Chiefs still feel a void following death of their matriarch, Norma Hunt, this past offseason

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — There is much that Clark Hunt will never forget about that night four years ago in Miami, when five decades of futility had finally ended, and the Kansas City Chiefs — the team his late father Lamar Hunt had founded — raised another Lombardi Trophy.

The most front-and-center memory, though, might have been watching his mother, Norma Hunt, who just a few years earlier had told him, jokingly or not: “Clark, it sure would be nice if we could play in this game while I’m still able to go.”

The Chiefs ultimately gave her two more title game trips in the next three years, and another ring to wear alongside ones from Super Bowls 4 and 54. And Norma Hunt kept alive her streak of attending every Super Bowl right up through last season, when she went for the 57th time and watched Kansas City beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Arizona.

There will be no 58th, though, when the Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The franchise matriarch died this past summer at the age of 85, leaving a void still felt among the Chiefs and, in particular, her son Clark, the team’s chairman.

“It’s going to be a very emotional week for us not having my mom with us,” Hunt admitted. “You know, going back to the AFC championship game a little over a week ago, I couldn’t help but think about her, and also think about my dad. One of their favorite trips every year was the Super Bowl, and they went to 40 straight together and really enjoyed it. And they would have enjoyed it even more now, since we’re in the game. They loved the game.”

The Chiefs will wear a patch with Norma Hunt’s initials inside a golden football on their right shoulder Sunday, and the NFL has planned a tribute to her at some point inside Allegiant Stadium, though her son declined to reveal the details.

“I was fortunate to know Norma for nearly 40 years,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “She was one of the most passionate fans of the Chiefs and the NFL, and understood every aspect of the game.”

It wasn’t always that way. In fact, football wasn’t even on her radar when Norma Hunt returned from Ireland, where she had spent a year on a Rotary Club scholarship.

She was ready to start teaching American history while selling Dallas Texans tickets on the side when she met the young, bespectacled owner of the AFL franchise.

They married on Jan. 22, 1964, and spent their honeymoon at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Norma Hunt was never going to be the passive wife of a sports tycoon, though. She instead walked in lockstep with Lamar Hunt as, over the next four years, he helped to merge the AFL with the NFL, founded a professional soccer team, put together the first pro tennis tour in North America and, at his wife’s suggestion, bought a small stake in the Chicago Bulls.

She would often recall cheering on Michael Jordan as he led the NBA team to six championships in the 1990s.

Lamar Hunt died in 2006 at the age of 74, and Clark Hunt took over the leadership of the Chiefs franchise. But his mother was never far from the field, striking up relationships with players and coaches whom she considered “real-life superheroes.”

“Her heart,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “was the biggest thing.”

Her mind wasn’t far behind.

Norma Hunt became an astute businesswoman, every bit as savvy as her husband, the son of an oil magnate. She watched her family’s investments with the eye of an eagle. In 2000, she purchased Bidwell Creek Vineyard, and soon it was producing some of the finest cabernet sauvignons in the California winemaking epicenter of Sonoma County.

“I remember distinctly, we were trying to get Ford to be our official auto partner, so I had like, the three biggest Ford dealers in Kansas City coming up to her suite,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan recalled this week. “I didn’t prep her. She had a list of who was coming but that was it. I said, ‘Norma, these are the biggest dealers in Kansas City,” and she goes, ‘So, let’s talk about your stock. I’ve owned it for this long, and it’s gone up and down. Why is that? Can you tell me?’”

Donovan remembers sitting back and watching in amazement.

It would be Lamar and Norma who would be amazed these days, and not just because the Chiefs are back in the big game.

Clark Hunt led the Kansas City bid to host the 2026 World Cup at Arrowhead Stadium, while his brother Daniel — the chairman of MLS club FC Dallas — did likewise for AT&T Stadium. And this past week, FIFA announced that Arrowhead would host group-stage matches and a quarterfinal, and Dallas would host group matches, three elimination games and the semifinal.

“We have this fun sibling rivalry,” Clark Hunt said, “but at the end of the day, it was a win-win all the way around.”

For now, the Hunt family hopes the Chiefs can deliver another win of their own, in a game that Norma Hunt inadvertently helped name all those years ago. She had walked by a store as Christmas approached and saw a sign advertising the Wham-o “Superball,” the hottest toy on the market. She bought one for each of the kids, and the toy lingered in the back of her husband’s mind as he mulled over what to name this new game pitting the champions of the AFL against the champs of the NFL.

In a letter to then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Lamar Hunt joked, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.” Except that it couldn’t be, and the name has stuck ever since.

“You know, they both loved the game,” Clark Hunt said, ”and my dad obviously had such a huge impact on the game in so many different ways. It will be hard not to think about both of them throughout the week.”

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