There’s no pressure on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Sure, the franchise hasn’t won a championship in half a century. And yeah, maybe it hasn’t even played for one over that same time period. The fan base may be borderline rabid for a title at this point, too, OK.
No pressure at all, Chiefs.
This isn’t your typical Chiefs team, though. Historically, Kansas City and postseason football have meant just one thing: heartbreak. You can come up with a plethora of names or catchphrases and members of the Chiefs Kingdom will writhe and agonize over their painful memories. Lin Elliott. The no-punt game. Andrew Luck. The list almost seems endless.
But those games are all in the past, those disappointments are almost ancient history in comparison to the current Chiefs. They finally have their own, homegrown superstar at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, and he may be the best player in the NFL. Andy Reid is one of the best offensive minds in league history, and his final form has been unlocked thanks to an arsenal of speed demons at the skill positions and a quarterback who can make all the throws.
The Chiefs aren’t just good, they’re fun. They’re unique. They’re special. That’s what this moment in time is too, special.
It’s hard to put 50 years into perspective, especially when you haven’t been alive for 50 years.
Consider this: If you use extremely rough math and estimate that you don’t have clear memories before the age of five (the range for this is somewhere between three and seven, so we’re splitting the difference), approximately 69.71% of the U.S. population would either have no memory of or wouldn’t have even been alive for Super Bowl IV in 1970 (using the most recent population data from Statista).
Again, rough math to say the least. But it gives us a starting point to understand just how long ago the Chiefs last played for a Super Bowl. Depending on your birthday, you could already be qualified for AARP and not have been alive when Hank Stram’s Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings in New Orleans.
Despite what the New England Patriots have led us to believe over the past two decades, reaching the Super Bowl is both challenging and worth celebrating. It’s special, it’s the kind of thing that kids (and plenty of adults) all around the country dream about, working hard for years to finally reach that one game.
And sure, with this current iteration of the Chiefs and with the current quarterback, it’s easy to think this will become a common occurrence. That would be the most optimistic outlook. But while it will never get old to look at how far the franchise has come, from the days to Brodie Croyle and Elvis Grbac and countless others to Patrick Mahomes, from Frank Gansz and Romeo Crennel to Andy Reid, from a defense that just last year was a scourge to all that came before it to the fearsome group that’s playing for a title this year, don’t lose sight of how meaningful it is to be AFC champions.
Don’t mistake basking in how special this moment is for a defeatist attitude or for being “just happy to be here.” Chiefs fans should be confident in their chances for the Super Bowl. They have the best quarterback in the league, offensive weapons galore, an underrated defense and a future hall of fame coach. Sunday is bigger than just being happy to be there.
If the Chiefs win then the parade in the coming week should be just one celebration in a series of many. Students on college campuses around Kansas and Missouri should go buck wild, just like they did when the Royals won the 2015 World Series. Skipping work or school to party should be expected. Gloating will become the official language of the Chiefs Kingdom, and rightfully so.
But there’s something to be said for stepping back for just a moment and letting the moment wash over you. It’s important to understand just how unique and special it is to reach football’s ultimate game, the pinnacle of the sport. Winning it all is the ultimate goal, but just getting there is a massive accomplishment in and of itself.
Dan Marino led the Miami Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX to cap off his MVP season in 1984. The Dolphins were pasted by the San Francisco 49ers in that game and still haven’t been back to the Super Bowl. In fact, they’ve only made it back to AFC Championship Game twice, and Marino didn’t make it past the divisional round in the last seven years of his career. No one would have expected that when he lit the world on fire in ’84.
Aaron Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, putting together arguably the best performance in Super Bowl history by a quarterback. That was in his third season as a starter, right as he began to show his hall of fame trajectory. The Green Bay Packers have gotten close in the last nine seasons, reaching the NFC Championship Game three times, but one of the most stories franchises in the league hasn’t gotten back to the biggest game despite having an all-time great under center.
The analogies extend past football. The Chicago Cubs’ World Series drought was well known and easily mocked for decades. After all, 108 years is a long time. But the Cubs didn’t even reach the World Series for 71 years between 1945 and 2016.
It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. It’s hard to be one of the last two teams playing.
The Chiefs are favored for a reason on Sunday. Nobody will be surprised if Kansas City wins its second Super Bowl in team history. However, nobody in their right mind would think that will stop Chiefs fans from being energized, emotional wrecks throughout the day and the game. It’s sports fandom, it wouldn’t mean as much without that raw emotion.
While you wait for kickoff and the big plays and the final whistle, take one moment to gather some perspective. It’s been half a century since this team has gotten this far. Hall of Famers never came close. Fan favorites delivered you heartbreak constantly for decades. This particular group is special. This day is special. The nerves will be there all afternoon and evening; give yourself a split second to appreciate how much you and your favorite team have been through.
That, too, is special.