Len Dawson and a 7Up

Len Dawson. 1967 Topps Card.
       We do not always have the opportunity to meet our heroes. And often when we do, there is a level of disappointment, hence the old saying “Never meet your heroes”. Not the case with Chief’s (at that time future) Hall of Fame quarterback and Kansas City sports legend Len Dawson. 

       In late 1970something, I was on a school trip to Kansas City’s amusement park of choice, Worlds of Fun. Some classmates and I decided it was a good idea to ride that ride that spins so fast that the centrifugal force flattens you against the wall as the bottom disappears! In hindsight, not the best idea as I am prone to motion sickness, especially if I am spinning or rocking around in an anchored boat. All I was aware of on that ride was nausea! When the ride mercifully finished, my friends all took off to conquer the next ride. Not me. I was, as they say, sicker than a dog. I found the nearest concession stand and sat down at one of the tables with a colorful umbrella shading me from the sun. All I wanted was for the world to stop spinning and for my stomach to feel better. Then I heard a voice. 
       “Feeling sick young man?” the voice inquired. 
       “Yes,” was all I could muster without looking up at the voice. 
       “Me too,” the voice responded. 
       I looked up to see the owner of the voice that was sharing my pain. Len Dawson! I could not believe my eyes!  Although he had been retired from football for several years, I was old enough to have remembered watching him play on TV. I am a lifelong Chiefs fan!
       “Len Dawson!” was all I could muster. 
       Len looked at me and said, “I’m going to get a 7Up to settle my stomach. Want one?”
       “Yes, please,” was my feeble response. 
       A couple of minutes later, Len Dawson returned with two cups of 7Up and we both sat there and drank them together. He was wearing his Super Bowl ring and let me admire it. I was in awe! I asked him for an autograph, and he graciously agreed. I had nothing for him to write on, but he pulled out a business card, a Worlds of Fun business card, and signed the back for me. 
       Where is that business card with Len Dawson’s signature? Sadly, I have no idea. Somewhere between being a kid and becoming an adult, it was lost in the shuffle. There is hope that it is in a box that was packed up decades ago by my parents and one day I will unearth it and frame it with the respect it deserves. That Len Dawson deserves. 
       Our encounter was brief and probably one of a million for Len, but a moment in time I will never forget. When I heard the news that Len Dawson was now in hospice care in Kansas City, my heart was saddened. He was my childhood sports hero and he saved the day for me back there at that amusement park concession table. Thank you Len Dawson. You are still my hero. 

© 2022 Gregory Vessar. A Thousand Miles from Kansas. All Rights Reserved.
Len Dawson. Photo courtesy Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Categories: MemoirTags: , , ,
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