KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The irony for David Koechner — actor, comedian, writer, husband, dad, lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan — is that his most vivid memory inside Arrowhead Stadium, sitting in the middle of a glorious sea of red, hasn’t got a damn thing to do with football at all.
“We played Buffalo and won,” Koechner, the star of the movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com with a chuckle. “I don’t remember the score.”
The Chiefs beat the Bills, 22-16, on September 14, 1997. Tamarick Vanover racked up 193 yards in kickoff returns, including a 94-yarder for a score in the fourth quarter.
And, hey, Koechner didn’t fare too badly on this particular Sunday, either. That morning, the Tipton, Mo., native proposed to his future wife Leigh — then celebrated with her family at the Chiefs-Bills game at Arrowhead, where his father-in-law-to-be had seats at midfield.
“My wife, she didn’t watch the game that day,” he says. “She kept staring at her engagement ring.”
You stay classy, Kansas City. Because Champ Kind is returning to Arrowhead on Sunday — and the only ring on his mind this time is one that’s got the Lombardi Trophy engraved on it.
Koechner has been asked to bang the Chiefs’ ceremonial tom-tom drum and lead the Tomahawk Chop during pregame kickoff ceremonies before the home opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
“Growing up in Tipton, who wouldn’t want to bang the drum at Arrowhead?” Koechner asks. “So it’s really cool.”
Koechner joins a list of Chiefs legends and celebrities with Kansas City ties who’ve taken turns on the big drum, a group that last fall included actor/comedian Rob Riggle, golfer Tom Watson, and franchise icons such as Bobby Bell, Will Shields, and Jan Stenerud.
Speaking of Stenerud, Koechner’s earliest memories with the Chiefs go all the way back to one of the kicker’s longest days as a pro — the longest game in NFL history: Christmas Day, 1971, a 27-24 double-overtime defeat to the Miami Dolphins at old Municipal Stadium.
“I have distinct memories of my cousin and my grandmother (watching),” Koechner says. “We lost that. Didn’t Stenerud miss a last-second field goal?”
He did. Kansas City had the ball at the Miami 15 with 35 seconds left in regulation, and Stenerud’s 31-yard attempt sailed wide right. After 22 minutes and 40 seconds of overtime, the Dolphins prevailed.
Young Koechner forgave. More than that, he was hooked. Growing up, he even had a poster of Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier hanging on one of his bedroom walls.
“I know — of all things, I had some linemen,” Koechner says now. “They were great. They were amazing. I remember Len Dawson, Eddie Podolak, all the Chiefs greats.”
The “Saturday Night Live” alum has done scores of film and television work over the past two decades — “Thank You For Smoking,” “Piranha 3DD,” “Snakes On A Plane,” “Talladega Nights,” to name but a few — but his most beloved role might be as highly-strung sports anchor Champ Kind in the 2004 hit “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy,” a picture whose central cast also included Overland Park native Paul Rudd.
The long-awaited sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” wrapped in the spring and is slated for a December 20 domestic release. Koechner has been in Vermont this past week, shooting the short film “110 Llandaff,” and regularly churns out new content via his YouTube channel, “Full On Koechner.”
But this weekend is something cool, something different; The actor says that while he watched a slew of games growing up, he didn’t actually get a chance to attend that many at Arrowhead. And the pre-MartyBall ‘80s were tough; Koechner admits that while the Chiefs remain his first love, he “kind of became a Bears fan, too,” while living in Chicago and working with the acclaimed Second City comedy theater troupe in the early ’90s.
“That’s a different conference,” he chuckles. “That’s allowed.”
Koechner’s wife hails from Overland Park, and both sides of the family have deep roots here. But when you’re a working actor with five kids, free NFL Sundays are few and far between. So the Los Angeles-based comic usually gets his Chiefs fix via the satellite, when he can.
Not that they gave him much material to get excited about last fall, mind you.
“That was rough,” Koechner says of the Chiefs’ disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2012. “And I felt for those guys. Oh, man.”
On the plus side, though, Koechner got on the fast track for the bang-the-drum club last summer, having talked to Chiefs officials while participating in the annual “Big Slick Celebrity Weekend” poker tourney/charity auction launched by native sons Rudd, Riggle, and Jason Sudeikis. The organization stayed in touch, and during a junket to L.A. as part of work on a Chiefs documentary, Koechner was offered a formal invitation.
“They said, ‘Hey man, we would love to have you out to a game sometime,'” he says.
And here we are.
Which begs the question, of course: Which is more harrowing — sharing the field with your boyhood idols, or hoping your fiancée doesn’t change her mind in front of 79,000 fans?
“I would think it would be at least as memorable,” Koechner says, laughing.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org