“Whenever you feel like you’re the underdog when you’re playing at Arrowhead Stadium, it gets guys ready to go.” – Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes
“Don’t EVER disrespect Arrowhead Stadium!” – Chiefs DT Chris Jones
It’s rare that I discuss talk show hosts on NFL Championship Weekend, but Maury Povich and Jerry Springer both came into play last Sunday about as much as Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes.
In what appears to be the most captivating sports rivalry of the next fifteen years, the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Arrowhead (Burrowhead?) Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs had made it to consecutive Super Bowls in 2020 and 2021 until the Bengals spoiled that streak. Cincinnati represented the AFC in last year’s Super Bowl, beating the Chiefs to get there. In fact, the Bengals had beaten the Chiefs three straight times, making many of us football fans second guess whether Patrick Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the sport.
Behind Mahomes, the Chiefs have been the better team. They’ve been to five straight AFC Conference games his five years as a starter. They have already won a Super Bowl and are on their way to a third. At the age of 27, Mahomes is already breaking records held by Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. The race to greatness (they’re already there?) between Joe Burrow and Pat Mahomes will entertain us for years.
So how do Maury Povich and Jerry Springer figure into all this?
Prior to the game, there was rigorous chatter coming from Cincinnati City Hall, where Jerry Springer used to work as Mayor of Cincinnati. This trash talk did not come from Springer but rather current Cincy Mayor Aftab Pureval. And why not? His city’s NFL team had beaten what most consider to be the league’s best team, led by its best player, three straight times.
Not only did some Bengals player call Arrowhead Stadium “Burrowhead” (because of Joe Burrow’s success there) but the Cincinnati Mayor (a la Springer) ordered paternity tests (a la Maury) to see if Joe Burrow was Patrick Mahomes’ daddy. It was tasteless or comical or inappropriate depending on where you prefer to seed it, no pun intended.
Kansas City felt slighted, their fans incensed.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide how sportsmanlike those comments were (i.e., not very) but if you’re going to talk the talk, you better be prepared to walk the walk, and I don’t recall Cincinnati’s Mayor lining up in pads and stripes. I’m sure he would have been more than welcome to do so in the stadium they abruptly renamed over the weekend.
It made for good fodder, but I’ve never believed providing an opponent bulletin board material before big games, especially when you’re not on the field to back it up, is the shrewdest move.
The Chiefs and Bengals are comprised of professional football players. If they need extra motivation getting up for a big game, they have no business collecting an NFL paycheck. But the fans. That’s an altogether different story.
I watched Sunday’s game, not wanting it to end, looking forward to the next decade of football I’d watch these two guys play. It’s the greatest rivalry in modern sports with plenty more big bouts to come. Mahomes and Burrow combined are just over fifty years old.
While watching Sunday’s instant classic, it was impossible to predict which team would win. Just when you thought Kansas City would pull away, the Bengals were right back in it. These two teams are well-coached, extremely talented, and evenly matched. The barbs undoubtedly drew extra viewers, although I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t watch this thing anyway.
In a game the magnitude of which even the coolest cats get rattled, the slightest mistake can sway an outcome, a holding or intentional grounding call here, a roughing or offsides penalty there. The nerves and energy within the game were palpable, compounded only by the freezing temperatures and a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. The crowd, perhaps only partially inspired by the mayoral misspeaks, was so deafening it was difficult for the referees to do their job.
Regardless of whether Mayor Dipshit’s comments affected Kansas City’s players (it did), it fired up the Arrowhead (officially, no longer Burrowhead) crowd with 75,000 liquored up freaks, reeking of barbecue and cheering against Cincinnati’s chosen one.
Politicians do stupid things, well, most of them at least. The Cincinnati Mayor will have his speechwriters pen up some apology congratulating the Kansas City Chiefs and telling Cincinnati how proud he is of his team. He’ll be spoken ill of at all Super Bowl parties in the area under peoples’ breaths and not before Travis Kelce called him a “jabroni” in front of 50 million television viewers.
Either way, the mayor’s quips and paternity test barbs are a mere footnote in what has become the best rivalry in modern sports. Mahomes-Burrow is Leonard-Hagler every time they take the field. Throw in Josh Allen and they’re Djokovic-Nadal-Federer. It’s North Carolina-Duke, Yankees-Red Sox and Lakers-Celtics but considerably more relevant because they play a sport that people watch. Burrow-Mahomes might not have the rich history of those rivalries, yet, but it will and we’re watching it play out in front of our very eyes.
The Chiefs won this match, Mayor. They’re one win away from Patrick Mahomes having two of what Joe Burrow wants. He’ll end up getting his and it will taste even sweeter. The race for legacy is on so fasten your seatbelts, football fans, and enjoy the ride.