Super Bowl LV feels different for KC Chiefs fans

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Like many Kansas City Chiefs fans, I’ve been a lifelong fan who has suffered through heartbreak after heartbreak at the hands of my beloved. Whether it was falling short in the Joe Montana years, key missed field goals, a no punt game, miserable draft busts, myriad coaching changes, a pitiful 2-14 season, or fluke playoff losses in bundles—we’ve been there. We’ve done that.

So, also like many Chiefs fans, when the team finally got over the hump on January 19, 2020, winning their first AFC Championship in 50 years (and subsequently, in my lifetime, much like many of you), my emotions were uncontrollable. I screamed. I cried. I danced. I celebrated like I’d never celebrated before. Even those of us who were not alive for the Chiefs Super Bowl IV victory had truly waited 50 years for this!

Over the course of the two weeks that followed, I consumed every bit of media I could in preparation for Super Bowl LIV. I watched every interview, every television program, every video clip and read every article I could find about the big game.

I was also as cripplingly anxious as I’ve ever been in my entire life. I was physically nauseous, incredibly distracted, and it was almost impossible to function in my day-to-day life, or at my job. As a result, I could not write a single story during the lead-up to the game. I was physically and mentally unable to function in a way that allowed me to do so.

Multiple nights between January 19th and February 2nd, I tossed and turned all night reliving the playoff run but also re-running every heartbreak we’d ever suffered as Kansas City fans over and over again in my head. Many mornings, I woke up feeling as if I hadn’t slept at all. It felt as if I could definitely get sick before I got ready for the day.

February 2nd came and I was more excited than I ever remember being on Christmas Morning as a child. My wife, daughter, and I went out to procure our Super Bowl menu and were delayed, significantly, when our vehicle was struck in a parking lot during our run. We were all okay, thankfully, but whilst waiting on the tow truck, the only thing I could think of was, “Well, this seems like a bad omen.”

We made it home and the game kicked off. The first 53 minutes of game time confirmed my deepest fears: the car accident was a bad omen, and these were the same Chiefs who’d broken our hearts so many times before. And then something miraculous happened. I do not need to relive the details for you here, if you’re anything like me you’ve re-watched the game many times over the last year and can break down play-by-play what happened next.

Kansas City planted their flag on top of football’s highest summit. We attended an epic parade, and we started thinking about running it back.

Everything Changed

About five weeks after we hoisted the Lombardi, everything changed. Not for the team, mind you, but for the entire world. The coronavirus shut down the globe as we all learned to live through the first global pandemic in a century.

As COVID-19 altered our daily lives in unimaginable ways, it also altered the landscape of the National Football League as well. Practices were cancelled, the preseason was shortened, and everyone held their breath that the season would find a way to go on.

We speculated how Kansas City would handle the pandemic, and if the team and organization would be able to do enough to make it through the unparalleled season. We knew what type of leadership we had on the roster, and we opined that Patrick Mahomes would be imperative to leading us through the murkiness.

An advantage the Chiefs have maintained for as long as I can remember was the Kingdom. Home field at Arrowhead has carried Kansas City to more victories than any of us could count. How would a near empty stadium impact the team? Or would it?  Ultimately, we all hoped it would be enough. We all hoped we could make it to Super Bowl LV.

The champs angle for the repeat

A 38-6 run in the AFC Championship Game confirmed what all of Chiefs Kingdom hoped would be true. Our team was returning to football’s biggest stage, and had a chance to #runitback, just as we’d all been praying for.

And yet, despite the same fanbase, the same cast of characters involved and the same trophy on the line, the lead-up to Super Bowl LV feels different. Steve DuBois, a teacher, writer and Chiefs fan from Overland Park, Kansas thought (out loud) “Super Bowl hype week has…kind of a different feel this year? I suppose this is how my parents felt when they sat down in front of their televisions to watch men walk on the moon for the second time.”

And he’s not wrong. Of course there are the COVID-19 related changes to celebrations, travel, media days and every other circumstance of the competition. But this is more than that; it truly feels different.

None of us are less excited than we were a year ago, but many (if not all) of us feel  a duller sense of raw emotion than we did as we prepared to take on the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps even a more reserved sense of excitement. Greg Henley, a father, husband and restaurant manager from Topeka, KS quipped, “Last year I was very very nervous, on edge even.  This year I feel like we have the better team, and as crazy as it sounds going against Tom Brady, the better QB!!!! I’m very excited for the game this Sunday.”

And I cannot agree with him more. I’m not sick to my stomach. I’m sleeping quite well at night as the game gets closer. The memories of playoff losses have been replaced by memories of WASP, touchdowns, kneel downs, trophy presentations and the coolest parade I’ve ever been to. I’m not nervous, and it’s not just because we’re rooting for the more talented team. For me, it’s because we’re going into the game without an oversized, 50 year old monkey on our backs.

Perhaps Justin Smith, a teacher, coach and lifelong Chiefs fan from Lenexa, Kansas sums it up best: “This Super Bowl feels like a continuation of dominance–a ‘taking care of business’ type of moment. Last year, we climbed the emotional and practical mountain to elite status. National media hype about Tom Brady aside, there’s no doubt who the better team is. This isn’t about overcoming 50 years of pain, this is about establishing a new dynasty.”

Nothing about winning in the NFL is easy. And, certainly we should not expect to see Kansas City hoist the Lombardi with ease on Sunday night. But, with just one loss over the last 16 months (two, really, but who’s counting Week 17?), it certainly feels as if the Kansas City Chiefs have firmly taken the NFL’s throne away from the previously dynastic New England Patriots.

Ironically, to cement their status as the game’s next dynasty, as the team to beat for the next 15 years, Kansas City will have to defeat a team led by the architect of Patrick Mahomes’ biggest loss of his career. Mahomes versus Brady is a Super Bowl quarterback matchup unlike one we’ve ever seen. And when Kansas City defeats Tampa Bay for Lombardi number three, we’ll all scream. We’ll all cry. We’ll all celebrate. Just like we did a year ago, even though it all feels so very different.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Be well, Chiefs Kingdom. Enjoy the ride, and enjoy the game.

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