Superbowl LVIII… And the Yanks have the gall to call it football!


‘Em Yanks have yet another world champion! Just after breakfast Malaysian time on Monday, Feb 12, fans of American gridiron football – and the legions of ‘Swifties’ – (what this twitty bird’s gotta do with high-octane sporting competition – more on this later); lit fireworks (‘tis being Chinese New Year) to celebrate Kansas City Chiefs’ come-from-behind 25-22 victory over what looks like to be the team that is the perennial bridesmaid – San Francisco 49ers.

Perhaps only die-hard fans of this American version of the oval ball which the rest of the world calls rugby – played by ‘dozens of non-players swarming the sidelines at any one time’ recognise it as a sport. Others think it is legalised mayhem, where outsized men in body armour and headgear layered over industrial-quality spandex aim to bulldoze and sack a much frailer ball handler (known as the quarterback) while hoping not to kill him – and others lined up to protect him in the process.

Before we scare you into much more gory details, here’s the news. Kansas City Chiefs, led by their on-field leader – quarterback Patrick Mahomes, prevailed with this win in overtime.

This win is the first back-to-back victory (the Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Superbowl LVII.) This makes it the Chiefs’ third win in five years (they defeated the 49ers in 2019 but lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, so this makes it their fourth finals – and more importantly, third victory in five years).

Winning the finals on Monday also meant that they became only the seventh to repeat two finals victories on the trot, which opens the opportunity for a (three)peat!

This chance to (th)r(e)epeat – pardon the sporting licence associated with sports journalism – would make the Chiefs the only team to win three Superbowls on the trot. Already, some bookmakers have decided that this is already a foregone conclusion and have refused to offer any odds on its outcome next year!

Now, next year is a bit of a misnomer since this win in 2024 is the conclusion of the season which started last year (2023) with the Superbowl played either in January or February the following year. This is the reason why the Superbowl numbering nomenclature turned Roman rather than referring to the year the season concluded, or the year the final game is actually played. There you have it – the Chiefs are Superbowl LVIII; rather than Superbowl 2024 winners!

The game is popular enough in the United States – and gaining a lot of fans overseas who are enamoured by its visual spectacle. The players strut on the field with typical Yankee boorish confidence. Their decibel-busting snort can be heard right up to the top tier of the spectator stands (each game attracts just under 70,000 spectators on average) like a supercharged testosterone-puffing bull herd. Their massive frames are further bulked up, all dressed up in padding from shoulder to thighs, complete with bouncy body armour and the obligatory Hannibal Lecter face mask.

Can’t make head or tail of the on-field ritual? Don’t worry. Think of it as so much aggressive foreplay leading to action that often times all end up in one damp squib….let’s just say I am being polite.

However, in an entire game of four, 15-minute halves lasting at least three hours, the moments of bored routine will be punctuated by untrammelled joy and an uncontrollable release of cathartic pleasure when either of two things happen – a first down or better still – a touchdown worth six points followed by another point upon successful conversion.

Scored seven points was what the Chiefs did after extra time, which sent the hordes of ‘Swiftlets’ erupting into musical ecstasy.

You heard me – music indeed. For none other than that popster Taylor Swift became an off-field attraction as she had been attending games to cheer on her boyfriend Travis Kelce, who plays wide receiver for the Chiefs on the field.

None of the stars appeared to be faking it and the NFL – the sports governing body, is laughing all the way to the bank with legions of Swift’s loyal following now taking an interest in matters more gladitorial and brutal, if less musical.

Sceptics accuse Swift of riding on the cachet of the NFL – but why does she need to hitch onto the gridiron bandwagon gang when she was recently named by Forbes magazine as a billionaire from her music exploits alone!

Kelce, on the other hand, could do with a celebrity girlfriend – if only to impress his older brother who is also an NFL player, with both stars in their own right.

So, maybe it is just a happy alignment of the moon and the stars that brought these two together, and they appear to be genuinely happy milking the fan adulation.

But sports diehards may well question the association with music. Well, World Cup soccer has a 15-minute break between two halves, in which nothing happens. Every Superbowl has a half-time intermission that lasts 30 minutes, in which some musical superstar dishes out the entertainment.

Usher (Usher who – some from the ranks of the alpha generation may wonder aloud; “Who, he?”) Well, you snotty kids, Usher – all 45-years-old may be ancient to you, but you’d do well to listen to his 30-year career discography to understand why he is an R&B legend!

Meanwhile, what about Patrick Mahomes whose on-field exploits earned him this game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) title? (Incidentally, he was also named MVP when the Chiefs won Superbowls LlV and LVll).

It takes tremendous guts, patience, tenacity and brilliance for a team to come back from behind, draw level, and win in overtime – which is what the Mahomes-led Chiefs have done (and for which they are rather notoriously prone to).

Money-wise, the already rich NFL players get bonuses for appearing in the finals. The winning players take home US$164,000 bonuses, while the losing team performers get paid just a little over half that amount. As for Mahomes, who already earns just over US$50 million a year, he gets a US$1.5 million bonus that has been built into his contract.

So, the game may not have the global cachet or international tournament on the scale of a FIFA (soccer) World Cup to actually justify the winners to truly be considered world champions – but the eye-watering rewards are really what’s so world-class about this Yankee business!

I can’t wait for Feb 9 next year to marvel all over again when Superbowl LIX rolls into the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.


Image: The Kansas City Chiefs. 

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