Undaunted through his meteoric rise, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes finally was fazed the other day when against his inclination he was roped into going to The Beast Haunted House in Kansas City’s West Bottoms.
“I’m definitely not for any haunted houses,” said Mahomes, calling himself the most frightened player there. “They’re all scary to me.”
Luckily for Mahomes, he otherwise resides in a funhouse that poses horrors only for opposing defenses — part of what makes this team an irresistible force in more ways than one.
Considering the exhilarating offense that leads the NFL in scoring, the electrifying presences of Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and others, the infinitely amusing celebrations and a dynamic locker room animated by the likes of Chris Jones and Hill, the Chiefs are a must-see-phenomenon creating an infectious joy and sense of anticipation.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
When coach Andy Reid arrived here in 2013, he’d frequently urge his players to “let their personalities show.” He doesn’t have to say it with this group, whose sterling play, engaging style and visibility in the community is only about a Salvy Splash — and, yes, a long-awaited championship — away from the charm of the 2014 and 2015 Royals.
Naturally, this is particularly true locally, where Mahomes Mania rules. In thanking fans the other day, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said, “I’ve never seen them this fired up.”
But it’s also true nationally, where pundits recognize something special is happening here — as do my own personal precincts in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and St. Louis, sites where I frequently hear from friends dazzled by the Chiefs.
In fact, the Chiefs are part of a rise in NFL TV ratings around the country.
“There was a lot of concern, I think, around the league and also from those who follow the NFL with the decrease in ratings two consecutive years,” Hunt said Monday, later adding, “There are a number of high-powered offenses, not to mention the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes at the helm, that are helping drive that. I get it. It is fun to watch our offense play and I think that has really helped ratings, not only here in Kansas City, but around the country.”
And beyond: The broader interest has led to more media demand than anyone can remember. On Wednesday, Melodee Morita and Kohey Kosaka were here for Nippon TV, the NFL rights-holder in Japan.
They were working on pieces about both the team in general and Mahomes in particular as they highlight rising stars to help promote the game in Japan. Or as Morita put it in a question to Reid, people in Japan “would like to get to know more about Patrick Mahomes.”
Part of the mission is to try to reveal a glimpse of personality, which Morita saw when Mahomes conveyed his discomfort with the haunted house.
When she asked Mahomes about the keys to his success, he offered an answer that spoke to near innocence.
“I really love this game,” he said. “I really love just everything that it comes with (and) and just being best friends with your teammates and then being able to go out there and compete with them.”
That speaks to the bonds of chemistry, an elusive commodity that can be hard to quantify and of course is no assurance of success. But it can’t hurt, probably helps and reflects that the most fun team to watch in football is full of soul, too.
The culture is made up people like safety Eric Berry, who though injured still carries an almost mystical clout as a cancer survivor, and (also injured) Canadian doctor Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. It’s composed of linebacker Dee Ford, an accomplished pianist and singer, and the ever-cerebral Mitchell Schwartz. And Chris Conley, a film-maker, writer and musician, and Sammy Watkins, nicknamed Starship 14 by Reid for his out-of-this-world thinking.
Walk in the locker room and you’re apt to see Jones giving play-by-play as he shoots baskets, or giving away cookies, or center Mitch Morse (when not injured) just breaking into a random song. And too many other personalities to list here.
On Sunday, you would have seen Hill inflating a sumo suit — evidently for a Halloween thing — before waddling out.
“We accept everyone,” Conley said to no one in particular as Hill was blowing himself up, referring to all shapes and sizes and colors, etc.
In fact, this mirthfulness is all pretty well encapsulated in Hill, about the most mesmerizing guy anyone has ever seen on the field. He frequently leaves even those in the press box marveling with laughter because of his almost comical speed advantage, uncanny balance and body control, habit of running yards and yards after a play ends, the peace signs and the celebrations.
“It’s always something with that guy,” Conley said, smiling. “Tyreek has a lot of energy, he has a lot of joy, and he exhibits that in every phase of his life. And it’s no different when he’s on the field. He makes other people laugh. He makes them smile. He’s one heck of a player.”
Kelce is nearly as riveting on the field as Hill, both between his play and playful antics, but there’s another common denominator between those two and many others on this team: They are reaching out to the community, either with their own foundation work or periodic appearances such as the ones Mahomes and others made at Schwartz’s ‘Cue for a Cause event on Monday and a few weeks back at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
That’s long been the case with Chiefs players, but it’s more visible now and perhaps has been boosted by an extra push from Conley and others who have taken so seriously the notion of giving back.
“We’re very, very pleased with the way the team has embraced the opportunity that we’ve given to get out there and make a difference from a social justice standpoint,” Hunt said. “We’ve had a number of players who have charities that they care a great deal about, they’ve brought opportunities to us where they can go serve in the community and we’ve helped them organize those activities. I’m very pleased, and really it’s a credit to the type of players that we have here.”
The type you can embrace, both as a captivating group and legitimate contenders.