As Patrick Mahomes threw the ball away after the game’s final snap and the Kansas City Chiefs clinched their first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years Feb. 2, winning Super Bowl LIV 31-20 over the San Francisco 49ers, a celebration commenced in Miami, Florida.
There was Andy Reid, the future Hall of Fame head coach, hugging his wife and his coaching staff, basking in an accomplishment that had eluded him for two decades.
There was Travis Kelce, hugging offensive coordinator Eric Beinemy before yelling enough expletives that Fox’s production team had to switch to another camera and focus on another player.
And there was Mahomes, who fought through hoards of people with cameras to reach his coach, where the two assured a television reporter that the 50-year wait for a Super Bowl win in Kansas City was indeed worth it.
As the celebration spilled from the field to the locker room to the plane ride home to Kansas City, Missouri, it spread elsewhere too.
It reached the Power and Light District of Kansas City, where thousands of fans watched the game and celebrated accordingly. It reached downtown Lawrence, Kansas, where hundreds of University of Kansas students flooded Mass Street. And it reached Maryville, Missouri, where the celebratory screams coming from both in and outside of The Powerhouse could be heard four blocks away, even 20 minutes after the Chiefs had secured a victory.
“How am I feeling?” Northwest junior Wilson Brown said, swaying inside Powerhouse in the aftermath of the game. “I’m feeling freaking amazing, you know what I’m saying? Like, hey, it’s my birthday, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, I’m from KCK.”
“We living life right now,” Brown, who celebrated his 22nd birthday with an 11-point Super Bowl victory, added. “Let’s go Chiefs.”
“Let’s go Chiefs” was a common refrain inside Powerhouse following the Chiefs’ long-awaited win. Approaching half-an-hour after Kansas City’s victory, the bar, soaked in alcohol from a champagne-style celebration, did not clear out. More patrons came, many of whom described the Chiefs’ recent feat in ways not suitable for print.
As the Chiefs celebrated their own accomplishment 1,500 miles away in Miami, Northwest students and local bar patrons tried to describe why the Lombardi-clinching win felt so personal.
There was sophomore Will Walker, a Maryville native and former high school quarterback who said he had full faith in the Chiefs, even as they trailed San Francisco by two scores in the fourth quarter.
There was senior Chandler Eastwood, who grew up 45 minutes away from Arrowhead Stadium and described himself as “speechless” before talking for several minutes about what the victory meant to him, standing beer-soaked in the middle of Powerhouse.
And there was Brown, the Kansas City, Kansas, native not concerned with the distinction, who referred to his hometown Chiefs as “we” more than once.
“(I’ve been a Chiefs fan) my whole life, basically,” Walker said. “Ever since I was born. It just feels great, with all the ups and downs this season and the high expectations coming in. It’s just fantastic to go out on top.”
“It’s crazy. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, and it was one of those things where we’ve been in the postseason every year —” Eastwood said, before being interrupted by Brown, who worked his way across the bar to yell the same phrase he’d leaned on in the aftermath of Kansas City’s historic win.
“We won the Super Bowl!” Brown said.
“We’ve been in the postseason every year,” Eastwood continued. “You’d never think the Chiefs could make the last step. But they did it tonight.”
While the Chiefs’ Super Bowl drought had stretched 50 years until it ended Feb. 2, most Northwest students are only old enough to remember the last 20 years of it. But the Chiefs had packed a lifetime’s worth of disappointment into the last two decades.
There was heartbreak in the 2003 season, when Peyton Manning’s Colts beat Trent Green’s Chiefs 38-31 in the “No Punt Game” with a trip to the AFC Championship game on the line. There was more in the 2014 playoffs when the Chiefs suffered several injuries and watched a 28-point lead slip away against Andrew Luck’s Colts.
