On February 6 2013, days after Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens produced a narrow victory over the San Francisco 49ers for Super Bowl XLVII, a 17-year-old future superstar took to Twitter to ponder: "I bet it feels amazing to be the quarterback who says 'I'm going to Disney World' after winning the Super Bowl."
Almost exactly seven years later, on February 2, 2020 that 17-year-old, now transformed into the NFL’s most high-profile player with a ground-to-air missile launcher where his right arm should be, Patrick Mahomes II helped the Kansas City Chiefs to an inspired comeback at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami for Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers coincidentally once again the unfortunate victims by a 31-20 scoreline.
Duly, the second-youngest quarterback to ever lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy had one thing to proclaim to the watching world: “I’m going to Disney World!”
The declaration came at the culmination of ending a 50-year wait for the highest honour for the Kansas City Chiefs and finally a record for veteran head coach Andy Reid. Mahomes meanwhile individually became the youngest player to have been anointed both the league MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
For three of the four quarters however, in the Sunshine State, Mahomes threatened to exhume the fabled ‘Madden Curse’. The Chiefs trailing 20-10, he had completed 18 of 29 passes for 172 yards and no touchdowns.
But as he had punctually done both against the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes strode into the spotlight. The Mahomes-Tyreek Hill combo came up trumps again, with Mahomes throwing to the wide receiver for 43 cards with just over seven minutes remaining and the turnaround was in motion.
Mahomes finished 26-of-42 for 286 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, adding 29 rushing yards and a score on the ground, and his stunning, ultimately unsurprising, contribution provided him with becoming the first Madden cover star to play in and win a Super Bowl, and made it even sweeter by doing so in the same season.
Curse, what curse?
In April 2019, coming off a breakout season wherein he completed 66.0% of his throws for 5,097 yards with 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions en route to winning the 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player Award and Offensive Player of the Year honours, the QB had been announced as the cover athlete for Madden NFL 20.
Named after NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden, the American Football video game has been cited as precursing misfortune on whomever so adorns the cover image:
Of the 22 players before Mahomes to have appeared and been given the ‘prestige’ of fronting Madden, a mammoth 16 have had beleaguered subsequent seasons through injury. It emerged prominently in 2002 after Daunte Culpepper missed the entire campaign for the Minnesota Vikings after suffering an injury just months after appearing on the front cover - a season later he threw just 18 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions.
More recently, Mahomes’ predecessor, the star of the 2019 version of the game and ‘Masked Singer’ personality, Antonio Brown, was traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of the season. He then suffered frostbite, forcing him to miss 10 out of 11 training camp practices with the Raiders. Brown was then forced to swap coasts, being traded a second time in the space of a year to go East to the New England Patriots, without playing a single down for the Raiders. 13 days later he was out with them as well.
Mahomes has become the savior of the future generation to grace the video game franchise. Who knows, in 20 years time, we might very well be referring to it as the Madden Lucky Charm.