I remember hearing as a kid in the first half of the 1980s a legend.
It was one that was almost intangible to me, unfamiliar, exciting. It told of how a handful of years earlier, the first Super Bowl had been played. The legend revealed, to my obvious intrigue, that our own Kansas City Chiefs had been competitors in that first epic class between the AFL and the NFL.
The legend continued: after losing Super Bowl, the Chiefs returned to Super Bowl IV to shock the world and defeat the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings. It was the second consecutive AFL win in the NFL-favored event, following Joe Willie Namath’s victory guarantee and upset win over the Baltimore Colts. The Colts had been favored by 18 points before losing to the Jets, and in the Chiefs’ win over the Vikings, Minnesota had been the 13-point favorite.
Then there was the 1970 merger that would closely follow, and the Chiefs would be the final AFL Champions, as well as the final AFL representative in the Super Bowl. The NFL would pit the NFC and AFC Champions against one another from that point forward, and that’s how it remains to this day.
Lots of fans will tell you that watching the Chiefs win Sunday was something that transcended football, and I tend to agree. I’m not the world’s greatest football fan, but I watch the Playoffs and the Super Bowl every year. Watching my Chiefs lose last year in the AFC Championship Game to New England – a bitter memory sharpened by Dee Ford’s offsides call and the ‘ghost’ roughing-the-passer flag that gave Tom Brady a timely first down in the game’s final moments of regulation.
That pain sort of melted away Sunday. The frustration was replaced by shock, happiness and the euphoric feeling that something I had always wanted – but had little hope to receive – had come to me. For every fan of a ball team, that team’s successes are personal. When they win, – you the fan –are who they won it for. It’s entirely possible that certain fans are more excited than the players themselves.
There’s another valuable gem attached to all of this: Patrick Mahomes. He’s 24 years old, knows how to court the fans and media, seems to love Kansas City and appears to have a bright career ahead of him.
Oh, and he also happens to be the best quarterback on the planet. That back-foot throw to Sammy Watkins for the 60-yard touchdown, the score that sealed the deal and put the Chiefs into the Super Bowl as the AFC Champions, is not a throw many humans can make. But the human who can throw it best wears a Chiefs uniform on Sundays.
And he’s 24 years old. He has tremendous talent around him that give him the ideal stage upon which to display his gifts.
Virtually everybody in the Kansas City area and well beyond – it turns out Chiefs Kingdom is particularly strong not only throughout Missouri, but well into Iowa, southeast Nebraska and the eastern half of Kansas – would like to shake hands with this kid. Patrick Mahomes was just about to turn six years old when 9-11 happened. He was born during the fall semester of my senior year of high school. But 90-year-old grandmas look up to him like he’s a respected elder statesman.
Do we make too much of these sports icons? Do we glorify athletes in an unhealthy way? I’m sure we do. But Mahomes is making it seem legitimate: he says the right things, and he does the right things.
And he’s awesome. Don’t fool yourself: every owner in the league would land him if they could. When your Kansas City Chiefs extend his contract in the near future, they’ll pay him more than any quarterback has ever made. And he’s worth every penny to those owners.
Now, it’s also going to result in your exorbitant seat prices climbing higher at Arrowhead. Nothing worth watching gets cheaper for the spectator. But oh, my, what a ride.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.