Like most New Englanders, I’m a Patriots fan, at least when they win. For a long time, Tom Brady has dominated our sports world like no other player. Over the years, whatever the score, it didn’t seem to matter. Tom would turn it around, even if the Pats were way behind and it was late in the fourth quarter. He had a glint in his eye—not a twinkle, which is entirely different—and the outcome belonged to him. Larry Bird had the same glint during his Celtics years, 1979–1992. It’s a look that says, “Give me the ball and don’t worry, I’ll take care of the rest.”
I was once a quarterback, but without the glint. I was a freshman in high school, and I got the position by default. Dom Zotto had hurt himself that summer and missed the season.
The Stevens High School Junior Varsity didn’t do very well that year. We were winless, zero wins, eight losses. I think my total yards gained passing was a negative number, but fortunately they didn’t keep such statistics back then. Dom came back the next year and eventually led the varsity to the state championship while I played the clarinet at halftime in the SHS Marching Band.
How would you describe the look on the face of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as he stood on the sidelines during the Super Bowl waiting for the Chiefs to regain the ball? Baby-faced? Cherubic? Determined?
I would choose the word “confident,” a player who believes in himself. And when he straps on his helmet, takes the field, announces the play in the huddle, and then sizes up the defense, there it is—an unmistakable glint in his eye.
For much of the game the glint didn’t seem to work, with Mahomes throwing two intercepted passes and Jimmy Garoppolo, late of the Patriots, seemingly leading the Forty-Niners to victory. And then it did.
With only a few minutes left in the game and San Francisco ahead by ten points, one of the announcers said, “Now the Chiefs have the Forty-Niners where they want them.” He was referring, I assume, to the fact that the Chiefs had come back from behind in their last two playoff games, overcoming twenty-four and ten-point deficits against the Texans and the Titans.
After winning the AFC championship, Mahomes said, “We’re not done yet. We’re going to get it.” Professional athletes (and their fans) brag all the time—“We’re Number 1” and the like—but Mahomes wasn’t bragging, he was predicting the future.
Did Mahomes really know that he would lead his team to a Super Bowl victory? Of course not. But bet against him at your peril. He has more than a great arm and great running legs. He can do what many people cannot, which is put past mistakes such as intercepted passes behind him and focus entirely on what comes next. That’s the self-confident glint in his eye.
I have never regretted my one disastrous no-win season as a quarterback, or forgotten the fear I felt looking into the eyes of those gigantic Bellows Falls defensive linemen. I understood, much later, that it was good preparation for becoming a trial lawyer. And, speaking metaphorically, I like to think that in later years I completed some touchdown passes, with a glint in my eye, of course.