The Idle American: Giants in the Land of Sports

Mayor Tom Vandergriff was instrumental in bringing major league baseball to Arlington and North Texas.

Memories of Mayor Roe Bartle who lured the Chiefs to Kansas City and Mayor Tom Vandergriff who brought the Rangers to Texas.

I never have to look at calendars or “study up” on Roman numerals to know which Super Bowl comes next. Instead, I calculate years of marriage, since “knot-tying” with Brenda occurred in 1966. Thus, I can tell you that the Next Super Bowl will be number fifty-five.

Okay, if you must, challenge me to write the “Roman numeral way”–Super Bowl LV.

My intent in this piece is to contend that this year’s “big game” may have more “side road” angles than political campaigns. That’s a mouthful….


   For starters, it was the first Super Bowl played in a stadium that’s had ten names, featured a half-time show of non-stop intentional “wardrobe malfunctions,” was just the second one played on Ground Hog Day, and yet–despite unprecedented “hoopla”–had the lowest attendance since Super Bowl I. (Okay, I admit it, Hard Rock Stadium was filled to capacity, but when there’s remodeling to assure plenty of luxury suites, ordinary seats are eliminated.)

Here’s an angle, though, that might understandably be overlooked. The game was “made possible” originally by a colorful mayor who may be compared to a well-known Arlington leader. Both were persistent, daring to dream of attracting major sports franchises to their cities.

In this case, only one is germane, but their “life trails” were ever so similar.

I reference Harold Roe Bennett Sturdevant (Chief) Bartle, who was the “leader” in luring the Dallas Texans’ professional football team to Kansas City, and Tommy Joe Vandergriff, who dreamed big and finally led the charge for the Washington Senators to relocate in the Metroplex, where they’d be known as the Texas Rangers. (Both were beloved, both were colorful and both are long gone. Bartle–born in 1901 and dying in 1974–saw his Chiefs win the “big one” four years earlier. Vandergriff was born in 1926 and died in 2010. If he were still living, he’d still be waiting for the Texas Rangers to win a World Series.)…

Roe Bartle was known as “The Chief” after talking Lamar Hunt into bringing the Dallas Texans to Kansas City. The team became known as The Chiefs.

Much has been written about Vandergriff, an Arlington businessman so busy serving his community, the Metroplex and the State that he probably had stretches of rarely showing up at the Chevy dealership. Eloquent, visionary, people-loving, ever-smiling, and always the optimist, he looked for–and found–silver linings.

Bartle had the same traits and literally overshadowed Vandergriff.  He stood a good 6’4”, and sometimes he nudged 400 pounds when he stepped on scales. A professional speaker, philanthropist, and national Boy Scout leader, he was often kidded about having “more cubic feet than any other mayor in the country!”

Make no mistake about it: Both men were beloved, with their names adorning revered community landmarks. Only Bartle, though, has a sports team named in his honor: THE CHIEFS…


   Think about it. When the late Lamar Hunt’s team left Dallas, it was beyond unlikely that supporters would “cotton” to calling ‘em the Kansas City Texans. Hunt and his honchos didn’t have to deliberate long before deciding to honor Bartle by calling the new world champions “The Chiefs.”

I know. Such action occurred well before “political correctness” carried the day.

If heaven has a “glass bottom,” Bartle and Vandergriff–clearly “two of a kind”–smiled down on Ground Hog Day….

Don Newbury

Some 60 years ago, I attended the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) annual dinner in Kansas City. There were murmurs that Mayor Roe Bartle would provide a “leave-‘em laughing-in-the-aisle speech.” He did.

I remember his immense stature, ever-present smile and marvelous story-telling ability. One vignette has never been forgotten. He spoke of national figures, citing military leaders like Eisenhower and MacArthur, both of whom wrote books read by millions, “thrilling the hearts of a nation.” Then, he opined that he, too, would write a book upon leaving the mayor’s office.  It won’t thrill many hearts or sell many copies, he joked, but “it’ll cause several businessmen to leave Kansas City.”

I revere the memories of Vandergriff and Bartle. Two good ‘uns….


   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

Don Newbury is the author of the humorous and inspirational When the Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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