I didn’t bet much in the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong. I’d sit at the occasional cruise line, blackjack table, or place a wager with a friend, but at that point in my life, I’d never been to Las Vegas and had no idea what a money line was. It’s too bad. I could have retired early betting on a sure thing.
Back when Michael Jordan was running roughshod through the NBA, winning title after title (after title, twice), I couldn’t tell you what the odds were on him to win. I’m sure he was a substantial favorite at least throughout most of his dominance.
But there were times when he was down and doubted, let’s say to New York in the Eastern Conference Finals or to the Jazz in their second of two Finals matchups. I imagine Chicago was an underdog in that first Finals series to the Lakers, especially after dropping Game One.
As we now know, betting on Michael Jordan to win Finals, and adjoining Finals MVPs, was the soundest investment since Microsoft. As I watch Patrick Mahomes these days, young phenom quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, I can’t help but wonder if he is also the safest play on the market.
We all watched Super Bowl LVIII, taking note early when the San Franscisco 49ers dominated the line of scrimmage, their defense all but stifling the best player in football. But the Niners could never distance themselves, leaving the door open for Pat Mahomes to do what he does: win another Super Bowl, his third by the age of 30.
Niners’ fans watched this Super Bowl nervously, knowing it was only a matter of time, especially as the game progressed. Chiefs’ fans watched this game confidently. As one friend put it, they’d seen this movie before. For those of you keeping track at home, Mahomes has six career fourth quarter or overtime game-winning touchdown passes in the post-season, which is tied, already, with Tom Brady. Down, but never out.
What Patrick Mahomes is doing is incomparable. In a league designed to promote parity, in a conference featuring quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and others, the cream rises to the top and continues to amass rings where others cannot. It’s uncanny, if not freakish.
Like Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone who all stood salivating over what Michael Jordan had, those other quarterbacks, at least for now, look on in amazement. They want no part of passing by Mahomes’ trophy room. They can see the bling from where they’re standing, for it shines bright.
“Just know the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs,” said Mahomes as he held his third Super Bowl trophy high. At only 28 years old, he’s earned his third Super Bowl MVP, equaling only Joe Montana (3) and Tom Brady (5). Montana was 34 when he got his third big game MVP, Brady in his late thirties when he won his. Mahomes is well ahead of that pace, with a legendary head coach, a Hall of Fame target and a young defense that will only get better.
The funny thing is I don’t think it’s Tom Brady that Patrick Mahomes is chasing but rather he is trying to define his own path and win every big game possible. With few exceptions, he’s done that, a career 11-3 in the postseason. At a time when we’re quick to overreact, it’s hard to look at what Mahomes is doing and not scratch your head. He’s not doing it alone and perhaps he’s getting a little too much credit but there is one common denominator in Kansas City’s three Super Bowl titles in five years and he’s the one taking every snap.
Wherever you rank this kid both in history and among current NFL quarterbacks, the point is he has come out on top more frequently than not, in the biggest games, at an historical pace. In the face of stiff competition, he’s instilled doubt in his competitors and confidence in his teammates, a frightening combination if you’re wearing any uniform other than his.
Any seasoned gambler will tell you there’s no such thing as a sure thing. That’s why they write underdog stories like Rocky, Hoosiers and Karate Kid and have expressions like “On Any Given Sunday.”
I know this one fellow who doesn’t quite know how to gamble. There’s a lot of you out there. I suppose the best advice one can give a fledgling gambler is, no matter the odds, betting on Pat Mahomes to win a Super Bowl is the shrewdest play.
It’s been twenty years since an NFL team repeated as champions. No team has ever done it thrice. Mahomes was talking three-peat before he’d taken off his uniform. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against him.