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Fidelity Sports Emergency Edition

Fidelity Sports Emergency Edition
By Jeremy Linneman • Issue #14 • View online
We interrupt normal GOOD SOIL programming to honor the legacy of Kobe Bryant and preview Super Bowl 54.

Alright, GOOD SOIL readers, I have a special emergency edition of Fidelity Sports for you! I know many of you are not G. SOIL subscribers for sports content, and if you want to delete this e-newsletter, I won’t be offended. 
But if you are a sports fan, or just a human with a pulse who understands how much our country/culture is sport-obsessed, then I have two offerings for you in the midst of a week in sports that will be remembered for a long, long time. 
Most of this edition will focus on the Super Bowl, which features my beloved KC Chiefs for the first time in 50, yes exactly fifty, years. But first… 
The Wonderful, Unexpected Legacy of Kobe Bryant
On Sunday morning, 41-year old NBA legend Kobe Bryant died with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in California. 
As some of you know, Kobe has been one of my favorite players in all of sports for the past two-plus decades. I wrote a long essay on Kobe’s significance as a bridge between two eras of professional basketball upon his retirement a few years ago. There Will Never Be Another Kobe, I explained, and I think it was true when it was written and has only gotten truer with time. 
On Sunday evening, not long after news of the Kobe’s death was released, ERLC reached out to me about doing a Kobe piece. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is a division of the Southern Baptist denomination, led by my former theology professor, Dr. Russell Moore, but more broadly, their site has become a leading voice in faith, culture, technology, and politics. By asking me for a Kobe piece, they obviously are trying to add that Fidelity Sports / GOOD SOIL flavor to their site. I don’t blame them. ;) 
Kobe Bryant and the Fragility of Life (ERLC)
Kobe Bryant and the Fragility of Life (ERLC)
In this short essay, I wanted to highlight the rare accomplishment of Kobe’s transition into the second half of life. I am always interested in life stages, developmental psychology, and sport as a window into life, and I think the observation that athletes live “a life compressed” and then must totally re-adapt to live a second, post-sport life has implications for us all. Kobe’s transition was unexpected given his reputation in his early and mid Twenties, and that’s what stands out to me as his true legacy. 
Also, can I just point out how happy I am that ERLC did not edit out my reference to Kobe’s baptism of Dwight Howard? Get it? Kobe dunked on young Dwight as a rookie, sometimes referred to as a baptism in street ball jargon, and a Baptist website left it in… I’ve never been prouder of myself. 
And now, the reason most of you are here: 
The Official Fidelity Sports Super Bowl LIV Preview
I wrote about the hidden meaning of Patrick Mahomes II to us Chiefs fans around this time last year. In a non-biblical, purely sports sense, he is our savior. Over a long and brutal stretch of 50 years, we have been one of the ten best NFL franchises but have not made a Super Bowl. Three times in my lifetime, the Chiefs have gone 13-3 and claimed a first round bye. All three years we were undefeated at home in the regular season. That’s 24-0 at home in those seasons. And we were 0-3 in those playoff games. We have made the AFC championship game exactly twice in that span. Once, we lost to the Buffalo Bills in the early 90’s. And last year, we were robbed out of a Super Bowl visit by losing in overtime to Tom freaking Brady and his Patriots. And still, something got broken last year—the curse. 
The curse of the Chiefs was on the old Chiefs, and Andy Reid plus St. Patrick plus the fastest offense every assembled broke it. Sure, we lost to the Patriots, but clearly one team was making a final stand (the Pats) and one team was one step closer to a long run, maybe a decade long, of Super Bowl visits (us). 
That brings us to 2019-20. We started 6-4 and the morons at ESPN were wondering if we’d even make the playoffs. Fidelity Sports said not to worry and then predicted we wouldn’t lose again. Indeed, we won those final six reg-season games. 
Then the playoffs: After falling behind 24-0 to the Texans in the second quarter, we turned around and scored seven straight touchdowns and outscored HOU 51-7 in the span of 30ish game minutes. The following week, we fell behind the Titans 17-7 in the second quarter, but it felt strangely worse than the 24-point deficit. These weren’t fluke mistakes; we were getting pounded. But our defense figured out TEN’s run plan, and we went on to outscore them 28-7 over the final 2.5 quarters. 
And finally, SB54.
I’m not sure if you’re reading the previews of this game, but you’d think the Chiefs stumbled into this place by accident. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell’s too-long article belabors all the Chiefs flaws (run defense, poor run game, etc.) and explains away each of our greatest strengths (ahem, the greatest QB in history). But for the 49ers, he minimizes all their obvious weaknesses (barely mentioned their 8-pass-in-a-game-throwing QB) and seems to indicate SF will win this thing in a blowout. Yet, strangely, at the end, he only picks the Niners 27-23, as if he knows SF can’t score more points than that, and well, Mahomes has scored fewer than 23 points in his 35-game career exactly once, and he was injured.
ESPN is not alone. The Ringer is all in on San Fran. The Athletic is promoting and picking the 49ers by a 2-to-1 margin. It’s crazy. The only thing that makes sense of it is West-coast, big-city bias. Fine. Sleep on us Midwesterners. We clearly don’t have access to the information and ingenuity of the Silicon Valley 49ers.
Thankfully, after all this talk, a game will actually be played on Sunday evening. 
And, thankfully, Fidelity Sports is here to explain, ahead of time, how it will all happen. 
  • The 49ers will take an early lead, something like 7-3 or 10-7, and dumb Joe Buck of FOX will go on about how the NFC is better and this reminds him of the time the SF Giants beat the KC Royals in the World Series, and he’ll somehow bring up the St Louis Cardinals, and his dad, blah blah blah
  • On a 3rd-and-2 in the second quarter, from our own 35 or 40, on a clear run or screen situation, Mahomes will throw the ball some 75 yards in the air to Hill or Watkins or Kelce or Hardman or Robinson or Williams for a TD. Just like that, the world will remember why this team has scored 51+ points more often than it’s scored 0-22 points
  • At the half, it will be close: Chiefs up or down by 3-4 points, doesn’t really matter
  • The halftime show will be a joke, as usual. Who knew J-Lo and Shakira were still in show business?
  • The 49ers run game will not take off in the 3rd quarter as they had hoped, and we’ll see them begin throwing on 1st downs, and everyone will realize why they only let Jimmy Marcopolo throw the ball eight times vs. the Packers
  • The Chiefs will win the turnover battle, probably by a margin of 2 to 0, and when we get takeaways, we get touchdowns
  • Up by 10 or 14 in the fourth, dumb Buck will suggest that we need to rely on our running game now, and instead, Mahomes will throw the league’s first 105-yard touchdown pass; Buck will count the yards on the field and wonder aloud how it was even possible
  • The Chiefs will win 38-24
  • Mahomes will be named MVP with about 315 yards passing and 3 TD’s 
Anyone want to join me in KCMO next week for the parade? 
We’ll see you next Friday for a regular edition of GOOD SOIL. Y’all be easy. 
JSL
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Jeremy Linneman

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