KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He finished playing for the Chiefs in 1976, but even after all these years, no one despises the Oakland Raiders quite like former offensive lineman Ed Budde.
Budde’s blood still reaches a quick boil at the mere mention of, say, Ben Davidson’s late hit on Lenny Dawson in a 1970 game between the teams.
That’s why Budde was cheered this week when he read that Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali called out the Raiders for dirty play. It was a rare sign that somebody still cares about what used to be the NFL’s fiercest rivalry.
“The rivalry, it’s lost a little bit,” said Budde, a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame. “Back when we played, those games meant so much, and there was so much bad blood, you thought the rivalry would continue that way forever.”
Perhaps it was inevitable the series couldn’t stay as heated as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, or when Marty Schottenheimer rekindled it in the 1990s.
But the rivalry between the Chiefs and Raiders, who meet for the 107th time today at Arrowhead Stadium, is at an all-time low. Only once since 2003 has either team won the AFC West championship, and with the Chiefs now at 1-5 and the Raiders 2-4, neither team is a threat to win the division this season.
Worse, fans don’t seem to care. There’s little buzz around Kansas City about the Raiders being in town.
There’s not even much attention being paid to the rivalry inside the Chiefs’ locker room … though, if anyone should have a grasp on the tradition between the two teams, it’s cornerback Stanford Routt, who spent his first seven seasons with Oakland before joining the Chiefs this year.
“Every rivalry in the AFC West is special,” Routt said. “I’m sure people that play in the NFC North or the AFC South feel their rivalries are special. Anytime there’s two teams in same division, you’re always going to have that, whether it’s Giants-Cowboys, Packers-Vikings, Falcons-Saints, 49ers-Cardinals, whatever.”
But few rivalries can boast of the fierce history between the Chiefs and Raiders. Between 1966 and 1976, either the Raiders or Chiefs won their division, making the twice-annual battles between the teams particularly intense.
Though the Chiefs haven’t often played for those kinds of stakes since then, the teams have still played some hard-fought games. Fourteen of their last 18 matchups, in fact, were decided by seven points or less.
There are many memorable games in there, too. Hali tried to play the part of historian last week by reminding everyone that the Raiders have a reputation for taking cheap shots at opposing players.
But he didn’t know a basic fact that should have bothered him to no end: The Raiders have beaten the Chiefs five straight times at Arrowhead. The Raiders haven’t lost here since Jarrad Page intercepted a pass in the end zone, sealing a 17-13 victory in 2006 — Hali’s rookie season.
“Five straight times? That’s got to change,” Hali said. “I don’t think our team is aware they’ve beaten us here. We’ve beaten them up there. At the end of the day, that’s not a good feeling, knowing we’ve been beaten here five times by that team.”
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel indicated that he didn’t intend to make his team aware of that fact, saying he didn’t want to introduce such a negative statistic into their meeting room. But he said he would try to provide some history about the Chiefs and the Raiders.
“The fact it’s a rival, some of these kids don’t understand that, don’t know it, but you mention it to them, you talk to them about it,” Crennel said. “You talk to them about how close the games have been. I know since I’ve been here, in the last four games, two of them have been overtime games.”
Back in the day, the Raiders’ and Chiefs’ schedules revolved around these games. Budde, who played 14 seasons for the Chiefs, said the first thing he did every year when the schedule came out was make note of when they played Oakland.
“I still do that,” said Budde, who still lives in the Kansas City area. “I still don’t like the Raiders. I don’t like anybody in our division, but I really don’t like the Raiders.”
He’s not alone. Among other players of Budde’s era, the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry lives on.
“There used to be so much riding on these games,” said former linebacker Willie Lanier, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “They usually meant the division title. We were so fortunate to have played during those times. You recognized those things wouldn’t last forever. They don’t last as long as you hoped.”
Lanier now lives in Richmond, Va., but he will attend today’s game. He scheduled a business trip to the area to coincide with Oakland’s visit — something he tries to do every year.
“If I have to make a decision of which game I’ll come in for every year, it would probably be the Raiders game,” Lanier said.
But such rivalry diehards are difficult to find. Unless the series, which Oakland leads 55-49-2, heats up again soon — an unlikely prospect, given the state of the two franchises — the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry may be forever lost to history.
To those who made it what it is, that’s a frightening thought.
“I hope the players and fans today appreciate it because of the history of the rivalry,” Lanier said. “They’ll have a full stadium (today) and their record doesn’t quite reflect that, so you have to sense there’s greater importance on this game than any other on the schedule, at least from the fans’ point of view.”