By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
His shoulders are broad.
He can carry the load.
When you’re holding up the weight of an entire city and a fanbase on your back, I would say that’s a decent amount of pressure to deal with – both in the literal and figurative sense.
I don’t particularly know exactly what that means in football jargon, but it sounds really good.
Coach speak or sports metaphors sometimes get lost in translation, but I think most recipients of those words understand the message enough to grasp the gravity of the situation.
The setup is simple.
Berths are on the line for the Super Bowl on Sunday and my team is included in that fray.
Let’s just say I’m excited. Amped might be a better word.
Now would you look at me any different if I told you I was a Kansas City Chiefs fan?
I’ve gotten dirty looks before while wearing the red and yellow garb of my favorite NFL team.
Not so much in a hateful way, but more of a roll-your-eyes-type glance of ‘oh, those guys.’
The sports world and fandom is divisive. We all have our favorite teams and for the most part, respectfully root against anybody else.
But the Chiefs are long, suffering losers – at least in the playoffs.
The franchise has been a punching bag by pundits or piarrahas that want to point out its frustrated futility over the years in attaining a great regular season record and not living up to that promise in the postseason.
Am I talking about a 108-year long World Series winless drought and billy goat jinx that tortured the souls of a Cubs fan base? Or the “Curse of the Bambino” – which haunted Red Sox fans for 86 years before their team won another World Series?
Let’s keep things in perspective here, people.
The Chiefs have won a Super Bowl. That glorious moment came before I was born – in 1970.
But this year’s Chiefs football team seems different than the ones that have “choked” in prior seasons.
Why, you might ask?
What separates this squad – that is one win away from its first Super Bowl in almost 50 years – from all the others that have fallen before it?
Patrick Mahomes III.
The National Football League is a lot different than it was when Bart Starr or Fran Tarkenton were slinging pigskins for their respective teams.
Emphasis on good quarterback play was still very important in the 60s and 70s and still is today. But most people that are in the know or call themselves “experts” feel you must have an elite signal caller to be able to win the “whole enchilada.”
Those elite quarterbacks are hard to come by.
Mahomes is just that. At least after one-full season in which he will undoubtedly win the league’s MVP.
So this begs the question, how much of an impact can one person have on a football game? Or for that matter, anything?
I think, a lot.
The old saying goes, “it only takes one person to ruin it for everybody.”
I can still hear my mom say that to me as a kid after one temper tantrum after another spoiled what would have been a good day. I’m sure that afternoon wasn’t ruined, but it could have been much better.
“I wish I had a video camera,” she would say as my older brother and her just glared at me in disbelief.
I wasn’t a problem child, but I had my moments.
Back to football.
Football games are obviously won via a multitude of factors. It can be for a variety of reasons that one team wins and the other squad goes home empty-handed.
But talented leaders help guide and facilitate winning endeavors.
Mahomes is such a player.
There are things Mahomes can do on the field that many that have came before him cannot.
We won’t get in the specifics here, but throwing a pigskin through a tight window with 300-pound hulks bearing down on you isn’t for the faint of heart.
You’ve either able to do it or it’s best to find a new line of work.
I often think of lists when I witness or hear about successful people – the traits or characteristics that they exemplify to get the job done at a high rate.
I’ll throw out a few.
Patience, passion, drive, self control and resiliency.
The list could go on and on.
Ever know that one person that is unmistakable?
They leave their footprint everywhere they go and when they enter a room, the whole mood changes.
I’m not that person.
But one of my favorite characteristics is grace under pressure and the ability to seem like all is well when your world might be caving in on you.
The person that stares down defeat and an enormous undertaking in the eye and doesn’t blink.
Those are the type of people I want in my “foxhole.” Not fighting in a war or battle, but overcoming adversity and the doubters that said it couldn’t be done.
Think the coolness of Joe Montana of the 49ers with the penetrating resolve of Tom Brady. We’ll get to Brady later.
I remember an all-time classic movie that came out around seven years before I was born – “Cool Hand Luke.”
The online movie review site, “Rotten Tomatoes,” gives the classic cinema flick a 100 percent rating. That’s tough to get.
There’s aren’t many folks that dislike the movie.
Luke, played by one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen in Paul Newman, is an anti-hero to the core.
He’s a man beaten down, but keeps throwing punches and picking himself up off the ground.
I won’t give you a full-on synopsis of the movie. I’m sure a lot of you have seen it.
But the title character played by Newman, Luke Jackson, is jailed for two years in a Florida chain-gang prison for cutting parking meters off their poles.
I’d hate to know what kind of a sentence the Sunshine State handed down to you for jaywalking, but I digress.
Luke earns the nickname “Cool Hand Luke” after bluffing his way to winning a poker game among the prison inmates.
Luke commented, “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.” The nickname was given to him by Dragline – played by George Kennedy, who won an Academy Award for his role as leader of the prison gang before Luke got locked up.
There are countless memorable moments in the movie. Luke is challenged to eat 50 eggs in one sitting and succeeds. He escapes the prison several times and is reprimanded for his behavior by “Captain” – the stern and strict warden of the prison.
Luke must be segregated from the general prison population and spends long periods of time locked in a small, square outhouse-type room – called the “box” – for his misdeeds.
The inmates come to love Luke and feed off his energy.
He’s tough and the doesn’t back down. He also seems kind and able to empathize with his fellow prisoner’s plight.
He’s everything they’re not – full of risk and excitement – living on the edge but at the same time a respected inmate by those in charge.
Luke and all the other inmates were constantly watched and monitored while working on the chain gang by Boss Godfrey or as he would become known as “The Man With No Eyes” – played by longtime character actor Morgan Woodward. “The Man With No Eyes” was a “walking boss” that carried a rifle on the chain gang that said little and always wore bright, reflective aviator sunglasses.
He represented more than just an impedance of freedom for inmates. “The Man With No Eyes” was the law. He encompassed the “establishment” in the late 60s – a turbulent time marred by lives lost in the Vietnam War, marked protest and the emergence of the “counterculture.”
They’ll be no spoiler alerts here if you haven’t seen “Cool Hand Luke,” so I won’t tell you how the movie ends.
But life and sports often collide and intermesh. I find many metaphors that are applicable and fitting for both.
I don’t know how many football fans will be rooting on Sunday for the Patriots and Brady – who will go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game in my mind. His five Super Bowl wins is testament alone to his productivity and success.
It seems like Brady has turned into a villian of sorts for his winning ways. It doesn’t take much for America to hate you when you win too much – just look at the New York Yankees. So while most of the nation might be against Brady and his vaunted Patriots, Mahomes and his little old Chiefs will go about their business.
So it’s the coolness of Mahomes and the Chiefs versus Brady and his steely stare – leader of the dark and scary empire known as the New England Patriots.
Kansas City has a chance to slay the dominant dynasty of this generation.
It won’t be easy, but encountering and defeating the “Man With No Eyes” never is.