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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — His voice was hoarse from yelling, his thirst slaked by celebratory spirits.
And while the 25-degree weather was chilly enough to affect even the most hardened Kansas City resident, the smile on Patrick Mahomes’ face as he sat on his teammates’ shoulders and was hoisted up and down — a custom-made WWE championship belt in his right hand, to boot — made it hard to imagine the best damned quarterback in pro football felt anything other than total satisfaction.
This was Wednesday afternoon, roughly 72 hours after the Chiefs clinched their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. The party was on in Kansas City, all to the roaring applause of something like a million fans as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” blared in the background, and at the center of the celebration was Mahomes, the man who — along with a revamped, underrated defense and his Hall of Fame-bound head coach, Andy Reid — had once again slayed an entire city’s tendency toward defeatist football doom.
Considering the pains inflicted on Chiefs fans over the previous 50 years, the inherited sense of doom made sense. So after numerous postseason heartbreaks, the relief they felt after the Chiefs’ thrilling 31-20 come-from-behind win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV was palpable, something similar to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, or what Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns fans might understand if they ever win a Super Bowl.
“It was just a lifetime of just, disappointment and conversations with my son of ‘Hey, we’ve got a lot to be proud of’ and ‘Wait till next year, all the pieces are in place,’” actor and comedian Paul Rudd, a Chiefs fan, told local television station KSHB. “Those conversations didn’t have to happen this year for the first time. And my 15-year-old boy burst into tears, hugged me, and it was just the greatest thing ever.”
Understand, to slay a football demon as large as Kansas City’s was — and to be the driving force behind it — is not only enough to make a man feel like a king in a city, it’s enough to crown him a king in that city, too.
“I know he good and damn well owns this city more than me,” Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas said with a chuckle, in an interview with Yahoo Sports before the Super Bowl. “He could be mayor tomorrow and I’d be like ‘it’s all good man, I’ll just go and run for city council.’ I’ll move out the way.”
‘The legend’ of Patrick Mahomes
So if you want to know what the NFL’s newest superstar means to one of the NFL’s smallest markets, the fact he was literally treated like a king during the parade celebration — hoisted upon his teammates shoulders’ for a good 23 seconds — is as good a place to start as any, along with his teammates’ undying reverence for his overall skill and winning presence.
“Fourth quarter, six and whatever left on the clock, down 10 … pssssssssssssh,” tight end Travis Kelce bellowed on stage just minutes before, nodding to the circumstances surrounding the Chiefs’ epic Super Bowl comeback.
“We got Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid baby!”
Kelce soon shouted out a few of his other teammates, knowing that this should go down in the history books as a team win. It’s a win that would not have been possible without standout performances from a dozen other Chiefs, including Kelce, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland.
But only one Chief could be named Super Bowl MVP, and when the time came, the writers chose Mahomes, the man who fulfilled his destiny as Kansas City’s very own John Wick far sooner than anyone had the right to expect him to.
So for that reason, yes, it is Mahomes who will eventually become the NFL’s highest-paid player, Mahomes who may go down as the GOAT before his career is over, Mahomes who should tie fans in the region to this team for the next two decades.
“The legend of Mahomes will grow,” Lucas told Yahoo Sports. “The connection, at least, will likely exceed what we saw with the Kansas City Royals [championship] in 2015. A lot of those fans didn’t stick around after that, and at this point, a lot of those fans are gone. But in Patrick Mahomes, you have a franchise quarterback that will we back up the Brinks truck to make sure he’s around forever. So I look forward to that for years to come.”
Kansas City will benefit beyond the football field
A few years ago, Lucas was driving around Philadelphia when he saw a billboard featuring Dick Vermeil. Vermeil took the Eagles to one Super Bowl, nearly four decades ago, and lost. However, the billboard offered proof to Lucas of the lasting impact a football team can have on a region.
“We’re getting the same thing with these Chiefs, and we haven’t had that since Len Dawson,” Lucas said. “That’s what’s being built right now, and it’s even more interesting that, in an era with so many different media sources, you have a unifying presence.
“Forty years ago, you could have a big parade in the middle of town or a big story in the newspaper and everybody would notice it. But these days you don’t really have that, so the way you get that level of attention is actually through something like a team, a franchise, that has the imagination of a community on lock. And that’s what you’re seeing with these Chiefs.”
Lucas, for instance, went to a recent gala held by Mathieu and not only marveled at how well-attended it was — with practically every key player from the Chiefs — but also how Mathieu only needed about six weeks to pull it off.
“All these dudes, and I’m like ‘How did y’all pull this together that quickly?’ — it takes two years for us to plan a draft and so much longer to plan an inauguration,” Lucas said. “There was just this excitement in the community, and I think we will be missing out on an opportunity if we don’t, in Kansas City, leverage it for a number of things, one of which relates to [creating] mentors for our young people.
“Every grade school I visit, they’ve all heard of Patrick Mahomes, they know the Chiefs, they’re excited about it. So I think what that means for me as a mayor is, how do we leverage that for even more good? How do we amplify that in Kansas City, especially with how well-respected this team is?”
The answer to that question, Lucas said, is not fully formed. But when asked if Mahomes’ presence and the Chiefs’ ongoing success could help Kansas City lure a Super Bowl one day, he said it certainly doesn’t hurt. The city will already host the 2023 NFL draft.
“I think it tells us that anything is possible, whether it be a big event, economic development or anything under the sun,” Lucas said. “That’s what we’re gathering from the Chiefs.”
But while Mahomes seems positioned to leave a generational impact on the city he plays in, he wasn’t consciously thinking about any of that on Wednesday. Instead, the 24-year-old seemed completely and utterly obsessed with celebrating his first championship with the vigor the moment deserves, the same vigor Chiefs fans celebrated with.
So from the top of a slow-moving double-decker bus, Kansas City’s football savior guzzled beers during the parade. He heaved footballs to fans into the crowd, all while generally hugging everyone in sight as teammates danced and smiled and laughed all around him.
And when the bus finally reached its destination, Union Station, the King of Kansas City stopped on stage before a field full of delirious red-and-gold-clad Chiefs fans, grabbed the microphone and, in an unusually raspy voice (hey, it’s been a long few days) fired up the crowd with a speech that reminded all his subjects to simply savor the present.
“When I came to Kansas City, the first thing I wanted to do was bring the Lamar Hunt Trophy back to Kansas City, back to this organization,” Mahomes began, to loud cheers.
“And the second, most important thing I want to do … was get the Lombardi Trophy … for the greatest coach of all-time, Aaandy Reeeid, baaaby!” Mahomes hollered.
“This season, the adversity we dealt with, with the injuries … I mean, my knee was on the side of my leg! But we still went back, and we won the Super Bowl.
“We’re the champs, baaaby!”
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