The Road To Glory: Part XVIII

Divisional Round: Kansas City Chiefs 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Kansas City Chiefs/Andrew Mather

Listen, this blog is called Future Bets, and I, the author, am the bringer of the future. There is nothing I can do about that and there is nothing you can do about that. I already told you exactly what was going to happen when the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, and I told you two days ago:

I got my vacation request denied at the casino I work at BECAUSE IT’S CHINESE FUCKING NEW YEAR THIS WEEKEND, so let me be the first to say that no matter what happens during Saturday’s game between the Chiefs (-8.5) and Jaguars, it’s going to be weird. That’s all I know to be true.

In this case, “weird” involved Patrick Mahomes — the MVP of the NFL this year (and every year) — getting his ankle rolled up on at the end of the first quarter and not coming back in until after halftime. Backup Chad Henne, whom I referenced in the last blog as well for his heroics in one of the weird playoff games I watched while I was at work, came in and orchestrated a 98-yard touchdown drive that was effectively the difference in the game.

Mahomes is a fucking warrior, man. Despite his greatness I don’t think he’s ever been particularly loved by the so-called “old school” football fans who liked the sport better when players were getting into car crashes on the field every week and playing on a slab of concrete. This is for a number of reasons, namely that he runs around like a kid scrambling in the backyard waiting for one of his receivers to get open; he doesn’t have a gritty disposition. But it’s moments like Saturday against the Jaguars, stacked on top of so many other moments over the last five years, that show who he really is. He’s a football player. He wants to do anything he can to help his team win.

When push comes to shove I am and always have been a big team guy. Growing up I never played on a team, whether it was baseball, soccer or basketball, that finished the season anywhere other than first or second place in whatever league I was in. If truth be told — and I’m a hundred percent not bullshitting you on this one — one of the reasons that was the case was because I was generally either the best or one of the best players on every team I played on. But I think the biggest factor, and my biggest value on every team I ever played on, was that I kinda acted like a coach in some ways. The mental side of every game was my strength. And the older I got the better I was at managing egos of my teammates.

That’s not to say I was an angel out there. I was a poor sport all the way. If things weren’t going how I wanted them to, everyone was going to know about it and the team’s performance was going to suffer. I like to look at it like I was a landlord. I could either use my fire to heat up the building — and everyone around me — or I’d use that fire to burn the whole fucking place to the ground. Teams I played for were generally successful because I was generally successful at contributing to wins. Had I played for worse teams, I probably would have contributed towards how bad we were.

The glory of my youthful stage of sports is apropos of nothing, really. It’s more to highlight the idea that what I look for more than anything in the teams I follow, or in players in general, is how much their teammates seem to like them. That isn’t always shown in postgame press conferences or in articles you read on ESPN or whatever. It cannot be faked. It can only be shown in realtime while the games are being played.

And if you know anything about the Chiefs or Patrick Mahomes, it’s that the guys seem to really enjoy taking the field with one another. Even though Patrick is the best player in the NFL, and everyone knows it, it’s always been important for him to give shine to everyone else when the team is winning and to accept the blame when the team loses. That is the ultimate leader, whether we are talking about a business or about a meaningless sports team that some random writer on the Internet cares about.

But here I am. I didn’t get the day off from work, so I had to sweat through a football game while I was busy dealing to people. And like the landlord I was in my youth, if the Chiefs lost today and I was forced to be at work I was absolutely going to let everyone around me know about it. Maybe that’s not so much the case. I’m not as poor of a sport as I used to be. I probably would have just shut down and acted catatonic for the rest of the day.

Alas, the Chiefs won, so life is good. Patrick Mahomes had a scary injury and left the game. Then he came back in the game and threw the decisive touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling to put the Chiefs ahead 27-17, and they forced two turnovers in the game’s final five minutes to give Kansas City a 7-point win.

The win puts the Chiefs in a position to reach their third Super Bowl in the last four years, as they will play the winner of tomorrow’s Bengals-Bills matchup in the AFC Championship next Sunday night. By the grace of god there will be no Chinese New Year to celebrate meaning my vacation request will be approved and I will not have to work through it. Instead I will be home, in the comforts of my living room, watching my favorite football team do what they do at this point in the season and play in their fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game.

Hate to be sentimental or live my life in retrospect, but holy shit ain’t that something. One day I am going to look back at these wonderful years and think how crazy it is that my football team was able to accomplish all of this. That they won so many playoff games. That they had a quarterback that was so good that the rest of the world either didn’t appreciate him or took him for granted altogether. That’s my team. That’s my quarterback.

The Chiefs have won 15 games this year and lost only 3. One way or another they will have their biggest test next week against a team that defeated them earlier in the year. Should it be against the Bengals, the game will be played in Kansas City. Should it be against the Bills, it will be played in Atlanta (at a neutral site).

I’m so happy to be here. That is all.

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