On the day the battle-scarred troops under Capt. Patrick Mahomes’ steely command emerged victorious over a ragtag band of Raiders from Oakland, the young, curly-haired leader called for a celebratory feast.
“We have laid waste to the homeless marauders,” he scribed to his general over Twitter. “Skunk treats and fermented possum milk for all!”
Sumptuous, to be sure, compared to their rations of “salted bull testicles.”
The dispatches come from the parody Twitter handle @CaptMahomesII, created by a Kansas City Chiefs fan writing as a Civil War officer and growing in popularity with every victory.
Now, in a twist of Twitter fate, come dueling dispatches.
On Saturday, the real-life Kansas City Chiefs under the real-life Patrick Mahomes will take to the field of battle in an AFC divisional playoff game against their real-life nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts, who have defeated the Chiefs in postseason play in four out of four prior confrontations.
It was love of the Colts that in 2016 gave rise to @CaptAndrewLuck, the first Twitter handle to parody an NFL quarterback writing dispatches as a Civil War officer. Capt. Luck, written by an anonymous scribe known only to a few, has since amassed 468,000 Twitter followers.
The tweets have inspired several copycat accounts, including Capt. Drew Brees, commander of the Saints regiment out of New Orleans.
“Dearest Brother,” Brees wrote recently, “One can hardly contain excitement on the eve of an inevitable battle against a familiar foe. The pack of Panthers are traveling to the Port of New Orleans this night.”
“Dear Liza,” the major wrote after their head coach Kirk Koetter was fired, “We received word that General Koetter was relieved of his duty as commander of our regiment. The men wept. We failed him in our skirmishes this fall. My future is murkier then a pair of Pvt. Jensen’s underpants after a 14 hour wagon ride.”
And now stands the young gun, Capt. Mahomes, with 18,000 followers at his back, pictured in Union uniform (curiously, all the quarterbacks, even from Southern teams, are pictured as Union officers. Defeated again, Confederacy!) alongside his compatriots in arms: wide receiver Tyreek Hill, coach Andy Reid and tight end Travis Kelce.
Whereas Capt. Mahomes, in his letters, writes to his Commander General, Capt. Luck writes to his “Dearest mother.” The most recent, from Sunday, speaks of the forces awaiting them at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Dearest mother,” Capt. Luck wrote, “Our victory frolicking has ceased. We must now begin our march to Kansas City to battle a unit of such great stature, every member has been granted the title of Chief. Our path has been long and winding, but I have never seen the men’s spirits higher. — Andrew.”
Only Providence knows whose troops on Saturday will stand victorious when the day is done. It rests in fate’s hands as to whether Capt. Mahomes’ or Capt. Luck’s dispatches will speak of glory or defeat.
What is a matter of record, penned in 2016 by the news correspondents at The Indianapolis Star, is how the meme of quarterbacks as Civil War officers began. It started in January 2014, the IndyStar reported, when Ryan Van Bibber, an editor at the sports website SB Nation, and some of his colleagues were joking after a Colts game about how Luck’s signature thick, Victorian-era facial hair made him look like a Civil War general.
“It just kind of came up,” Van Bibber told the IndyStar. “And that eventually turned into, ‘You should write a letter as Luck as a Civil War general.’”
So Van Bibber did. He had been a history major in college, a fan of the Ken Burns documentary “The Civil War.” He had a knack for the language. A year prior, someone had already posted a Photoshopped image of Luck, fitting his face in place of Union Brigadier Gen. Rufus King.
On Jan. 4, 2014, Van Bibber wrote his first dispatch as what was then Gen. Andrew Luck.
“We successfully defended the garrison at Lucas Oil from a battalion of Cincinnati-born marauders straying far away from their border country barracks nestled upon the hotly contested Ohio River,” it read in part. “And what strange brigands opposed us! They were led by one Major Dalton, who has won many campaigns in his years as a leading plunderer, but his offenses have stalled in the winter months.”
Van Bibber would eventually write 10 dispatches before growing tired of the exercise. In that time, it had gained internet fans, with dispatches read on sports radio and TV broadcasts.
“It was one of those things that just snowballed,” Van Bibber said. “I had no idea it would take off like it did.”
