AFC South Reporter
LAS VEGAS — It was abundantly clear where the majority of fans stood during the joint-team celebration of Super Bowl Opening Night.
When the Chiefs were mentioned — with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, Isiah Pacheco and coach Andy Reid answering questions — the boos hit a crescendo at Allegiant Stadium. They grew deafening for Mahomes and Kelce, in particular.
The 49ers’ stars, on the other hand, were beloved. They were showered with cheers. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan got some of the loudest. Running back Christian McCaffrey received “C-M-C!” chants.
It’s worth mentioning that schedule logistics might have played a role for a crowd that sounded like it was dominated by the 49ers faithful, which surely still feels the sting of the Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs. During the joint period, the Chiefs had already done their media rounds for opening night. The Niners were next up. Many Kansas City fans could have already headed toward the exits.
But the crowd’s energy spoke to a larger theme of how the Chiefs are now increasingly viewed: They’re the villains.
“We expect that,” Jones said of the booing.
It doesn’t matter how the Chiefs got here. Or how this year has looked uglier than other teams of the Reid-Mahomes era. The sticking point is that this is their fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years, and second in a row. Their dynasty is taking root in real time. So, for those not affiliated with the Chiefs, for those who are not fans of the team, they have every reason to be sick. To be sick of all their winning. It’s not much different from how the New England Patriots were hated for much of this century.
On Monday, Kansas City’s mindset was best encapsulated by Kelce, who was answering a question from NFL Network’s Michael Robinson before stopping because of the rising boos. He looked to the crowd, pausing for several moments.
“Y’all are firing me up,” Kelce exclaimed. “Making me want to play right now, baby! Woo!”
He started bouncing back and forth.
“I love the boos more than I love the cheers. Keep them coming, Niners gang!” Kelce continued, as the crowd complied. “Keep them coming!”
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The thing about these Chiefs is that the boos might be exactly what they need. To feed the narrative they’ve built about themselves.
The 2023 Chiefs are edgier. They’re grimier. They’re defensive-led. They’ve reached this point despite down years from Mahomes and Kelce and the rest of the offense, which had a receiver group that led the NFL in drops. But they’ve also been empowered to believe that they’re underdogs, even if their incredible success over the past several years screams the contrary. Kansas City opened as betting underdogs for the Super Bowl, just as it did in the previous two rounds.
Ahead of the divisional round, Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins wished Mahomes “good luck” in Buffalo, where he was set to play his first true road playoff game. After the Chiefs won, Mahomes took to Instagram, writing, “good luck” with a clock emoji.
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This whole season has shown how Mahomes — how the Chiefs — have a different chip on their shoulder. The kind of chip they haven’t had in previous years, but one that is part of their identity in 2023.
“I appreciate it, Niners nation,” Mahomes said to the crowd, acknowledging the nonstop booing. “We’re here.”
Then he gestured to his ears with his hands.
The Chiefs hear the hate, but they don’t care about how the NFL world feels about them.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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