YCS RIP: Lamar Hunt

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Continuing with the tradition of eulogizing sporting figures and sending our thoughts to those in trouble, we here at YCS would like to send our best to the family and friends of Lamar Hunt, a man who has helped shape the sports landscape in this country over the last 40 years. Hunt died after a long battle with prostate cancer yesterday.

In the 1960s, while attempting to secure his own NFL franchise, but denied, Hunt convinced several other wealthy people interested in sports to form their own football league, which became the AFL. Without Hunt's vision, the NFL would surely not be what it is today. The league would be half its current size if the NFL and AFL had never merged. When Lamar moved his AFL Dallas Texans to Kansas City to become the Chiefs, he became a champion of small market teams. One could argue that it is largely because of Hunt's influence that the NFL does not have the "Big Market/Small Market" issues that have plagued other sports, most notably Major League Baseball and the NHL. He won 2 AFL Championships with the Texans/Chiefs, and also won Super Bowl IV. The Chiefs have become a Kansas City institution, inextricably linked to the community. Hunt was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame and the AFC Championship trophy is named after him in honor of his efforts with the AFL.

Hunt was also a pioneer for American Soccer. In the 1960s, when soccer was still relatively unknown, Hunt was one of the initial investors in the now-defunct North American Soccer League, where he owned the Dallas Tornado. Under Hunt's ownership, the Tornado won the NASL Soccer Bowl in 1971, and were runners-up in 1973. Dwindling attendance and bad finances led to the folding of the club in 1981.

Despite these losses and the bleak future of the sport in the country at the time, Hunt stayed involved in soccer and was one of the founding investors of Major League Soccer. His cautious approach and memories and experience from the NASL days is probably the main reason there even is a league today, 11 years out. The other reason is Hunt's construction of the first MLS-only stadium in Columbus, OH with his own funds in 1999, spawning a building boom for the league that ensured its financial survival, and protected it from sharing the NASL's fate. Hunt also helped secure a stadium for FC Dallas. The growth of MLS has in turn helped to grow the US National Team.

Hunt's continued defense of the small market teams kept the Kansas City Wizards team in Missouri for more than a year after he put the team up for sale. Wealthy investors wanted to move the team to Philadelphia, where they could possibly help land a bigger TV contract, but Lamar insisted on selling the team to a local owner, and eventually a group of Kansas City investors stepped up to keep the Wiz in the City of Fountains. He won an MLS Cup with the Wizards in 2000. Hunt Sports Group still owns FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. The United States Soccer Federation, in recognition of Hunt's devotion to the sport, has renamed the U.S. Open Cup tournament after him, attaching his name to the longest continually-awarded competition in the United States.

Whether his involvement in Football, Soccer, or even his minor forays into Basketball, Tennis, and Hockey, we can all agree that sports in the United States would be vastly different today, and probably for the worse, were it not for Lamar Hunt's involvement. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.


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