Iberia man reflects on 52 years of passion for the Chiefs
Kirk Warman is not a hard man to find in the town of Iberia.
He drives a truck with a Kansas City Chiefs tire cover on the front, always wears the gear of his favorite team, shoots off bottle rockets in his backyard every time the Chiefs score in any game and has occasionally been heard shouting,’ Chiefs’ to replace the last word of the national anthems during school functions for his granddaughters when the song reaches the lyrics, ‘Home of the brave.’ In the past there have even been Christmas lights in the shape of an arrowhead on his roof that could be spotted from the road or the air.
These are just some of the traditions that comprise Warman’s 52 years of being a fan of the Chiefs and the love he has for his team. It began at the age of 7 when the Independence native saw them win their first Super Bowl in 1970 and that passion has been unwavering over the course of five decades.
“My dad being a well known Chiefs fan in a small town has had quite the impact on my life,” his daughter, Keisha Lathrop, said. “There is not a time I can remember as a kid being out in public and my dad would not go on and on about the Chiefs. He would even go out of his way to shake a complete stranger’s hand if they were wearing anything Chiefs. We knew from a young age up to now as adults, if it is Sunday and the Chiefs are playing any and all plans would need to revolve around it.
“There was no way to pull him away from a Chiefs game.”
That even goes for Christmas celebrations with family. Somehow, he will always find a way to watch his team.
“It ended up being a Chiefs game on Christmas day and his mother was very upset because they refused to go to the VFW Hall for Christmas unless they could watch the game,” Warman’s wife of 40 years, Twyla, once recalled. “‘I cannot believe my own children won’t give up a Chiefs game for us to celebrate Christmas for a few hours,’ Twyla remembered his mother saying, ‘and he said, ‘You should’ve changed the time.’”
Up until a few years ago, the couple had made sure to attend at least one game every year over the course of 35 years. Warman’s travels have taken him to half of the stadiums in the NFL- not necessarily for games- and he even attended the 2005 Pro Bowl in Hawaii and visited the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There was only one place that always felt like home, though.
“If you want to see a football game and see what is happening, watch it on television. If you want to feel a football game, the ambiance and how 75,000 people are on the same wave length, go to the Chiefs game,” Warman said. “You’ll love it and there is nothing like it. When you get to a Chiefs game and you are tailgating three hours before the game, you have 75,000 fans out there who are one big family.”
Warman has felt the same way about opposing fans, too, although he is not particularly a big fan of the Las Vegas Raiders or Dallas Cowboys- teams two of his son-in-laws are fans of. He recalled a Patriots game before the era of quarterback Tom Brady where a Patriots fan and a boy with him, whom Warman estimated to be about 8-years-old, were denied the opportunity to tailgate by a certain group of Chiefs fans and he invited them right over.
“I got up, went over and said, ‘Right over here, we got plenty of grills. If it was not for the other team there would not even be a game, so grow up and let’s have fun as fans,’” Warman remarked.
For most of those games he did not simply go as himself, but as the character of “Kaptin K.C.,” which was inspired by the character of Captain Kirk from one of his favorite television shows, “Star Trek.” His outfit came with a Chiefs helmet and a cape, which he still has, and his mission was to make sure others were enjoying the experience.
“I mainly did it for kids. If the Chiefs were losing and I’d see a kid cry, I would get them to where they would not cry anymore. Had a lot of good times with that,” Warman said.
One time, former Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt spotted “Kaptin K.C.” during the 2003 Hall of Fame game in Canton.
“I went out of the stands at the half to get something to drink and behind me was Lamar Hunt. He came over to me and said, ‘I like our outfit,’” Warman recalled, noting that Hunt told him to keep doing a good job. “It was very quick, but that was probably one of my best memories.”
Now, a little older and a little less mobile, it has been some time since he has attended a game. But when the game is on, Warman can always be found in a corner of his house he calls the “Game Room.”
