Sports

Super Bowl LVI: Patrick Mahomes' Date With Destiny

American Football is unfamiliar to most foreigners. But you don’t need to bother about rules to enjoy the atypical genius of the man they call ‘Kermit'.

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Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes
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The story of Patrick Mahomes is equal parts haunting as it is awe-inspiring. The son of a former baseball player, the star of the Kansas City Chiefs American football team has been an elite athlete since his childhood. Everywhere he has gone, he has won. In high school, he played basketball and baseball as well. He was drafted to the MLB, but American football is grateful for his choice. (More Sports News)

Starting 5 am next Monday IST (the morning of February 13), the 27-year-old will again be the man to watch as his team takes on Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. (Viewers can watch the game on their devices for about a dollar after buying a pass from the NFL website).

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The 27-year-old Mahomes does not look like your stereotypical elite athlete, but broke records in college and led the NCAA in multiple categories. As soon as Kansas City Chiefs decided to start him in 2018, the goofy-looking Texan threw 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards. If you’re scratching your head at those statistics (yes, American sports have a rather antidiluvian thing with them), here’s putting it in context. 

Mahomes was the second person ever to do this. That was his first season.

Soon after, he led Chiefs back to the Super Bowl, interrupting a 50-year hiatus. He went on to win it, alongside every individual accolade. 

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He was back the next year, and lost. Then, injuries and family drama hit. Voter fatigue became real, and people were simply too tired to compute Patrick again and again. The next year, he didn’t make it back to the grand stage, and the critics came out in force. 

What has his response been since? The same it has always been. Mahomes put his head down, and continued to win. He elevated his own impossible standard, and won relentlessly. 

American football, a cultural fixture in the US, has often been met with scratching heads abroad. The jokes repeat themselves. Why is it called football when they use hands? That ball doesn’t even look like a football. In recent years though, the sport has seen an upsurge in global popularity, and growth amongst communities in the US that previously weren’t so invested in it, best characterised by Super Bowl parties that have become the norm among NRIs abroad. 

That this resurgence has been helped by Mahomes’ skill is hardly coincidental. A new crop of talented youngsters has also contributed to the continued success of the NFL. Still, the Texan, lovingly nicknamed Kermit, stands apart.

Purely because he makes the formerly head-scratching sport, full of stoppages and arcane rules, fun to watch. Mahomes doesn’t play or look like your typical quarterback. His throwing mechanics look odd and lop-sided. There should be no way he should be able to throw as far or as accurately as he does. Yet he does. And not only that, he does it one-handed, on one leg, on the move, running backwards, while being tackled, and in other improbable situations. 

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Patrick Mahomes buys time that doesn’t exist, throws over distances that are too far, shimmies past earth-shaking tackles and does all of it with the grin and joy of a five-year-old.

Mahomes sees receivers and plays that no one else sees until they watch the replays and wonder, “How did he do that?” 

One moment defines this. 

In his first Super Bowl (2019), Chiefs are under pressure, and desperately need something. Even the commentator chimes in, “And the Chiefs need some Mahomes magic”. As if on cue, Mahomes immediately gets the ball and throws it fifty yards against a San Francisco defence that has given him nothing all night. A Hail Mary throw for everyone else. Routine for Mahomes. 

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The throw turned the game and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. 

Moments like that are why he has brought a whole new crop of fans worldwide to the sport. It is why Kansas City gave Mahomes the biggest contract in history ($500 million for 10 years). 

Tom Brady too is a serial winner. He has proven himself over and over again. But Mahomes has one thing Brady doesn’t. To the new watcher, Mahomes is accessible and entertaining, a mixed-race child, an entertainer of all. He dummies and dinks, and he plays like he is actually enjoying himself. 

Last year, Cincinnati Bengals knocked out Kansas City, denying Mahomes another Super Bowl visit. This year, the game replayed itself. Mahomes hobbled around on one leg, injured, but he played. Even though he was repeatedly targeted and hit late, he ensured Kansas were through, and that he would be going to the Super Bowl again.

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In doing so, he set up a date with destiny. This is his third visit in just the first five years of his career. Should the two-time MVP win on Sunday, he will surpass Aaron Rodgers, the man many consider the second greatest quarterback after Brady. The best part? Mahomes is twenty-seven. He’s just getting started. 

Sunday’s game is set against the backdrop of Brady’s (second) retirement. The question is still there. Will there be another one like Tom? There probably won’t. But Mahomes has shown that he is more than capable of filling in those shoes as the face of the league, and then some.

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