The road to Super Bowl LVII as told by off-the-field antics

ByTory Barron ESPN logo
Thursday, February 9, 2023

It's theKansas City Chiefsvs. thePhiladelphia Eaglesfor all the marbles atSuper Bowl LVII. To the untrained eye, Sunday is nothing more than an opportunity for Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce's mother, Donna, to clear up any confusion over who is her favorite son.

But to those who have been paying attention during the past few weeks, it's so much more than that. The Super Bowl marks a culmination of grudges, beefs and social media trolling that has spanned from the wild-card round to now. It has been a petty, twisted web involving statues, mayors and at least one overzealous architectural landmark.

The Eagles and Chiefs aren't in Glendale, Arizona, solely because of their on-the-field dominance. They've also managed to navigate more nuanced battles -- the ones that have found a home on the internet.

Here's how the postseason unfolded off the gridiron:


The thing about an AFC conference championship rematch between the Chiefs and theCincinnati Bengalsis that it would have been contentious enough without the addition of gratuitous bulletin board material in the lead-up.

Sadly for Cincinnati, the city's mayor didn't get that memo. For reasons unknown, Aftab Pureval decided to share a "Who Dey proclamation" in which he not only referred to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium as "Burrowhead," but said quarterback Joe Burrow had to take a paternity test to see if he wasPatrick Mahomes' father. It, um, wasn't great.

The reaction to Pureval's video was swift and severe. The mayor of Kansas City, Quinton Lucas, and Brittany Mahomes, wife to the Chiefs QB, were among those who took exception to the trolling.

In addition to theBurrowhead of it all, Pureval took things a step further by dubbing the day of the AFC title game, "They Gotta Play Us" day in Cincinnati.

When the matchup ended in a 23-20 Chiefs victory on a 45-yardHarrison Butkerfield goal, the postgame Twitter trolling andTravis Kelcerebuttal scripted themselves.

If anyone was wondering how Mahomes felt about the blatant disrespect, the quarterback -- who somehow finished 29-of-43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns while playing through an ankle injury -- made it abundantly clear with a well-timed Pete Weber GIF.

For those unfamiliar with the"Bad Boy of Bowling" reference(weird, but OK), Weber celebrated winning the 2012 U.S. Open by a single pin with a rant that included the line, "Who do you think you are, I am!"

Whether or not Mahomes' tweet selection had anything to do withBurrow proclaiming "I'm him!"on a hot mic during the divisional round, it's hard to argue with a guy who just led his team to its third Super Bowl appearance in four seasons.

Mess with Rocky at your own risk

There are few things as sacred to the city of Philadelphia as Rocky Balboa and Philly cheesesteaks ... both have been disrespected during this postseason.

Ahead of Philadelphia's showdown with the San Francisco 49ers, Niners fans had the ingenious (read: redundant and played out) idea to put a 49ers t-shirt on the iconic Rocky statue that sits at the bottom of the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We're not saying the ill-advised action sealed San Francisco's fate, but we are saying it became thelatest teamto trifle with the likeness of the Italian Stallion and subsequently lose to the Eagles.

It's unclear whether thesame curseextends to those who insult the city's cheesesteaks, but it probably wouldn't hurt Kansas City to haveJuJu Smith-Schusterissue an preemptive apology after hismedia day comments.

Advantage, Burrow

Before Burrow was dragged into a mess of an elected public official's making, the star QB had amessage of his ownfor those who doubted his Bengals.

Much of the conversation ahead of Cincinnati's divisional round matchup with theBuffalo Billscentered around the possibility of the Chiefs and Bills playing at a neutral site should the two teams meet in the conference championship.

The implication that the Bills were a shoe-in to defeat the Bengals didn't sit too well with QB1. After Cincinnati's convincing 27-10 win over Buffalo, Joe Brrrr seized the opportunity to offer some sage advice to fans who purchased tickets prematurely.

Prescott can't catch a break

By now you know theDallas Cowboysare, in fact, out of postseason contention. Without having actually experienced the sensation, we're going to go out on a limb and say having one's Super Bowl aspirations ripped away feels pretty awful.

But, as with all things in life, the "how" matters.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, more specifically,Dak Prescott, how it happened was rather unpleasant. Prescott threw two interceptions in Dallas' loss to San Francisco -- the same team that eliminated the Cowboys in the wild-card round last season.

To add insult to injury, the Cowboys' Twitter account didn't hesitate to throw its QB under the bus after the game.

It's a cold world out there ... which is exactly what the Miami Heat demonstrated whenchiming inwith a tweet of their own seemingly directed at the Boston Celtics.

New York vs. everybody

TheNew York Giantsgot rocked by the Eagles in the divisional round, but not before exposing the hubris of theMinnesota Vikings' Twitter account after defeatingKirk Cousins& Co. 31-24 in the wild-card round.

Should have left that one in the drafts.

Despite the Giants' playoff run ending in unceremonious fashion, their Twitter account bounced back quickly enough to expose the Empire State Building for itsbandwagon display of celebration.

The G-Men weren't the only ones appalled by the audacity of the building, as NYC Sanitation also took to Twitter to join in the trash talk (pun intended).

Related Video