“We’ve got Pat Mahomes. It’s magic Mahomes, it’s showtime Mahomes.”
And so a week that started with a nation in mourning for a sporting hero ended with a new star cementing his place on the biggest stage of all.
Kobe Bryant’s death was marked by a moment’s silence before a Super Bowl that was as compelling as it was cathartic, as the Kansas City Chiefs finally ended a 50-year wait for glory with victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
To spend the week in Super Bowl town was to see just what this event means to the United States – and how thrilled it was by witnessing one of the sport’s very best players Patrick Mahomes seize the moment when it threatened to overwhelm him.
Stars, storms and saxophones – Super Bowl week staggers
Olympics? World Cup final? Heavyweight title fight?
The imaginary title of world’s biggest sporting event may remain up for grabs but after a week in the glitz and glare of the NFL spotlight the case for this Miami showpiece is strong.
Sporting purists may argue, and they could be right, but in terms of an all-encompassing event that can swallow up a city, a nation, the Super Bowl has few equals.
What other night could boast a guest list ranging from Sir Paul McCartney – still in The Beatles the last time the Chiefs were champions – to Jay-Z, Beyonce, David Beckham, Usain Bolt and Floyd Mayweather? What other game would have The Rock – the world’s highest-paid actor – just reading out the teams?
What other one-off game begins its media commitments a full week away from kick-off?
What other event draws thousands of fans from across a continent just for the pre-game parties?
An impeachment trial and a worldwide health scare were a long way down the batting order of the news agenda across America as Miami and its suburbs became anaesthetised by traffic.
When the elements got involved on Friday night, washing out a Harry Styles gig in town, it barely registered on the party-goers. Across the city Shaq was hosting a club night, while elsewhere the visiting fans could take in Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Guns n Roses, P Diddy, Pitbull, Post Malone and the Black Eyed Peas.
Music not your thing? How about a pre-match event which saw a chef from each of the NFL’s 32 host teams cooking up a dish from that city for their guests?
James Corden’s dad playing Jenny from the block on his Salvation Army saxophone to a bemused JLo and Shakira? You got it.
In the media centre you are treated to the bizarre sight of ‘radio row’ where hundreds of talk radio stations and podcasts line up in a room bigger than some towns I’ve lived in, a clamour of chatter and guests rattling through the air for hours and days at a time. Can you talk about a game too much? Not in this town, not in this week.
And then of course, on game day itself, the annual Puppy Bowl, where 96 pups up for adoption battle it out to get as many dog toys in the end zone as they can.
Team Fluff defeated Team Ruff in Puppy Bowl XVI, with Gina, 12-week-old Labrador retriever-chow chow mix, voted MVP.
Hours later, to mark the 100th anniversary of the NFL, four 100-year-old World War II veterans conducted the coin toss before serving members of the military were paraded to the Top Gun theme. From the ridiculous to the sublime.
You don’t get that at the Olympics do you?
Not in Kansas anymore – Fans’ wait ends in style
It didn’t look like it for three quarters of the game – but this was Kansas City’s time to shine.
All week I’d seen Chiefs fans strewn up the coastline of south Florida like sporting jetsam in the hope of affordable lodgings.
They came in huge numbers, undeterred by tickets on the secondary market starting at $5,000 (£3,817) with some listed at $72,000 (£54,705) each on Saturday afternoon. Not even a small fortune. A large one.
There were fans in my hotel brushing off talk of a 22-hour drive and a trip that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. This was a once in a lifetime event. Not sensible, but yet essential.
They made an enormous amount of noise inside the stadium, outnumbering their foes from the west coast, and were rewarded by a superb final quarter comeback that will live long in the memory far beyond the fringes of the Missouri river.
After the confetti and the tears, and as Hard Rock stadium emptied around them, a pocket of the same hardy bunch were still rooted in one corner, chanting ‘MVP’ to their hero Mahomes. Those credit card bills will all be worth it.
‘Magic Mahomes’ delivers
If Super Bowl week can overwhelm the casual visitor, how about a superstar quarterback who’s only played 35 games as a pro and has been earmarked for greatness since a young age?
All week the chat had been about Mahomes, how he could be stopped and how he may bend under the strain of his first Super Bowl examination.
With less than 15 minutes left Mahomes was arguably having his toughest game of his career, having thrown two interceptions and seeing the Niners open up a 10-point lead.
But he didn’t break. Instead he guided his side to a famous win.
“It don’t matter the score – we’ve got Pat Mahomes. It’s magic Mahomes, it’s showtime Mahomes,” said tight end Travis Kelce.
“He’s going to be himself no matter what the scenario is, and you know what? I love him. He willed this team back into the game.”
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill added: “We were down and he was telling us to believe in the fourth quarter.
“He could see it in some guys’ eyes, they were getting down, including myself.
“I was like man, are we going to pull this off? And he was like, you’ve got to believe brother.
“He brought the guys together and you saw what happened. We’re something special, this band of brothers are blessed to have one another.”
Mahomes’ own take on his quarter of greatness was simple.
“I never have that mindset of losing the game,” he said.
“I play and compete to the very end, the last whistle, until that clock strikes zero. I knew we weren’t in the ideal situation but I believed in my defense to get stops and they did. We kept fighting and we found ways to win in the end.”
Super Bowl MVP Mahomes is 24. NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is 23. The future of the sport is in safe hands and in a year’s time the madness will descend on Florida once more – to Tampa.
See you there.