We all knew this was going to happen. Sooner or later the Kansas City Chiefs would make one too many appearances on the NFL’s late January/early February playoff dance card, and that’s when football fans who don’t live within 400 miles of Arrowhead Stadium would scream they’ve had quite enough of Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Travis Kelce and, of course, Taylor Swift.
The Chiefs have played in six consecutive editions of the AFC Championship Game, including their 17-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens a couple of weeks ago. When they meet the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII Sunday night, it’ll be their fourth appearance in five years in pro football’s Big Game. As such, the Chiefs are closing in on the 21st-century New England Patriots, who won six Super Bowls and at one point made eight consecutive trips to the AFC Championship Game.
And we all know how everyone feels about the New England Patriots.
Everyone hates the Patriots is how everyone feels. The Pats gave us Spygate. They gave us Deflategate. They gave us a coach, Bill Belichick, who for 24 seasons mumbled his way through news conferences and halftime interviews. They gave us a quarterback, Tom Brady, who was perceived as an entitled pretty boy who expected to get all the calls. That the Patriots delivered some of the most electrifying moments in Super Bowl history — the final drive against the St. Louis Rams after Brady opted not to take a knee, Malcolm Butler’s miracle interception against the Seattle Seahawks, the epic comeback from 28-3 against the Atlanta Falcons — is beside the point. Everyone hates the Patriots. It was in this spirit that so many people derived great joy in seeing Belichick fail to land another head coaching gig after “parting ways” with the Patriots last month.
If CNN analyst (and Boston native) John King were to go to the Magic Board and highlight the states whose fans would root for the Pats to win another Super Bowl, only Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island would light up. (And possibly Connecticut, except that many fans south of Hartford root for the Giants. The Jets, a Ralph Nader-like third-party candidate, would pull in about 4 percent of the Connecticut vote.)
Now it’s the Chiefs’ turn to be the team everyone hates … except it’s not true. Oh, we’ll likely see this or that poll revealing that lots of otherwise neutral fans will be rooting for the 49ers and therefore against the Chiefs, but let’s have a grown-up discussion about this. Does anybody really hate the Chiefs, or is this no more than a familiar, time-worn talking point that gets rolled out whenever a team emerges as football’s latest … wait for it, wait for it … dynasty?
What makes the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes partnership as special as any great coach-QB combo?
There’s nothing wrong with familiar, time-worn talking points. Without them, we wouldn’t have sports talk radio, and without sports talk radio we wouldn’t have ads for erectile dysfunction, hair restoration and weight loss plans. But I’ll ask the question again: Does anybody really hate the Chiefs?
If the best you can come up with is that Taylor Swift is some sort of secret agent whose mission is to save the day for President Biden’s reelection campaign, I have no recourse but to borrow from Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets”: Sell crazy somewhere else.
This isn’t the first time one of our entertainment superstars has dated one of our sports heroes. The difference is that, just to pick one back-in-the-day entertainment superstar, Marilyn Monroe didn’t have 279 million Instagram followers when she dated (and then married) New York Yankees superstar Joe DiMaggio.
A small tangent: One famous Marilyn-Joe story holds that Monroe, after returning from a trip to Korea to perform for American military personnel, said to DiMaggio, “You never heard such cheering.” To which Joltin’ Joe replied, “Yes I have.”
Considering Swift plans to arrive in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII after performing in Tokyo, here’s hoping she doesn’t make a similarly uncomfortable remark when she meets up with Kelce.
Now then, back to hating on the Chiefs. And I guess a disclaimer is required: We’re limiting the discussion to the players and coaches. No need to include various friends and family members because it’s not fair. We’ll make an exception with Taylor Swift because … 279 million Instagram followers.
Besides, the Taylor Swift angle actually makes the Chiefs more likable, not more hateable. Wouldn’t you want your big, smilin’ goofball of a tight end to be hanging out at the malt shop with the most popular singer on the planet? Travis Kelce is fun. Taylor Swift is fun. Together, they lighten up a league that over the the years has taken itself far too seriously. The intro music alone on the various networks makes me want to grab a sword and shield and go battle the Lannisters from “Game of Thrones.”
And what’s not to like about talented Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes? Never mind the football. Have you seen him in the State Farm commercials with his buddy Jake? It’s as though he honed every eye twitch, every hand movement, at the Pasadena Playhouse. The man can act. And then they bring in Andy Reid for a spot in which the Chiefs coach serves as a comic foil. Brilliant!
However, if football fans have decided to follow the script and conjure some make-believe hatred for the Chiefs, this isn’t even a bad thing. In fact, fans love it when other fans hate their team. As if to prove the point, I meandered into the world of the Kansas City Chiefs to explore various podcasts, fan sites and comments sections, and, Lordy, did I ever hit pay dirt when YouTube introduced me to “All Chief’d Up,” hosted by brothers Mike and Steve Williams.
Are these guys a little over the top? Yes. Are they grown men who wear their ball caps backward? Sure. Do they shamelessly speak of their beloved Chiefs in the first person plural? OK. But are they awesome? For those who bet, you bet they are. In a recent podcast titled, “Everyone HATES the Chiefs!” Mike gets right down to business: “Everyone loves to hate us, Steve. Let’s talk about it.”
And they certainly did.
Steve: “Mike, the Chiefs are the new Patriots.”
Mike: “We are.”
Steve: “We’ve seen a lot of hate this week.”
Mike: “We’ve said this before, we’ve said we’re the villains now, we’ve said we’re the new Patriots. We are a dynasty. I don’t care what anybody says. A dynasty! A dynasty, a dynasty.”
And then they dropped the hammer on the rest of the NFL.
Mike: “If you don’t want to see us in the Super Bowl, beat us. How about that? I’ve got a wild, a wild suggestion. Actually put your big-boy pants on and beat us. But they can’t do it. They can’t do it when the lights come on …”
Steve: “Know what they can do? When the lights come on they can (poop) the bed right there in front of America and lose to the Chiefs a-genn.”
That’s it, right there. If your team continues to go deep into the tournament, year after year after year, as the Chiefs keep doing, not only should you expect everyone else to hate you, but you should embrace it. Nothing’s more fun than being able to dismiss your critics by saying, “They hate us because they ain’t us.” (I’ve observed that everyone, everyone, who uses this phrase feels very proud when doing so, as if it’s something quite clever they’ve come up with on their own. It’s not unlike the clever analysts and ex-players who say, “Belichick never won anything without Brady.” It is always, always delivered as a statistic they’ve come up with on their own.)
Hate — that is, sports hate — comes in different flavors. Boston hockey fans hated Ulf Samuelsson for putting a hit on Cam Neely that effectively ended the Bruins legend’s career. Fair enough. They also hated Yankees star Reggie Jackson for hitting a lot of home runs and delivering two decades of unparalleled swagger. Yet any reasonable Red Sox fan had to be saddened when Reggie retired.
See? Nobody really hated Reggie. Nobody really hates the Chiefs, except for maybe a few concerned Pats fans who worry that continued winning by Reid, Mahomes, Kelce, et al will somehow diminish what the Brady-Belichick Era Patriots accomplished. But I believe that, too, is manufactured. I’ve yet to encounter a Pats fan who truly believes the accomplishments of today’s Chiefs will reflect poorly on yesterday’s Patriots.
But if you really, really, really hate the Chiefs, I suggest you actually put your big-boy pants on and do something about it.
(Top photo of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid at Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium: Candice Ward / Getty Images)