This should have been entitled “The Hank Stram Experience.”
The Kansas City head coach was always among the most loquacious of sideline bosses — even moreso when compared to his Super Bowl IV doppelganger, Bud Grant. (It’s not that the stoic Hall of Famer isn’t shown moving his mouth in this highlight film; it’s just that it’s usually chewing gum.) Stram is the star of this piece, and unlike in previous Super Bowl highlight films — and some to follow — where a singular figure was emphasized, the mic on the coach gives ample material with which to massage the storyline.
If you’ve watched this film during any of its hundreds of airings on the ESPN networks, you’re familiar with “matriculating the ball down the field” and the Chiefs’ first touchdown play, “65 toss power trap,” which is said no fewer than eight times during a one-minute sequence.
But Stram’s garrulous nature went beyond those thoroughly masticated soundbites. After all, it wasn’t just about “matriculating” the football down the field, but “negotiating” it … and there were more plays than just “65 toss power trap,” as the Chiefs provided “Blue slot 32 X-G-O” and the “51 G-O reverse.”
The other aspect of this film that stands out is one tune that is repeated until the viewer is left humming it at the film’s conclusion — a lyricless version of Kansas City, borrowed from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” the song goes. My musically-inclined father used to cite the song whenever the bi-state metropolis came up in conversation. (“Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” he’d say. Obviously he wasn’t talking about Kemper Arena.)
BEST NARRATION: “Mr. Official, let me ask you something. How can six of you miss a play like that?”
The experiments of the Super Bowl III film largely failed to enhance that piece. Here, a different concotion from the film lab provided a template for concepts that would become a staple of NFL Films’ work in the decades that followed. — gobs of coachspeak and detailed explanation of key sequences. The result is a film that was ahead of its time in its execution — except for the primary piece of music, which was a 1970 interpretation of something from 1944. (And, to be certain, the Rodgers and Hammerstein piece probably lends itself better to an instrumental rendition for a football highlight film than Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 classic Kansas City.)
If you happen to buy the DVD collection, make sure to watch the special feature on the calamitous pregame and halftime shows that saw a hot-air balloon crash into the end-zone stands and a disastrous on-field re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans that saw one poor cannon operator get his hand blown off. Small wonder that “Up With People” became a Super Bowl staple for the next decade.