of the book? How long ago did you and Marty decide to collaborate, and how long did it take to complete?

“I got the idea for the book when I was working on ‘A Sea of Red.’ As I was writing the section of the book devoted to the Marty-Carl era, it just reminded me of what a special time that was in Kansas City. It also made me wonder why no one had done a book on Marty, one of the greatest coaches ever. So I called him in the fall of 2009 and to be honest, it didn’t seem like he was that interested.

“But he promised to think about it . A few months later, the day after Christmas in 2009, he called me out of the blue and said he and Pat and their children, Brian and Kristen, agreed he should do a book so his grandchildren would know about their grandfather’s life in football.

“He invited me out to Palm Springs for a week and we started working on it in March of 2010. It took several months to interview everyone and about six months to write the manuscript after that.”

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What did you learn about Marty that surprised you?

“I don’t know if this was a surprise, but, for all his fame, he’s such a genuine person. That sounds cliché and you hear that about celebrities all the time, but Marty is really just a down-to-earth guy. He’s great to hang out with, go golfing with, watch sports with, have a drink with — just a guy’s guy. And he rarely talks about himself. That posed a challenge for the book, and it’s why I conducted so many hours of interviews with people around him. But that’s Marty.”

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What were Marty’s best and worst moments in Kansas City?

“The worst moment had to be the ‘Monday Night Meltdown’ game in 1998 against the Broncos when the Chiefs committed that long string of personal-foul penalties and got whacked 30-7. In the locker room afterward, Carl and Marty told the team they had embarrassed themselves, the city of Kansas City, and owner Lamar Hunt. Marty felt horrible about that because it was his decision to take a chance with signing some rather unsavory characters on that ’98 team.

“As for highlights, there were so many. I know one that stands out in his mind is that 1991 Monday night game against the Bills at Arrowhead when they just hammered Buffalo, 33-6. It was the first Monday night game at Arrowhead in over eight years and the place was packed and it was deafening — and it put the Chiefs and Arrowhead back on the NFL map. He also was proud of the two 13-3 teams but he said his best team in Kansas City was the 1993 team with Joe Montana.

“I was surprised when he told me that because it seemed to all of us that the 13-3 teams had more talent. But he just said, ‘You don’t need a team full of talent if you got a Hall of Fame quarterback.’”

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How should history judge Marty, especially in time in Kansas City?

“I think Lamar Hunt said it best when he said that as much as he loved the Hank Stram era and the two Super Bowls, the Marty era in his mind was the golden era of Chiefs football. Marty will be the first to admit that he came up short here in the playoffs, but I think given a choice, Chiefs fans would take that era back in a heartbeat, just to root for a competitive, playoff team year after year. I think if the Chiefs announced tomorrow that they had hired Marty back, the city would go nuts.

“And that’s the amazing thing about Marty — at every stop, whether it was Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington or San Diego, fans wanted him back a very short time after he’d left. They knew pretty quickly what they were missing.”

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Make the case for Marty as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about that subject and obviously the major drawback is Marty not getting to or winning a Super Bowl. Granted, I’m biased now, but I try to look at the big picture and Marty’s entire body of work. This is a guy who coached for 21 years in the NFL at four different places and had just two losing seasons.

“Two losing seasons in 21 years? Are you kidding? And keep in mind he had some major reclamation projects along the way, including the one here. I also keep coming back to the fact that only five coaches in the history of the NFL ever won more games than Marty’s 200 — Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Paul Brown. That’s pretty unique company.

“I did ask him once, though, if it gnaws at him that he never made it to the Super Bowl. He paused for a second and just said, “You know, this game is not always about you.”

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