Every Super Bowl has a back story. Sometimes, that behind the scenes drama is so compelling, the event is referred to by a nickname. When brothers Jim and John, head coaches of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, respectively, faced off in Super Bowl XLVII (2013) it was tagged “the Harbaugh Bowl.” And each annual contest between the NFL’s best is memorialized in a single image. Last night’s game was no exception.
Welcome to the “Nepo Baby Bowl.” For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to celebrities who are born to famous parents with similar careers. Among the most famous is Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of actress Blythe Danner and director/producer Bruce Paltrow. Or Martin Sheen’s sons, Charlie and Emilio Estevez. The field during Super Bowl LVIII was littered (pun intended) with nepo babies.
- Eventual MVP Patrick Mahomes is the offspring of former New York Mets pitcher Pat Mahomes.
- 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey learned the game from his father Ed, who was an All-American receiver at Stanford University and spent 13 seasons in the NFL including three Super Bowl championships.
- And of course, there is 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan who is following in his father Mike’s footsteps. Among the storylines for Sunday’s game was, “Would this be the day when son Kyle joins his dad as head coach of a Super Bowl champion?”
But, as Arlo Guthrie would say, that’s not what I came here to talk about. Instead, I want to go back to the defining image during last night’s broadcast. If the game itself was of primary interest, the outcome might be captured by one of three photographs. For some, it was the moment Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal blocked Jake Moody’s extra point. Or when a punt inadvertently struck 49er Darrel Luter’s foot which led to a Chiefs touchdown on the next play. Or Mahomes’ three-yard touchdown pass in overtime to relatively unknown Mecole Hardman which sealed the Chiefs’ victory.
Maybe you tuned in for the entertainment provided by a host of performers before the game and culminating in Usher’s halftime performance, a soul and rap montage, reminiscent of an earlier time when Dick Clark would tour the United States with his “Caravan of Stars.” For the record, I find the halftime extravaganza, regardless who headlines the performance, a great opportunity to start solving the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. To the chagrin of 49er fans, once again, the extended mid-game break turned out to be a momentum changer.
Finally, no discussion of Super Bowl LVIII would be complete without a reference to Tay-Tay and Kel-Kel. For those who bet on the over/under, during the game, Taylor Swift appeared on-screen 12 times for a total of 53 seconds. But the main event was the couple’s on-field reunion after the trophy ceremony.
Even Joe Biden’s deep state could not have pulled off such a complete American experience, though he trolled the MAGA/QAnon snowflakes with the Tweet, “Just like we drew it up.” But the moment and image that truly represented the America we so often think is in the rearview mirror occurred before the kickoff. It was a brief shot of Chief’s defensive tackle Chris Jones during Reba McIntyre’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner (below).
Jones is no “nepo baby.” He was born in Houston, Mississippi, the son of a furniture factory worker. According to his profile on the Chiefs’ website, when Jones was in the fourth grade, his father was jailed for nearly a decade after a DUI arrest. Despite the odds, Jones proved his football credentials first at Houston High School, then Mississippi State University and as a second-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs.
One can only imagine the pent-up emotions which produced that tear. Having made his mother and father proud. Gratitude to those who contributed to his development as a football player and a selfless member of his community. Remembering the bedroom at his grandmother’s home he shared with 10 other family members while he was in high school. Or the physical contrast between Allegiant Stadium and his humble surroundings as a child.
At a time when so many Americans question whether the United States is still the land of opportunity, ask Chris Jones. Recalling his own journey, he would likely echo comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s tag line, “Is this a great country or what?”
For what it’s worth.