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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Chiefs getting ready for special day

September 22, 2001

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— For about half a dozen reasons, Sunday should be one of the most memorable game days ever at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.

For Chiefs fans, the game with the New York Giants seems almost secondary.

For one thing, it's the annual Chiefs alumni weekend when former members of the team appear on the field at halftime to be honored and remembered.

Also at halftime, the late Derrick Thomas, one of the most popular Chiefs ever, will have his name added to the club's Ring of Fame on the stadium facade.

Before the game, a rousing 15-minute ceremony with a patriotic theme is planned. Billy Joel, singing a rendition of "America the Beautiful," will be broadcast live from New York. American flags will be distributed as fans enter the stadium amid heightened security screening.

In attendance will be representatives of the Kansas City fire department, police department and emergency medical services people whose willingness to sacrifice has become much better appreciated throughout the country.

In a major break with a Kansas City tradition, the "Star Spangled Banner" will be sung correctly. Players are asking fans to end the anthem with the words "home of the brave" instead of "home of the Chiefs" in honor of all those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Finally adding to what's sure to be a memorable day at Arrowhead Stadium, the defending NFC champion Giants will be playing their first game since airliners were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center, a New York landmark literally within sight of the Giants' practice field.

The Giants, who toured the devastation in Lower Manhattan and visited with rescue workers, will understandably have more than football on their minds.

"Once the whistle sounds, it's still football," said running back Tiki Barber.

"But before the game, after the game and during the breaks we are going to be able to take a time out and say we are fortunate to be able to do this for a living and deal with life in a safe way. Some of these workers, the iron workers, the fire department, the policemen, they put their lives on the line every day."

Said fullback Greg Comella, "What I received from all those guys (the firefighters, policemen, rescuers) was the message that the way you can help us was to put a good product on the field. 'If you want to help us, take our minds off all this madness for a half an hour, an hour or however long we get.'"

The Chiefs admit they now have a much better understanding of what the Giants have been through. The Chiefs' coaches and players at first said last week's NFL schedule should not be postponed.

"Early on, we were one of the teams who initially felt we should have played," said quarterback Trent Green. "We were separated from the situation. All we see is what is on TV. When you see some of that stuff coming across, it's almost a surreal feeling, almost like a movie when you watch what happened. We kind of thought, 'Hey, let's move forward and give the country something to take their mind off what's going on.'

"But after the conversation (player representative) Tony Richardson had with the players in New York and Washington, it really struck home. He explained to everyone what was going on out there. When you hear what those guys are going through on a day-to-day basis, what their family and friends are going through, it really strikes home. Then after hearing that, we didn't feel like playing was the right thing to do."

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