I’d like to take a brief detour from serious matters to ruminate on Patrick Mahomes.
He plays football today at noon. He’s the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, and, truth be told, he’s a big part of what has made this fall and winter tolerable for me. Well, that and my wife, and the teenage kids, when they’re not driving us nuts. And a puppy. Two, actually.
It’s generally been a crummy time. The pandemic got worse than ever, and so we had to hunker down again. My mom died in June. Business was crummy. The election went on and on, a depressing charade. People screamed at each other. All the stimulation of a college town in the fall — tailgates, McCain shows, Landon lectures — evaporated. I went up to campus, invited to give a speech in a business class, and it was like a hospital. Quiet and sort of somber.
The football team fizzled as the season wore on, so the electricity in the air in town short-circuited. Basketball...well, we lost to Fort Hays State. Bzzzt.
Look, work and family are always interesting — and at times, all-consuming. But eventually you have to unwind. There were a couple of good books, there was Netflix, and Hulu, and Amazon. They helped. The puppies, Lola and Bruce, are their own form of antidepressants.
And there’s Mahomes.
He’s a magician. Every single time he touches the ball — which means every time the Chiefs snap it — I’m compelled to watch closely, because there’s a good chance he’ll do something impossible to believe. He’ll run one way and throw it the other. He’ll throw it with his other hand. He’ll underhand it, sidearm it, lob it, or zip it. He’ll fit it into a space nobody else can see. He’ll run around and backward and sideways and forward, and then he’ll fake throwing it and keep running, just enough for a first down. He’ll get out of bounds when he’s supposed to, or he’ll stay in bounds if he has to.
He’s not perfect, and — particularly since I’m publishing this now — he could throw four interceptions and lose today. My apologies in advance. The Chiefs are not a dominant team, but they’ve been just a little better than nearly everybody they’ve played this season. It takes a lot of luck to get to a Super Bowl, and a little more to win one, and so the odds are that they won’t do that again.
I care about that, but not really that much. I’ve never been a die-hard Chiefs fan. I grew up when the Royals were great and the Chiefs were mediocre, and so I never got that invested. For pro football, I rooted for the Minnesota Vikings. I liked watching Fran Tarkenton scramble around and make something out of nothing. Come to think of it, Mahomes has a bit of Tarkenton in him.
I care much more about K-State football and basketball, which means the emotional burden is heavier. With the Chiefs, it’s all gravy. If they lose, I can just get off the couch and say, “Rats!’ and make a sandwich. With the ‘Cats, it takes me a day or a week or most of my adult life to get over a loss, depending.
Anyway, the point is, there’s a promise when you sit down to watch Mahomes and the Chiefs. The promise is this: Give us three hours, and pay attention, and you’ll see something amazing. You’ll see something you’ve never seen before, something that will make you laugh and shake your head, and holler, “Hey, Angie, watch this!” and maybe gasp.
That’s a heckuva deal in 2020.
So, while I’ve got the microphone here, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the television networks, and their advertisers, and all of you good folks paying your cable bills, for creating the powerful incentives to make the NFL play games again this fall.
I thought there was little chance we’d make it through a season in a contact sport in the middle of a viral pandemic. But, as has become entirely apparent, football — whether college or pro — is really just a television show, and the show must go on. With Mahomes at quarterback, that’s probably the best entertainment on the screen. That show has made the fall of 2020 tolerable, and I appreciate it.