For Iowa Chiefs fans, caucusing comes after long night of Super Bowl celebration

Chiefs-loving Democratic voters vowed to still turn out for the first voting night of the 2020 election.
Image: Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs celebrate their 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the 2020 Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

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By Adam Edelman

CLIVE, Iowa — First, your adopted home team wins the Super Bowl. Then, the very next day, your state officially kicks off voting in the 2020 election.

For Kansas City Chiefs-loving Iowa Democrats, Monday morning brought the highest of highs. But for many of them, it also came with a nasty hangover, the product of having had a few too many watching their favorite team win a championship the night before.

But at The Other Place, a dedicated Chiefs bar in Clive, about 15 miles west of Des Moines, Democratic-voting Chiefs fans from Iowa, of varying levels of inebriation, vowed Sunday night that they'd caucus the next day, no matter the outcome of the game — and no matter how hungover they might be.

"I am going to drink a lot tonight," Jim Balzarine, a Chiefs fan from Johnston, Iowa, said as the game kicked off. "But I'll definitely be there. Caucusing starts at 7 (in the evening) tomorrow. I should be fully recovered by then."

For just the third time in history, Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses will occur the day after the Super Bowl. Making things even more interesting for Iowans is the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the state's adopted National Football League home teams, were playing in, and won, the game.

In Iowa, which has no professional football teams, fans split their allegiances evenly among the NFL teams of four of its neighboring states — to the east, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears; to the north, the Minnesota Vikings; and to the south, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Which means Iowan Chiefs fans were out watching the game — and imbibing — en masse.

"I'll have way too much to drink. But I'll be there tomorrow," said Andy Damrow, a lifelong Chiefs fan who lives in Urbandale, Iowa.

Asked about how he'd weigh the consequences of drinking with the responsibility of caucusing, Damrow, who was sporting a Travis Kelce, the Chiefs' starting tight end, football jersey, showed a reporter several of his 17 tattoos, including a large one of the Chiefs' arrowhead logo on his inner bicep. He simultaneously explained his fondness for both Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is expected to have a strong finish Monday, and Goldschläger, a kind of cinnamon schnapps.

Of Buttigieg, Damrow, 45, said, "I love that he's the anti-Trump."

Of Goldschläger, Damrow, who works in finance, said, "I love it because it makes my breath smell good."

He then pointed across the table at his longtime girlfriend, Chris Koepplin, and said, "She'll have too much to drink, too, but she'll be there tomorrow, too."

Koepplin, a social worker and fellow Chiefs fan, said she'd be caucusing for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., no matter the condition she'll be in Monday.

"I will be hungover," she said. "I'll also be super motivated to caucus."

"If you've been living the politics of this country the last few years, and you're a Democrat, you're going to get your butt out and caucus no matter how you're feeling physically," she said.

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The pair were just two of hundreds of people who showed up to watch the game at The Other Place. The bar, one several franchises with the same name spread throughout Iowa and Kansas, is owned by Troy Stedman, a Cedar Falls, Iowa, native who played as a linebacker in five NFL games for the Chiefs during the 1988 season.

Only twice in their 48-year history have the Iowa caucuses arrived on the day after the Super Bowl.

First, in 1976, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys and "uncommitted" caucusgoers won the Democratic contest and incumbent President Gerald Ford edged a former California governor named Ronald Reagan in the Republican contest. And then, once again in 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers won another title (over the Los Angeles Rams), and incumbent President Jimmy Carter fended off a primary challenge from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in the Democratic caucuses.

On the GOP side that year, George H.W. Bush edged Reagan, even though Reagan later won the party's presidential nomination.

But on neither of those occasions was a team with substantial support in Iowa playing.

"These are the two things that literally everyone here talks about," said Melissa Enger, a Des Moines resident who said she'll be caucusing for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., referring to the Chiefs' postseason run and the Iowa caucuses. Monday "is going to be double header of amazing craziness."

Enger, who works for a bank, said many of her friends would celebrate through the night, given the Chiefs' win, take off from work the next day "and then have a pre-party for the caucuses."

As the Chiefs rallied ahead in the fourth quarter of the game Sunday night, Shelley Watkins — "just like No. 14," she said, referring to Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins — was forced to yell over the deafening chants from the bar's crowd to explain how excited she was to caucus the next day.

"Hell yeah," said Watkins, an employee at a homeless shelter in Des Moines, responding to a question about whether she'd caucus Monday.

"We Iowans are resilient. We've caucused through snow, through cold and blizzards," she said. "The Super Bowl, and, you know, whatever else comes with that, isn't going to keep us down."