The most enduring reference from John Ford’s classic 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance — a story about a young lawyer named Ransom Stoddard, who is mistakenly credited by the townspeople as the man who killed the outlaw who had been terrorizing them — was spoken by reporter Maxwell Scott, who was interviewing Stoddard many years later to get the facts of the story.
After Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) explains that it was Tom Doniphon (played by John Wayne) who had actually killed Liberty Valance, Stoddard asks Scott if he’s going to use the story he’s just been told.
“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was six years old on February 3, 2002, when New England quarterback Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams. So it was only natural for reporters to ask Mahomes — now 23 — about playing against the 41-year-old Brady.
Mahomes was asked where he was and what he was doing when Tom Brady “stepped in for Drew Bledsoe to beat the Rams” — a reference to Brady’s first Super Bowl win.
Except that’s not what actually happened. Brady replaced Bledsoe earlier that season, when he was injured in the fourth quarter of a Week 2 loss to the New York Jets. Brady started every game thereafter.
But you can’t expect Mahomes to correct a reporter about something that happened when he was six. So he gamely answered the question.
“I was very young,” Mahomes said. “I don’t remember those first few Super Bowls he won. I remember the Super Bowl snow game where they kicked the field goal for the win. Seeing his successes year-in and year-out as I’ve gotten older is truly special — to see all of that hard work pay off.”
If you haven’t yet seen it, the video of this response is priceless.
Except... Mahomes didn’t get his facts straight, either. The Patriots have never won a Super Bowl by kicking a field goal in the snow.
Mahomes was apparently referring to the 2001 divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders, which was played two weeks before Brady’s first Super Bowl win. In that game — better known as the Tuck Rule Game — Patriots placekicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal from a snow-covered field to send the game into overtime, and another 23-yard field goal to win the game.
But I’m not here to poke Mahomes for not remembering that he’s likely only seen the Tuck Rule Game years later on tape. I just like making fun of reporters who get their facts wrong.
Besides, without realizing it, Mahomes explained how he probably came to see film of this famous game. It happened when he was asked if he had spent time studying Brady.
“Yes, I definitely watched a good amount of him in college,” he said. “Coach Kingsbury actually played with Tom at one point. He liked to show me some things that he did where he was in the pocket, his pocket movements and things like that. I have definitely taken some things from him. He does it at such a high level, it’s something you have to strive to be like.”
When asked, Mahomes said he was looking forward to the opportunity to play “against” Brady, and took the opportunity to remind reporters the two of them wouldn’t be on the field at the same time.
“It is going to be a great opportunity. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks — if not the greatest — to ever play. I am going against their defense, but as a team we are going to go in and try to compete. They are a good team in the AFC every single year. Just to compete against one of the best teams in the league is going to be an awesome opportunity.”
Still, Mahomes remains fairly matter-of-fact about what the Chiefs will face against New England.
“First off, they are going to have a game plan on trying to stop some of your better guys. With us, I feel like the mentality we’ve had this entire season is that whoever is open, give them the ball and let them make the play is going to help us out a ton. They are going to do some stuff to try to confuse me, but I am going to try to maintain our game plan and keep working.”
Mahomes — who is currently exceeding Brady in almost all NFL passing statistics — was asked if he considers Brady to be the best of all time.
“That’s a hard question. It kind of depends on what you like. I don’t necessarily know if I have just one that I would say is the best. He’s the one who won all the championships. That’s one of the biggest parts about it.”
Mahomes is exactly right about that. Brady now has five Super Bowl rings — more than any other quarterback. That would be a worthy goal for Mahomes to achieve — so that in 2035, another young quarterback can be asked about where they were and what they were doing when Patrick Mahomes won his first Super Bowl.
Hopefully, he’ll mistake a dramatic Mahomes highlight he’s seen from this Sunday’s game as something that happened in a Super Bowl.
Because this is the NFL. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.