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The Super Bowl, America’s unofficial National Holiday

By John Cardullo, sportswriter

As a young boy of 9 years old, I remember the first Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. At that time, I wasn’t much of a sports fan, to my father’s dismay, so remembering the significance of that day was lost on me. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when the Chiefs represented the upstart AFL and again made it back to the Super Bowl, but this time they were playing the powerful Minnesota Vikings who was carrying the flag for the established NFL. It was supposed to be a runaway win for the Vikings. A classmate wanted to bet me straight up; he wanted the Vikings and I took the Chiefs. Not knowing much about pro football, I was interested in the game but only because I had a vested interest in the game. Well, I won a dollar because the Chiefs upset the Vikings and won the Super Bowl, and from that point on, I became hooked on professional football and I began to root for the Kansas City Chiefs.

My father was a New York Giants fan as far back as I could remember, but there was something about the Giants that never clicked with me. CBS owned the rights to air their games locally, so they were on television every Sunday afternoon and frankly they were not that good. How could they be? They never reached a Super Bowl. I had an education coming to me later down the road.

We had the Boston Patriots, a team that didn’t even have their own home, a team that was considered a joke among those in the professional ranks. But in the early 1970’s I began taking an interest in the Patriots and became a fan. They had the number one draft pick that offseason coming to New England. The Patriots selected Stanford’s Jim Plunkett, a new “stadium” Schaffer built and ready for Plunkett’s arrival, and they went from being a Boston professional team to a regional team when they changed their name to the New England Patriots.

But they still were awful and as much as the region tried to embrace the Pats, most of the regional fan base cheered on teams in other parts of the country where “real football” was being played – places such as Dallas, Miami, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Oakland, Minnesota, Chicago and Baltimore (Colts not the Ravens). New England had their nice little team, but the real teams were everywhere else.

In the era of the Super Bowls, Green Bay gave way to Pittsburgh to Dallas to Washington and to San Francisco. Yes, the west side of the country was making noise and the Niners were being led by this up start with a gun slinger’s name, Joe Montana. Where the Pittsburgh Steelers was led by Coach Chuck Knoll, and Terry Bradshaw representing the tough as nails Steel City, Dallas was a meticulous, every move measured and calculated machine engineered by the emotionless coach Tom Landry and the All-American boy, quarterback Roger Staubach. I began to openly cheer for the Patriots and the Forty Niners. They were this this fun-loving bunch that were always living and winning on the edge with a cast of characters who seemed to have come out of an old western movie. Led by a genius coach in Bill Walsh, and Montana, the team had Roger Craig at running back, and Dwight Clark a tight end who would redefine the position for ever. On defense they also had Ronnie Lott, a defensive back who ran like the wind and hit you like you had never been hit before. The Forty Niners were the pride of the NFL. Joe Montana was known as the G.O.A.T. (sound familiar?), the greatest of all time! For Montana, age and an upstart back-up quarterback name Steve Young, push the aging legend to seek another team to play for, solidifying that father time catches up with us all and professional sports comes down to one thing – it’s all about the Benjamins. Going with the younger quarterback in Steve Young, Joe Montana wasn’t yet ready to retire so he entered free agency and landed, yes you guessed it, over at the Kansas City Chiefs. After a few years at KC, Montana reinjured a recurring back injury and decided to, like a good cowboy in an old-time movie, just ride off into the sunset.

Before the Game

Now, many years later, my two favorite teams of my youth, the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the San Francisco 49’ers in Super Bowl 54. The event itself seems odd in many ways. The game will match up two of the NFL’s most storied franchises, The AFC champion is awarded the Larmar Hunt trophy for winning the conference, the trophy was named after the owner and AFL/AFC pioneer of the Chiefs. Fifty years has passed since the Chiefs played in the Super Bowl and is led now by another coaching legend, Andy Reid, and an emerging superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. The last time the Forty Niners played in the big game was in 2012, Super Bowl 47, when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. This Forty Niners team is coached by Kyle Shanahan (whose Father, Mike, led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl championships) and is quarterbacked by former New England Patriot, Jimmy Garoppollo. Another twist to the Super Bowl plot is that  Joe Montana who played successfully for both franchises, after being traded from San Francisco in April of 1993 after winning 4 super bowls in San Francisco, an MVP in three of those games and led the Chiefs to a playoff appearance, has been very low key in his retirement and hasn’t publicly spoken on who he is rooting for, and as a matter of fact Montana has been virtually nonexistent in the NFL since he walked away those many years ago.

So, who am I going to root for? Hard to say, I still like both teams, they both have many of the same qualities that caught my attention all those years ago. I feel as if I am in a no win/no lose situation and knowing the Patriots are in the same situation this Super Bowl Sunday as I am, watching the game on television which seems so wrong in Patriots Nation. For the Patriots and their fans, they have expected nothing but ending their season in early February, that’s what 20 years of success and 6 Super Bowl championships will get you – well – spoiled! 

Recap

As far as the game, as predicted both teams came out of the tunnel hitting the turf running, there are no pregame jitters or butterflies with either team. The first quarter ended with the Forty Niners jumping out to the early 3-0 after their opening drive stalled and they had to settle for a field goal; the Chiefs came roaring back when Mahomes took the lead late in the first quarter on a sneak. The first quarter ended with the Chiefs leading 7-3. A Chief field goal and a Forty Niner touchdown saw the first half end in a 10-10 tie – both teams didn’t seem to be bothered by playing on the world’s biggest stage; however, the flow of play from both teams seemed to be on the conservative side. The first half was predictable, and the second half anticipation was to be a knock down drag out fight as both teams will be expected to open the playbooks and let the players fly!

The halftime show was far from the military marching band performance that was at Super Bowl 1. Jennifer “J Lo” Lopez and Shakira’s halftime show reflected the Latino influence of the Miami area, high energy and entertaining but as all the halftime shows of late, long and a bit over the top. But the bottom line is the Super Bowl is about big money and sponsorship and truly about providing Super entertainment which very rarely lives up to the main event itself.

The 2nd half began with the Forty Niners taking a 20-10 lead into the 4th quarter as Kansas City was reeling and trying to figure out how to stop the San Francisco dominating defense. It wasn’t until the nine-minute mark left in the game.  the Chiefs and their young quarterback began to come to life. Patrick Mahomes began to play the way that they had all year making play after play and took an eleven-point deficit and scored 21 unanswered points winning Super Bowl LIV 30-20 for their 2nd Super Bowl win in franchise history. Mahomes who struggled throughout the game but kept his team alive, and in the last nine minutes Mahomes and the Chiefs took control of the game and Mahomes was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and for their head coach Andy Reid finally won the big one!

As for this former Kansas Chiefs fan the absence of my beloved Patriots from the Super Bowl felt oddly strange but refreshing to see two old time franchises re-emerge and play for the big prize. True, I was in a no lose situation because I truly like both teams and it is my guess that both Kansas City and San Francisco will be factors in the NFL for many years forward but don’t look too far ahead because today’s NFL have many teams nipping at your heels, just ask the New England Patriots, they will tell you that it’s easier being the hunter rather than the hunted, and a true champion wouldn’t want it any other way! So, hail to the Chiefs, it’s nice to have you back on top of the hill.

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