Well, that sucked.
Despite being on a site called Arrowhead Report, that may have been too broad a statement for 2021, so I will be more specific. What sucked was watching my favorite team get their collective face kicked in for four straight hours in the Super Bowl. It really, really, really sucked. It was perhaps the most intensely miserable extended torture experience of my entire life, and I’m a Chiefs fan. The Weeknd was pretty good.
I’m pretty much over the loss itself already, though. It doesn’t carry the weight of five decades of misery. Super Bowl LIV erased that. It only carries the threat of being the first chapter in a new book of misery if the Chiefs somehow spend the next decade-and-a-half failing to win more rings with Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback. Even after being thoroughly embarrassed on the most national of stages, my confidence in the Chiefs is at a level unprecedented in my near-three decades as a fan.
What has replaced the Chiefs as the primary source of my endless, mostly self-perpetuated sports agony is the way sports talk media talks about the Chiefs.
If you take even a casual glance at my sports writing output, you’ll find an unhealthy percentage of it is just me whinging at the hot take machine. In truth, there is no better time to find good, creative, and even inventive sports analysis, journalism, and talk. That said, you can follow every Pro Football Focus analyst or Jon Bois and his crew of genre-bending weirdos all you want, but none of them are creating the narratives that drive every waking moment of mainstream sports discourse. And even if you avoid the sources, the discourse will seep into your feed.
My intent is for this to be my final article spent mostly complaining about all the argument shows with bombastic theme songs masquerading as legitimate debate and the endless array of personalities spouting off whatever half-cocked takes they’ve loosely fashioned based on the cartoon persona of themselves they play. That’s my intent, but I’m a hopeless addict and can make no guarantees. No matter how much I try to stay away, I will always want to hear what new stupid nonsense narrative is being perpetuated and who is perpetuating it.
There are countless examples of this constant inventing of new nonsense storylines to spend looping hours of TV playfighting over. The way the Chiefs, and more specifically Patrick Mahomes, are being framed in the aftermath of the team’s violent liquid diarrhea performance in the damn Super Bowl is pretty close to the ultimate example.
The Chiefs were bad. I concede that. That much should’ve been obvious when I described their performance as "violent liquid diarrhea." Without any context, the final score and its corresponding box score paint the picture of a fraudulent team of overhyped purveyors of cute offensive gimmickry who had their facade torn to shreds and exposed by a real football team of big strong boys who hit real hard.
Indeed, folks; the blueprint on how to beat Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense is out. All you have to do is catch them when their offensive line is four-fifths backups and guys playing out of position, their receivers have the worst collective performance of their careers, and Mahomes is playing on a torn plantar plate. If you do all that, they’re super beatable.
These aren’t excuses. They did plenty to deserve the embarrassment. Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy seemed to come into the game with a bombs-away gameplan to pair with their aforementioned decimated offensive line. The Chiefs’ defense fell deep into their stupid chihuahua mentality, pretending to be the baddest boys in town and letting themselves get burned and beat and suckered into penalties. They beat themselves over and over. It was hopeless and pathetic, and at least with the defense, it was obviously by-design from Tampa’s offense. If any “blueprint” was exposed, it was how to get the Chiefs typically smart defense to play tough guy and eat itself. When you goad the Chiefs’ defense, their bark becomes infinitely worse than their bite.
And yet, here we are with the narrative being run through every sports network’s national cycle being that Mahomes played terribly and is in some sort of regression.
This is like in wrestling when the champ only loses his title after his friends fail to save him from a 5-on-1 beatdown from the bad guy and his goons. Then the next night, the bad guy comes out with the belt. "Your pathetic fraud champion was no match for me. I destroyed him in the middle of the ring, 1-2-3."
The "Mahomes was bad in the Super Bowl" narrative is fairly simple to combat. If you took Super Bowl LV and changed nothing except swapping the quarterbacks, would it change the outcome? Yes. Instead of the Bucs winning 31-9, they’d probably win 70-0.
That’s no shot at Brady’s greatness. That is objectively undeniable. But Brady under the pressure Mahomes faced would have created perhaps the worst repeated physical beating a quarterback has endured in Super Bowl history. Mahomes behind the performance the Bucs offensive line supplied would have resulted in maybe the greatest statistical output for a quarterback in Super Bowl history.
Here in our reality, though, we’re getting the back-and-forth fake arguments about Mahomes’ legacy and whether it has been permanently scarred by this loss. Brady has lost three Super Bowls against teams quarterbacked by Eli Manning and Nick Foles. Patrick Mahomes has lost one Super Bowl to a team quarterbacked by the GOAT. If Mahomes’ single loss is legacy-scarring three seasons into his career as a starter, then no amount of rings should be able to heal the Foles-sized gaping wound in Brady’s legacy.
That argument is ridiculous, and everyone who just read it knows that. But that’s the narrative-driven environment athletes play in. No matter how much you win, there will be some cartoon wrestling heel paid millions of dollars to go on TV and yammer about how, actually, you’re secretly a total loser.
All the Super Bowl proved is no matter how great a quarterback is, he needs help to win championships. This is the specific reason Brady not only left New England, but also why he chose Tampa. This is also the reason Mahomes’ career is off to the greatest start in NFL history. For the first time in Mahomes’ professional life, his help failed him entirely and at every level. It was a mixture of unavoidable and self-inflicted, the latter being the most mind-boggling thread of the entire season. As much as the eye test is an overused sports cliche, it’s all you needed to draw the line between what was different between Brady and Mahomes in the Super Bowl. What decided Brady vs. Mahomes is what was always going to decide it: everyone else.