A game for the history books: With Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, not only the battered quarterbacks of the best teams in the NFL face each other in the Super Bowl, but also for the first time two black playmakers. The radiance is tremendous - but are the two good as heroes?
A snappy saying here, a phrase there. In addition, a lot of typical American lard along with a rehearsed smile. Relaxed and self-confident, Patrick Mahomes answers the countless questions from the crowd of journalists in the team hotel 30 minutes by car outside of Phoenix. Short, black pants, black sneakers from Adidas, the jersey of his Kansas City Chiefs pulled loosely over a black hoodie - the calmness and self-confidence are not played. Mahomes shows the world: I'm the boss here, I'll rock the ship.
The quarterback sends this signal primarily to the opponent in the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Ealges, and to his direct opposite, Jalen Hurts. After all, it's Mahomes, who is in the NFL final for the third time, who has not only had an incredibly good season, but also has this important "biggest all-or-nothing game" in football experience. Who always exudes this coolness and looseness, which he converts on the pitch into playful wit that is dangerous for any opponent. He even jokes with the press about his favorite Rihanna song, which will be singing at halftime in the Super Bowl (his answer: "Work" featuring Drake. "It always makes the club boil!").
Jalen Hurts, on the other hand, celebrates his debut on the lawn two quarters ahead of Rihanna. But even though he is inexperienced, he is considered one of the hottest starters of the season. As someone who made the leap to superstar quarterback. Who, like no other playmaker, converts hard work, leadership qualities, throws and crazy runs into success. And so he oozes self-confidence in Phoenix.
Both playmakers have good reason to be excited as they lead the top two teams of the season. Hurts throws over 66.5 percent of his shots in the regular season (still a strong 40 percent on deep shots) and loses just a single game (he's out injured from the other two Eagles bankruptcies). Especially with wide receiver A.J., who switched to Philadelphia before the season. Brown, Hurt's best friend from college, harmonizes beautifully with the quarterback. Add to that Hurt's formidable running game, but still surpassed by running back Miles Sanders, who put on personal record numbers that year. The 24-year-old also has one of the best defenses in the league (70 sacks and 301.5 yards averaging from opponents; Chiefs with 55 sacks and 328 yards), which only allowed 14 points overall in this playoff.
Not much more needs to be said about Patrick Mahomes' incredible playmaking skills. His MVP season is once again a feast for the eyes of the neutral observer and, incidentally, equals the season record for total yards (thrown and received) by surpassing Drew Brees' previous mark of 5,562 with 5,614. The 27-year-old led the league in a number of stats despite superstar pass receiver Tyreek Hill leaving the Chiefs. Mahomes served 11 different players for at least one touchdown this year. In the running game, the quarterback can now also rely on Comet rookie Isiah Pacheco.
Not only because of strong defenses, the quarterbacks will face huge tasks in the endgame. But also because Mahomes and Hurts are probably not one hundred percent fit. Hurts injured his shoulder late in the regular season, while Mahomes picked up an ankle injury in the playoffs. Both will compete. But in the championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs quarterback could barely put any weight on his right foot, and his Eagles counterpart dared to throw only eight times in the playoffs for more than 15 yards - and threw up just two.
The one-armed man versus the one-legged man: one of the two will outgrow themselves and make you forget the injury. How fitting for the Super Bowl, that's how Americans get their heroic story. And the Americans like nothing better than an honest hero. Brave. Strong. ensuring justice. First broken, broken and beaten, then risen. cheer. One with which society can identify. And the whole. This is more important than ever in these times of extreme social division. The Super Bowl and the NFL in general have always united Americans and bridged the divides between factions. At least for a weekend. But does it also work with the final in Phoenix?
This time things are more complicated. Both Mahomes and Hurts is something that sections of US society would not have allowed them to be heroes for some time. Her skin color is black. A look a few years back at Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the kneeling debate is enough to see the racism that undermined the NFL, in which around 70 percent of the players are black and almost all coaches and club owners are white has. In 2016 and 2017, Kaepernick was also verbally attacked and booed by many fans. Anti-Kaepernick T-shirts were sold outside stadiums, including ones with his face in the crosshairs of a rifle scope. His jerseys were burned nationwide.
Racism (both systemic and open) continues to be one of the biggest social problems in the United States. White supremacy supporters are probably the biggest internal threat to the country. It is all the more significant that for the very first time in NFL history - almost exactly 35 years after Doug Williams was the first black quarterback to start with the then Washington Redskins and win a Super Bowl - there are two black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl. The NFL, once completely off-limits to people of color, slowly began to integrate in the 1950s. But even as more and more non-whites came into the teams, they continued to be discriminated against by the team owners, managers and coaches: Above all, the so-called "thinking positions" such as center, middle linebacker and of course quarterback were not trusted to players of color.
When asked by ntv.de in the media round, Mahomes explained that he was well aware of the sensational and political component of this Super Bowl. "It's a historic moment," says the quarterback. "This is the world stage. To have two black quarterbacks playing at the highest level shows where we are in football and as a community. We're moving forward." He wanted to show - in the spirit of US heroic stories - that dreams can be achieved if you only pursue them properly.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the issue of racism has been solved in the NFL (or even in the USA). But at least the football league is making progress: Almost half of the 32 teams in the league used a black quarterback this season and 29 percent of all games this year had a black center. A total of 21 quarterbacks of color have thrown at least one pass this season. Never that many before. But there is still a long way to go before such progress is also accepted by trainers and owners.
Accordingly, Mahomes notes that the development is "not yet finished" and must "move forward", one must "open the doors to children" so that they can pursue their dreams. He hopes that his historic duel with Hurts "is just a first time and that such an event is happening more and more often and that more Black quarterbacks get a chance to get on the roster and play as starters."
At least historically, it will definitely be on Monday night when the two star quarterbacks meet. For Patrick Mahomes, however, there is much more at stake. With the retirement of Tom Brady, he is the only NFL quarterback to be named in the conversation about a new GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). At 27, the Chiefs playmaker has already earned two MVP awards as the league's most valuable player in just six seasons and five as a starter.
In Super Bowl LVII against the Eagles, Mahomes now has to win his second title - if he wants to even come close to challenging Brady with his seven championship rings and continue to build his own legend.