They were cold and wet by the time the parade buses made their way up Grand Boulevard around noon local time, cheerleaders shaking shiny pompoms and red and gold confetti twirling through the air, mixing with the spitting snow.
Patrick Mahomes and his teammates stood atop a string of red double-decker buses, the young quarterback and game MVP wearing a red plaid jacket and holding a Bud Light in one hand. Waving his arms, Mahomes exhorted the fans to cheer as he hoisted the sterling silver Lombardi Trophy into the air, later bringing it close and cradling it like a baby.
The Chiefs had taken a pulse-pounding route to the title. Three times they rallied from double-digit deficits, including Sunday when they wiped out the 49ers’ 10-point fourth-quarter lead before wrapping up a 31-20 victory.
When Mahomes addressed the crowd, his voice hoarse, he acknowledged the team’s long journey to the title. Even though he was sidelined for part of the season with a knee injury, Mahomes said, “We still came back and won the Super Bowl!”
Some in the crowd — probably shy of the 1 million fans that had been expected because of the frigid weather — weren’t even born when the Chiefs captured their only previous Super Bowl victory in 1970.
“We’ve been waiting our whole lives for this, pretty much,” said Dana Tarantino, 37, a teacher from Overland Park, Kan.
Many of the surviving players from that team are well into their 80s; nine attended Wednesday’s parade.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Greg Rudigier, 55, a salesman from Leawood, Kan., and longtime season ticket holder. “We came up short so many times, when there were such great expectations. To finally get this victory — it’s beautiful.”
The franchise is based in Missouri but has long been a great unifier for residents of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles Kansas and Missouri, two states that have been rivals since the guerrilla skirmishes of the Civil War. Fans said they already had forgiven President Trump’s congratulatory tweet Sunday, in which he wrongly praised the team for representing the “Great State of Kansas … so very well” and was derided on social media.
“They’re just trying to divide and conquer us,” said Denise Hood, a lash technician from Liberty, Mo. “This is a time for us to come together, not be spread apart. We need this.”
Much of the fan love Wednesday was reserved for Coach Andy Reid, 61, who was the winningest coach in NFL history without a Super Bowl victory until Sunday, and for Mahomes, the 24-year-old Texas native known for his humble manner, rocket arm and exuberant head of curls, a haircut that little boys are now lining up at his Overland Park barber to copy. His arrival as a rookie in 2017, as the 10th pick of that spring’s draft, seemed to energize the whole city, fans said.
“He’s heaven-sent,” said Marquita Simms, 49, a school bus driver from Kansas City, Kan. “I love it when he said he don’t just pray when times get hard, he prays all the time. We are people of faith, too.”
Franchise owner Clark Hunt told fans that his father, Lamar, one of the founders of the American Football League, shared before his death in 2006 that the best day of his life was the parade after Super Bowl IV. The trophy for the AFC champion is named in his honor.
That was a motivating factor, Mahomes said.
“When I became the starter for Kansas City, the first thing I wanted to do was bring the Lamar Hunt Trophy back to Kansas City, back to this organization,” he said. “And the second most important thing I wanted to do was bring the Lombardi Trophy to the best coach in the National Football League.”
Along the parade route at the corner of Pershing Road and Grand Boulevard, the talk of more titles had already begun.
“[Chiefs General Manager] Brett Veach has us set up for a dynasty,” said Mark Hosted, 32, a conveyor belt technician, told his buddies. “But remember Dan Marino? He went to the Super Bowl once at 23 and never made it back there again. That’s all I gotta say.”
Bogage reported from Washington. Cindy Boren and Matt Bonesteel in Washington contributed to this report. See below for live updates from the parade and rally.