There was the time Kansas City lost a home playoff game, in January 2017, without allowing the Pittsburgh Steelers to score a touchdown. There was the time, one season later, when the Chiefs allowed Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw a touchdown pass to himself. There was that time, just last season, where the AFC title game came down to an offsides penalty and a coin flip.
And there were all those really bad times in between the bad times, those seasons that made fans appreciate the playoff blunders that followed, because playoff blunders at least meant the Chiefs were in the playoffs. There were quarterbacks like Tyler Palko that made fans appreciate quarterbacks like Tyler Thigpen, while the quarterbacks like Thigpen made Matt Cassel look like a godsend.
It was quarterbacks like that in times like those that tested the mettle of a generation of Chiefs fans. And it was times like that — the times of Damon Huard and Scott Pioli and Herm Edwards — that gave way to the better times that came with Alex Smith, Reid and, of course, Mahomes.
It was the bad times and the really bad times that helped the Chiefs’ latest season feel so personal for so many fans, for fans like Brown, Walker, Eastwood and Drew Cottrill, a Northwest senior from Albany, Missouri, who learned to love the franchise when the dark years were all he knew.
Following Kansas City’s win and on his way into Burny’s Sports Bar, Cottrill compared the feeling that came with the Super Bowl to the feeling that came with the Kansas City Royals’ World Series win in 2015. But even that victory, Cottrill said, didn’t fully compare.
“Seeing the Royals win it in 2015 … that was awesome, but it didn’t compare at all to what we saw today,” Cottrill said, as a pair of strangers walking on the other side of Market Street yelled, “Go Chiefs.”
“It always pays off,” Cottrill added. “You almost feel like you’re not being humble, but at the same time, it’s like, I think by sticking with the Chiefs through all these years, it’s like you deserve it. I feel like we earned it.”
Cottrill said he skipped the parade that celebrated the Royals’ World Series Championship in 2015, a decision he regretted. He had classes Wednesday when the Chiefs’ parade commenced but said he would try to go.
Cottrill’s story was a common theme at Northwest this week. One student, freshman Joshua Putney, did what he could to help.
Putney, a Steelers fan, is not sure why he is the one of Northwest’s 7,104 students who decided to create a petition on change.org, encouraging Northwest’s administration to cancel classes. He watched the game with fellow members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and had a great time doing so, he said. And he realized how important the game was and the Chiefs are to those around him.
“I know how badly everyone wants to go to that parade,” Putney said. “I was just kind of wanting to be the voice for everyone else.”
By the end of the game, Putney said, he felt more excited for the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win than either of Pittsburgh’s champion wins in his lifetime. The petition he created Feb. 4 amassed 2,500 signatures — the original target goal — after less than eight hours.
Putney planned to email the petition to President John Jasinski at 5 p.m. Feb. 4. By then, the petition had garnered more than 3,300 signatures. Northwest didn’t budge.
“I figured it was a longshot,” Putney said. “But it was the best shot we got. … This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
In other cities, the phrase once-in-a-lifetime may not be applicable to championship parades. In Kansas City, it can be used literally. And that’s why Putney, among other students, is going to the parade anyway.
The same is true for Brown, who said less than 20 minutes after the game that he wouldn’t be attending classes Feb. 5 regardless of whether or not Northwest canceled, though his exact expletive-filled phrasing can’t be used in a newspaper. Cottrill doesn’t intend on missing another parade, either. The same applies to Walker.
“Yeah, I am (skipping),” Walker said. “Don’t tell my mom though.”
And then there was Eastwood, drenched in alcohol in the middle of a bar on a Sunday, vowing to skip class on Wednesday. He was not concerned with the potential academic ramifications. He was not concerned with how wet his shirt was. Like the thousands of fans who attended the parade, he was concerned with making up for lost time, with celebrating a victory unlike one he’d ever seen.
“That’s all the drinks that (were) thrown around from the celebration,” Eastwood said, running a hand through his beer-soaked hair. “That’s 50 years of drinks (that) have been waiting to be thrown.”