Being a Kansas City Chiefs fan for nearly 60 years, I reserve the right to complain about the postseason tragedy that has fallen upon my beloved football team for decades. With two Super Bowl appearances, the last being in January 1970, this franchise has made January football unbearable to watch. However, on Sunday, against the Tennessee Titans, that futility finally comes to an end for the team.
To be honest, I thought after the Kansas City Chiefs fell behind the Houston Texans early in the second quarter of last Sunday’s AFC Divisional game, even with Patrick Mahomes on the field, there was zero chance he could orchestrate an improbable comeback, but I was wrong.
Mahomes made the impossible happen, and now for the second straight year, his talents have Kansas City on the brink of their third Super Bowl appearance, and first since Super Bowl IV 50 years ago.
Sadly, I am old enough to remember that Super Bowl victory in which the Chiefs destroyed the Minnesota Vikings in New Orleans. Since then, I have had to relieve what I saw when I was eight years old. Now, I’m an old man wondering if my team is so jinxed and if I’ll never fulfill one of the last items on my bucket list, watching my Chiefs win a Super Bowl.
On Sunday, the Chiefs host the talented Tennesee Titans, and by most accounts, NFL pundits are predicting a third straight road victory for the visitors. Can they do it? Of course, they can win, but will the Titans defeat a motivated and hungry Chiefs team hoping to get that Super Bowl monkey off their back and show that last year’s AFC Championship loss to the Patriots was more fluke than bad luck?
For those outside of Kansas City and Tennessee, this game boils down to only a pair of facts. Can the Titans stop Patrick Mahomes, and can the Chiefs stop Derrick Henry?
Whichever team accomplishes that titanic challenge will be headed to Miami to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 54 against the San Francisco 49ers or Green Bay Packers.
But this isn’t an X’s and O’s column because honestly, this is about a 50-year championship drought and the heartache of the Chiefs’ Nation that lives, dies and is reborn each season.
The time has come to kick down the Super Bowl door thanks in large part to Mahomes.
In the NFL, running backs like Henry come and go. Don’t get me wrong, not only is he the best back in the game today, but he’s also a terrific person who is on the type of a roll that can carry his team to a Super Bowl title.
However, on the flip side, a generational quarterback such as Mahomes comes around once in a decade or two. Further, the fact he’s such a talented, humble leader on and off the field makes you wonder: How can he possibly carry the weight of 50 years on his shoulder, and get the job done?
The Titans were not expected to be in this game, while the Chiefs talked about returning to the AFC Championship just moments after that devasting loss a year ago in Arrowhead. After the game, Mahomes was furious, distraught, and mightily upset that he didn’t get the ball back in overtime, but further, he felt responsible since he played so poorly in the first half against New England.
In December, Mahomes got his revenge against Brady and co. with a win in Foxboro that set the table to secure the second seed in the AFC. Last week, he knocked out the Texans who had defeated the Chiefs at home earlier in the year.
Mahomes enters Sunday’s AFC Championship game better than he was a year ago and healthier than he was the first time he faced the Titans this year. Thus, after his incredible comeback performance last weekend, it would appear he’s ready to exercise the postseason demons that have plagued this franchise long before he arrived.
In my gut, I can see why the Titans could win, but this game isn’t about the butterflies in my stomach leading up to this AFC battle. This game is all about the emotional aspect that has kept me a Kansas City Chiefs fan since birth.
My father was an avid Chiefs fan, and sadly he passed away a couple of years ago, so he never saw any of the Mahomes era. He and my mother attended both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IV.
Further, two of my neighbors growing up were Hall of Famers, Bobby Bell and Hank Stram. In fact, Stram, a close friend of my father, was the only person outside of my grandmother whom I allowed to call me Nicky instead of Nick.
Bell and I remain friends today. In my lifetime, he was the greatest linebacker I ever saw put on a uniform and a man who fought extreme prejudice in my neighborhood. Len Dawson, another friend, was my childhood hero, and to this day he would tell you, as he has told me numerous times, he hopes the Chiefs win another Super Bowl, so we don’t have to talk about the Super Bowl IV team any longer.
This game is beyond the Titans versus the Chiefs on Sunday. It is beyond the numbers plaguing Andy Reid, who has a miserable record against Tennessee and an awful overall playoff record. Instead, this game boils down to the heart and the emotion that makes all of us fans of our respective teams as we cling to the hope that sooner or later, every die-hard has their day in the sun.
For me as a journalist, I’ve seen about everything you can see on and off the gridiron. What I’ve never seen is watching Kansas City Chiefs chairman, Clark Hunt, hoist the AFC Championship trophy that bears the name of his father, Lamar Hunt.
If that happens, this old man will thank the NFL gods for Mahomes and co. as 50 years of suffering comes to a merciful end.
At that point, I’ll cry like a baby and wish my father was sitting next to me in his lazy boy watching it all unfold together.
Then, lastly, I will bleed my soul and bank account to get Super Bowl tickets just hours from my home in Florida so I can do what my parents did before me: watch the Kansas City Chiefs win a Super Bowl once again.