Super Bowl LVIII, a father-son story

Photo Courtesy of All Pro Reels on Flickr
Photo Courtesy of All Pro Reels on Flickr

This article is dedicated to the memory of Lisa Lopez-Galvan, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday.


“The universe hasn’t yet been created in which there exists a reason for me to feel sorry for Christian McCaffrey,” I remind myself. It’s not helping.


“And Kyle Shanahan. Definitely not Shanahan.” Still nothing. Assessing the situation: flanked by bemoaning Bay Area homers, check; trusty Seahawk cap on, check; a pit the size of Sacramento emerging in my stomach, check. I know what’s coming …


I’m scanning around the room like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible … Drinks coat the floor, heads are in hands, that dude looks like he’s about to hurl, and I’m still thinking about how Aakash just walked in late, stared at the TV, predicted a fumble while sitting down, and was met with the equivalent of a winning-coach’s Gatorade bath when everyone erupted as Isiah Pacheco coughed up the rock on the very next play, right on cue. A peak moment.


The good times didn’t last long for the San Francisco faithful, and just a few minutes later, we were right back to regularly scheduled programming: clenched teeth, white knuckles, rapid heart palpitations.


It’s getting late early, as Yogi Berra would say, and the San Francisco 49ers are getting Mahomes-ed for the second time in five years.


Tony Romo’s telling us something, probably about Mahomes, but he’s losing the battle to the brewing grumbles and groans around the room that I’m trying to pick up on. CBS pans to a shot of Taylor Swift. I don’t have to try that hard anymore.


Then suddenly, the game is all over. The field is flooding with cameras and reporters, the TV is hurriedly turned off, and nobody jokes around or laughs anymore. Patrick Mahomes is spryly running around Allegiant Stadium with his hands in his air, looking like he’s game to do this all over again, just for fun. 


Chiefs: 25, Niners 22. Final/OT. 

Kansas City wins Super Bowl LVIII.


The room sat in stunned silence — not as if 49er fans didn’t believe what they just saw, but that they couldn’t believe it had happened again, to them, like this.


I called my dad on the drive back home. Bay Area resident for years. Niner fan forever. He told me he couldn’t even watch the game — “too nervous,” he said. I didn’t know what to say.


But what I can say is that Super Bowl LVIII belonged to fathers and sons, the dynamic that gave us tonight’s classic. Because even as the Chiefs showered him with Gatorade and praises, and Andy Reid stands atop the football world, I know he’ll be thinking about a couple guys, missing out there on the trophy podium tonight, who should’ve been out there helping Andy orchestrate the NFL’s premier offense — like the old days.


Then again, missing is a weird word, because you could say that Garrett Reid was anything but missing tonight — that he was keeping a watch over his father and the Chiefs tonight, just like every day since his death back in 2012 from a heroin overdose. 


And Britt, Garrett’s younger brother. He made it to the sidelines, won a ring from coaching the Chiefs’ first championship of the modern era in Super Bowl LIV, and he’ll never earn another. He saw to that himself. He’s watching tonight’s game from prison. He almost killed a little girl while driving drunk a few years ago.


Tonight was Andy Reid’s victory. Overcoming adversity, handling setbacks along with the progress, to suffer and hurt and keep pushing; it’s always what you don’t see that makes it all go for Reid and the Chiefs. Not Tyreek Hill or flashy jet sweeps, but instead taking a chance on a promising quarterback from Texas Tech and surrounding him with a wellspring of resources — designing a blueprint for success.


Take Patrick Mahomes, for example. Just a few days before the Super Bowl, his dad gets arrested for drunk driving. It’s an inexplicable move, one of those headscratchers that you can count on to pop up at some point every season, often the final nail in the coffin of a contender’s waning title chances. You know, Nick Harper getting slashed by his girlfriend during the 2005 playoffs, Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the foot in 2008, Eugene Robinson getting popped for solicitation the night before the Super Bowl in 1999, et cetera.


Only this guy’s wired differently, and for this group, it’s just more fuel to the fire. Receivers can’t catch? Patrick can give ‘em undroppable passes. Kadarius Toney drama? Hit the bricks. Kelce’s slowing down? Single cover him, then. I dare you. Toughest playoff route, yet? Eat the Chiefs’ dust.


And that’s how the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves down late by 10 points in the Super Bowl to an offensive wizard and a Hall-of-Fame level roster, twice, and came away hoisting two more championship banners.


Make no mistake, Kyle Shanahan’s offensive wizardry is the real deal. Shanahan was raised in NFL locker rooms, filled to the brim with X and O knowledge and years of film study. Only some of the fourth quarter material must’ve seeped out of that galaxy brain, because Kyle’s looking like a big fat playoff choker right about now.


Imagine a fly on the wall at a Shanahan Thanksgiving dinner:


“Hi Kyle, you’ve been doing so great with the 49ers! By the way, do you know when you might finally get your hands on one of those cool Super Bowl rings your father has so many of? Anyways, try the casserole, it’s fantastic!” 


So that’s how this one will go down in the books tonight: the son of Mike Shanahan, the innovative mind behind three Super Bowl winning offenses (the 49ers in 1994, the Broncos in 1997 and 1998), grows up in the facilities, follows in his old man’s footsteps, improves and expands on his work, dials up mystifying schemes and opens up the game, and, still, he’s seeking his first championship. Welcome to the NFL.


It’s late and I’m on the phone with my dad again.


He says he hasn’t listened to any sports radio since the 49ers lost. “Devastated,” he laments. “I think they’re in a good place, but it’s a drought. Bad spell. Three Super Bowls in a row lost. It’s difficult to predict. 50/50. All of ‘em, they were leading and they lost.”


“Dad, if you were Mike, what would you tell Kyle? Would you be disappointed?”


He’s quick with a response. “I would be devastated on his behalf, but I wouldn’t be disappointed in him.”


Then he pauses. “Remember what Jay-Z said.”


“What did he say?”


“He got the biggest award in the music industry, with his daughter on the stage. And he talked about [Beyonce]. She never won album of the year. Thirtysomething Grammys. And Jay-Z said, ‘we have to keep working. Keep trying, don’t give up. You gotta keep producing.’ You should watch it on YouTube.”



So I did, and in the meantime, I filed away Super Bowl LVIII under the all-timers, thinking about the passage of another year in sports, and reflecting on the newest gem of life advice given by way of the annual Super Bowl game — perpetually educating, entertaining, and motivating me since its genesis in 1967. 


Just like my dad.

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