Take a step inside and there is Chiefs memorabilia dating back to the 60s adorning nearly every inch of wall space, a small bar and a pool table from 1969 in the center with red and white painted on the sides and a red top. Of course, there is a television that takes up some of that wall space so he does not miss a moment of the action and he also enjoys using props like throwing a red flag every time he feels officials missed or made a bad call.
His favorite item in the room is a grill he customized with a Chiefs helmet as the cover and it has served him at plenty of tailgates, including one in Canton when he attended the NFL Hall of Fame introduction of former Chiefs coach Hank Stram and running back Marcus Allen with his brother who was a former sportswriter in Pleasant Hill.
“It was great and we wanted to show the people in Canton how Chiefs fans barbecue and do a tailgate and we did it right,” Warman noted. “We hd a flag about 20 feet in the air and there were other Chiefs fans on the highway that came straight to us and said, ‘We’ve seen your flag and knew you were tailgating.’ We probably had about 30 people tailgating with us that year.”
Kirk and Twyla have lived in Iberia full time for 35 years. They met when Kirk moved to the town from Kansas City, Kan., as a senior in high school and have raised four daughters there. The house they live in was once a church and the 26-by-10-foot space known as the “Game Room” used to simply be a back porch. To make even more room, he extended it by six feet two years ago and added more memorabilia on the walls.
Even with all the memories all the memorabilia represents dating back to the 60s, perhaps no memory was more special than when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last season. Warman got to celebrate it with 23 members of his family including his 14 grandchildren ranging from age 2 to 21. The oldest used to think the name of the team was “Go Chiefs” because that is what Warman taught them to say from a young age.
“It was like another wedding in the family. We knew we all had to be there with him on this momentous occasion,” Lathrop said of her father. “My dad was crying tears of joy when they won. He was screaming and lighting fireworks and had to have all his kids and grandkids dress in Chiefs shirts and get a picture done. My phone rang from many locals asking, ‘Is your dad overexcited?’ He never thought he would live long enough to see the Chiefs win another Super Bowl.”
Warman also had the Cowboy and Raider fan in his family put on Chiefs gear, just for one photo, to celebrate the occasion. The only time he is not wearing the gear of his favorite team himself is during Freemason meetings at the Iberia Masonic Lodge when he wears a blue shirt. In fact, putting on anything else besides Chiefs red may even work as a good disguise.
“If I put blue jeans on, a white T-Shirt and any hat on but a Chiefs hat, I can go in town and nobody would know me,” Warman stated.
And he is not kidding.
There is just one other time he chose to wear a different color and he chose black after the Indianapolis Colts mounted a 28-point comeback to beat the Chiefs in the 2013 Wildcard Playoffs. He did so for about a month and Twyla says her husband was in mourning.
“Believe it or not, his cousin, who he’s known all his life and is older than he is, did not recognize him because he did not have any hat on and wore black,” Twyla recalled. “He said, ‘Aren’t you going to speak?’ She said, ‘Oh my gosh, I did not even know it was you at first, where is your Chiefs stuff?’ She really did not know who he was.”
Warman may not have to wear black any time soon, though, with the Chiefs back in a Super Bowl for the second straight year.
“I’m glad I lived long enough to see them get a good team, finally, and a quarterback we may have for the next 10 years,” he said of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “I went through so much heartache in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.”
As he gets ready to host his family for another Super Bowl watch party, enjoying the food and watching his grandchildren run around, he is hoping the players continue to play like they have been and don’t change a thing. Warman also plans to have a few extra bottle rockets ready to go for the special occasion because he believes the Chiefs are going to score a lot of points on the way to a second straight Super Bowl title.
“All the neighbors for about five or six miles know the Chiefs are playing,” he said with a smile, noting the neighbors don’t mind. “I had a bag full left over from the Fourth of July and I have more for this year if they win, too.”
The commitment to the Chiefs remains as strong as ever- 52 years and counting.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132