Note: The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, "THE LITTLE LEAGUE THAT COULD: How the AFL changed the NFL forever." The book will be published by Rowman-Littlefield and is due out in 2010.
It was the 1960s when "Broadway Joe" met the "Mad Bomber."
"I always enjoyed playing against Joe because we both liked to put the ball in the air and make the game exciting," said Lamonica, known as the Mad Bomber for obvious reasons.
"The Raiders were always a cheap-shot bunch taking shots at Joe," remembered the Jets' Larry Grantham. "One of their defensive ends, Ben Davidson, broke Joe's jaw on a play well after it was over. So we got up in arms and it was ironic and sweet to beat them (27-23 in 1968) and go to the Super Bowl."
A three-sided rivalry developed between the Oilers, Chargers and Texans at the beginning of the decade. The Oilers won the AFL's first championship when they beat the Chargers, then located in Los Angeles. They repeated the following season after the Chargers had moved to San Diego. The Texans knocked off the Oilers in the third AFL season in one of the most memorable games in the league's history -- a 20-17 double-overtime thriller.
"The Chargers were in our division and the best team," Dawson remembered of the AFL's early years. "With Houston, we would have that rivalry because of both teams being in Texas and a lot of (players from Texas) were on both teams."
In an amazing finish, the Raiders won this one 43-32, scoring two touchdowns in nine seconds. Most of the nation's football fans missed it, though, because the NBC television network broke into the game to start showing the famous children's story at 7 p.m. ET to fulfill a contractual agreement.
Remember the AFL
"Lamonica couldn't really throw the ball that effectively," Dickey said.
The result: a 17-7 victory for the Chiefs and a spot in the fourth pro football championship game, which they eventually won.
"When you played the Raiders, you just tried to avoid getting hurt," Dawson said. "There were guys on our team who truly did not like them. I never had the personal feeling but I didn't ever turn my back on them after a play. Their philosophy was to take a cheap shot at the quarterback and see if you can knock him out of the game. Even if you get a 15-yard penalty."
"I remember our guys getting ready for a game with them and (coach) Hank (Stram) wanting to beat them badly. We'd think that it was just another game, and he'd say, `No, this is Raider Week, these are the Raiders, it is different.' I thought, 'Should we bring our brass knuckles?'"
"I must have thrown only six or eight passes in the game," Dawson said. "My knee had been a problem that year and Hank wanted me as the quarterback in the playoffs. Some of our guys were perturbed we kept the wraps on it."
When the Cincinnati Bengals joined the AFL in 1968 and eventually started playing games against NFL teams, they would have a natural rival in the Cleveland Browns -- same state and an owner/coach familiar to both teams. That would be Paul Brown, who had built the Browns into a dynasty in the old All-American Football Conference before joining the NFL.
Of course, the biggest rivalry of all in this time probably was the AFL vs. the NFL - and that one lasted 10 seasons en route to the merger.
"I guarantee you, it was a war," said Jack Steadman, who assisted Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt in getting the AFL started. "I lived that war, every day of it. It took a while for the NFL owners and the AFL owners to really be civil to each other. The NFL did everything they could to kill the league ... and we were successful in spite of it."