She watched the first Super Bowl as one of the Chiefs cheerleaders
ROCHEPORT— The first Super Bowl game was played in 1967, a lopsided contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nancy Shepherd remembers it well. She was in Los Angeles as one of a dozen cheerleaders for the relatively young Kansas City team.
Shepherd would miss the 1970 game, the last time the Chiefs would play in the Super Bowl until their meet-up with the San Francisco 49ers this year.
She was a cheerleader for the Chiefs for just two years. It was a different era then, she recalled. The uniforms were a preppy sweater and pleated skirt, and the routines were less acrobatic. It was not as glamorous as it is today, she said.
“It wasn’t the same back then,” she said. “They just wanted the cheerleaders to go to the games and cheer, and that’s all I wanted to do. It was being supportive of your team.”
She left when she landed a job with a Kansas City construction company. Shepherd, 71, now lives in Rocheport and raises potbellied pigs with her husband, Brian McInerney.
Still a passionate Chiefs fan, she said she is thrilled to see her team go back to the Super Bowl after 50 years.
Cheering for the Chiefs
For four years in Kansas City, Shepherd cheered for Westport High School. She joined the cheerleading squad primarily as a way to exercise, she said. There were few female sports teams at the time, she said, and cheerleading was one way girls found to be active.
Shepherd was into gymnastics, and even though she dreamed big, there was little support for girls interested in sports.
“I wanted to go to the Olympics, but there was nobody around to say ‘This girl is pretty good, why don’t we give her some professional training?’” Shepherd said.
She heard about tryouts for the Chiefs when she was attending college in Kansas City. She said she didn’t know anyone there, but she made the team.
It was the natural progression for a high school cheerleader to end up cheering for a professional sports team. She cheered only for home games, she said, because it was too expensive to send the cheerleaders to away games.
In the late 1960s, Chiefs cheerleaders also performed at rallies and parades in Kansas City and nearby towns. For Shepherd, the difference was striking.
“This was the era when you were a cheerleader because you were athletic and not because you wanted to look sexy,” she said.
Their only compensation was two tickets to a home game for each game they cheered. And the cheerleaders didn’t even get to keep their uniforms.
The first Super Bowl
The game between the Packers and the Chiefs in 1967 took place in early February in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Shepherd remembered that she was only allowed to take a purse and her uniform on the plane to California, but that didn’t stop her from taking a handmade Chiefs banner to the big game.
Her father worked at a hardware store and provided the supplies. When she got to the stadium, she handed the banner to someone in the stands.
“I laid on my basement floor and made this beautiful Chiefs banner,” she said.
When they got to the stadium, one thing was clear to her: The first Super Bowl seemed to be arranged by trial and error.
“It was the first game in history, so it’s funny because they didn’t know what they were doing,” she said.
For one thing, they apparently didn’t know how much to charge for tickets. Shepherd remembered hearing people grumble about the prices being too high.
The stunts were tamer for the cheerleaders, but they still required flexibility and strength.
“I jumped off this guy’s shoulders into the splits,” she recalled. “I did something where maybe four cheerleaders would be on the ground together and I would fly over them.”
Another stunt she did was aerial flips, and Shepherd said she was good at them.
”I did lots of those as a cheerleader,” she said.
It was disheartening for the team to lose to the Packers, but that was only the start of the setbacks.
The cheerleaders ended up stuck at a Los Angeles motel after the game after their flight home was delayed due to fog. They also weren’t allowed to enjoy the city because they had only brought their uniforms, and the team didn’t want them “to get in trouble.”
When she got back to Kansas City, her father scolded her for the way she appeared on TV.
“The thing I remember the most about the game was my father telling me, ‘Nancy, you were chewing your fingernails,’” Shepherd said. “So that’s what I remember about the Super Bowl — making the poster, getting stuck at a motel and biting my fingernails.
Pompoms to pigs
Ten years after that Super Bowl game, Shepherd moved to Climax Springs with McInerney. That’s where she developed a passion for pigs. They owned a piece of land with three other couples. One of them had a pig that was going to the locker, and she decided she wanted to keep it. It was her first pig.
“I started out there, saving the life of a pig that was going to get knocked on the head,” Shepherd said.
After raising pigs for four years, she began selling them. In 1981, the couple moved to a 200-acre farm in Rocheport, where they raised an average of 480 piglets a year until 1989. They rescued and also bred them, specializing in registered potbellied pigs.
Shepherd has now written a book called “Potbellied Pig Parenting” and keeps 10 pigs in what she calls her “piggy palace.” Some are rescues, and some are retired breeding stock.
On Sunday, she and her husband plan to watch the game from their farm in Rocheport.
“This game is huge,” she said.