After Van Bibber put down his pen, another writer who is as yet anonymous, picked up the thread in December 2015, giving Luck an unexplained demotion in rank to captain.
His dispatches have been steady since, such as before his forces engaged the Dallas Cowboys last month.
“Dearest mother,” Luck wrote, “I have received your care package of pickled fox thumbs and fresh Squirrel Oil. The posse of Cowboys inches closer by the day. Scouts have yet to see them, but can smell their barbecue and hear their whooping. We continue to drill and prepare. Focused. — Andrew.”
Capt. Mahomes’ dispatches were born in admiration of the Capt. Luck letters, by a lifelong Chiefs fan with no actual connection to the war between the states.
“I’m not even American. I’m in Canada,” said the writer, Keith Friesen, who revealed himself to The Star this week.
Friesen, 40, works in manufacturing sales for a kitchen cabinet company. He has been a die-hard fan of the Chiefs since the 1990s, having traveled on numerous occasions to watch them play.
“I was there for the home opener this year,” Friesen said by phone. “I have been to Kansas City about a half dozen times since the mid-90s. The first time I was in Kansas City, I was a teenager. My dad surprised me with a last-second trip. I got to see (Joe) Montana play.”
In February last, after the Chiefs traded quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, Friesen cast his thoughts toward Capt. Luck and Mahomes.
“I was sitting on my couch,” he said. “I wondered if there was a Capt. Mahomes account.”
There wasn’t, so he started it, with his first letter, also addressed to his “Dearest mother,” posted on Feb. 24 regarding former Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters.
“Dearest mother — I write with quit (sic) distressing news. There is rumour that our most highly skilled reconnaissance leader, Cmdr Peters has been transferred to a different unit; further west under a different General. I pray we will find new ways to stop our adversaries. — Patrick. “
By summer he talked about skirmishes to liberate cheese packers, and heading north for “recreational bear hunting.”
By September, with war truly upon them (in the season opener), the captain recounted their success against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Dearest Mother - The heat of the battlefield was intense, and our defences were tested. Our offensive attack was perfectly executed by master weapons specialist Hill, who used his catlike reflexes and quick strikes to seal the victory. The journey home will be sweet. — Patrick”
And the second victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:
“Dearest Mother — Today we faced a heavy barrage from the blacksmiths plus some blind men oddly dressed in striped attire, however our company responded with an onslaught of record proportions. . . . — Patrick
As the Chiefs’ success increased, so did Capt. Mahomes’ Twitter following. Friesen remembers being thrilled when he hit 300 followers in March.
“I just wanted to have some fun and put a smile on someone’s face,” he said. “I was ecstatic at 300. To have 18,000!”
Victory brings boldness, as in October’s fracas against Denver. His letters were no longer being sent home just to mother, but also to his Major General.
“Major General - A dysfunctional troop of donkey breeders smelling of manure make their way east. They have already received multiple beatdowns by our hands but appear to desire more. I cannot fathom why they wish this, but we are prepared; we will unleash the cannon. — Patrick.”
So it went.
“Our adversary,” he reported, “has been measured and was found wanting. Sgt Hunt and Lt Samuel Watkins eviscerated their will to live.”
So it has continued.
Before the Oakland Raiders arrived in Kansas City for the final game of the regular season, Capt. Mahomes anticipated the eventual rout.
“A transient group of confused soldiers clothed as pirates march east,” he wrote. “Their Captain,” he said of quarterback Derek Carr, “fancies himself an elite soldier but his rifle mostly lobs its munitions softly to the side.”
Friesen, as a fan, concedes to some pre-battle jitters as the Colts gallop their troops this way.
“Having been a fan for so long,” he said, “it would be impossible to say that history doesn’t make me nervous.”
But he believes in Mahomes’ cannon arm and the weapons around him like he has never believed in any other Chiefs team in recent history.
Oh Captain! my captain!
So writes the fearless Mahomes in his most recent letter:
“Major General —
Preparations have begun for the horse riding Hoosier men. Their acclaimed captain, his beard, sidearm and squirrel oil are feared by some, but not by us. We know the hopeless despair caused by the devastation of the cannon and thus remain resolute. — Capt. Mahomes