Contributor to FOX Sports
When Kansas City beat Cincinnati on Championship Sunday, Super Bowl stories were drawn in a house of mirrors. Get into it and you’ll find all sorts of parallels.
I am by no means the first to point this out. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been widely talked about going up against his former team (Reid spent 14 seasons with the Eagles). It’s also no news that, for the first time, the biggest game of the year will feature two black starting quarterbacks. You also won’t be surprised to hear that the brothers will be playing each other for the first time. You might even have it I heard that from Jason and Travis Kelce.
But I would like to elaborate a little more. Because when you look through the mirror, all these narratives reflect much more than coincidences. They talk about how much the NFL has and hasn’t changed over its long and storied life.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen hurts
This year’s quarterback game is very significant for a league that has historically prevented black men from becoming star quarterbacks. Warren Moon is currently the only black quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This fact does not reflect black QBs, but rather their lack of opportunities.
Take Marlin Briscoe. In 1968, he set the Denver Broncos rookie passing touchdown record (still stands). But Denver forced him to play wide receiver for the rest of his decade in the league. It took Doug Williams until 1988 to become the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, and there have only been two black quarterbacks to take home a Lombardi since then: Russell Wilson in 2014 and Mahomes in 2020.
As recently as 2018, when the Ravens drafted highly talented quarterback Lamar Jackson, HOF executive Bill Polian stated that Jackson would be a better wide receiver than passer.
Look, I’m not saying we’ve reached the pinnacle of equality with this Super Bowl. Far away; It’s pretty depressing that this is the first time two black quarterbacks have gone head-to-head.
But it’s significant that the NFL has gotten to this point, even if it’s late. At the start of the 2022 season, 11 of the league’s 32 starting quarterbacks were black; that’s still a long way from equal, but it’s a long way from where pro football started.
Kelce vs. Kelce
What can the “Kelce Bowl” teach us about change in the NFL? On the surface, not much: many brothers have played in the NFL at the same time (not sure if anyone remembers the Mannings? Look them up if you get a chance).
Here’s what Jason Kelce had to say about facing his brother:
“I don’t like us calling it the Kelce Bowl. I appreciate the support, but there’s a lot of guys involved in this. There’s major organizations involved. … We’re going to be asked that question non-stop from here. until the end of the game , and I’m over it.
“Did we think it was going to be both of us? I don’t know. I thought it could happen. But I never fully anticipated it happening until pretty much last week. I was like, ‘Man, this could really happen.’ We could really have a ‘New Heights’ Kelce Bowl, and we could really be doing this.”
What he said is not as remarkable as where he said it and to whom he said it. This was a conversation between Jason and Travis New Heights, the podcast they host together. His show is, as of this writing, the #1 show of all Apple podcasts.
Do you realize how crazy that sentence would read in, say, 2014? Tom Brady wasn’t even on Facebook just nine years ago! Fans, members of the media, and league officials alike would have been pulling their hair out over the fact that two brothers from different teams were publicly talking to each other about the next big game without a middle man (one might expect a average woman, but unfortunately ).
But by 2023, this is becoming normal. Warriors star Draymond Green posted a podcast after each of his 2022 NBA Finals games. The athletes have their stories back. Brady now has several production companies, and so does LeBron James, who produces many shows and series. The Mannings (have you Googled them yet?) are the brains behind Omaha, their impressive media empire.
Is this trend good or bad? I would say good. For most of the time that there have been professional sports, athletes have not had their own voice. Can things go too far in this direction? For sure. We all remember Kevin Durant’s Players Tribune article. But I don’t mourn the days of “journalistic integrity,” because that would mean romancing a very white, very biased world.
There is a way for athletes, journalists and commentators to exist in the same media landscape. I know because it’s happening.
Andy Reid vs. the Ghost of Andy Reid and Nick Sirianni vs. the Ghost of Nick Sirianni
What does it mean? The more things change, the more Andy Reid stays the same? If you’re a traditionalist, there’s one thing you’ll love about this year’s Super Bowl. In other words, no matter how hard organizations try – or don’t try – to bring in new coaches, the carousel still turns and turns.
Glad Reid is one of the last two still riding it. No other NFL coach brings as much glory or love to Hawaiian shirts and burgers. But not only is Reid facing the team he coached for 14 years, he’s currently coached by someone who briefly worked for Reid in Kansas City.
Sirianni was the Chiefs’ wide receivers coach when Andy Reid succeeded Romeo Crennel in 2013. Reid quickly fired Sirianni (but apparently he did so well). Eight years later, Sirianni became the head coach of the Eagles. Now, just two seasons into his tenure, he finds himself facing the team that let him go with the boss who fired him.
And Reid faces his own ghost; the man who won more games as the Eagles’ head coach than anyone else, but couldn’t bring home a Lombardi.
Whatever happens, this game is haunted by the past. And the present
Taylor Swift vs. Taylor Swift
You knew we’d end up here, right?
This has nothing to do with how the NFL has evolved. But I just want to say that Taylor Swift is an Eagles fan who wrote a song called mirror ball. And now Philadelphia plays in the Mirror Bowl. So maybe he wrote this line about the Lombardi Trophy:
“I’m a mirror ball, tonight I’ll show you all versions of yourself
I’ll get you out on the ground
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist for FOX Sports. Honored to represent the consistently neglected Boston area in sports media, he loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog at a ballpark or nachos at a ballpark. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.
FOX Sports Top Stories:
Get more from the National Football League Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more