On Superbowl Sunday, the Rio Grande Valley’s lifelong Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers fans are anticipating a great game and, of course, victory for their respective teams.
“I’ve seen them go through their bad and their good,’ said Aaron Gonzalez, a Harlingen-based teacher and Air Force veteran who has been a Chiefs fan since he was six years old.
“It has been 50 years since they’ve been to the Superbowl, back before the American Football League (AFL) merged with the NFL. It should have happened last year, but we got robbed. Don’t even get me started,” he said.
Gonzalez and his wife Alejandra said there are more Chiefs fans than meets the eye in the Valley. The five-decade long wait has fans ready for victory. Alejandra mentioned Kansas City’s star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is only 24 years old.
“He’s amazing for being so young,” she said. Aaron noted that the Chiefs were originally founded as the Texans, in the Dallas area, and moved to Kansas City years later.
The championship win that secured the team’s spot in today’s game meant the return of the Lamar Hunt Award to the team founded by Hunt himself. “As Kansas City fans, this year’s division championship win hit home,” said Gonzales.
The teacher said his father was a truck driver and would bring him souvenirs from travel. Once, he brought a Chiefs hat home. “It stuck with me. My dad is no longer around, so memories like that are important.”
Gonzalez and his wife Alejandra say their neighborhood is filled with flags supporting teams from across the county. They plan to celebrate this year’s game with family, dressed in red.
While the Chiefs haven’t been to the Superbowl in 50 years, the 49ers have the opportunity to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots for six Superbowl titles – the most held by any other teams in the league.
Currently, the 49ers hold five Superbowl titles. The Chiefs have won only one Superbowl, in 1970.
“We have a tough task ahead of us,” said #RGV49ers president Cheko Bling. The lifelong 49ers fan is one of three founding members of the Valley’s 49ers community, alongside Juan Sanchez and Cesar Cardenas.
The Brownsville-based group formed in 2014 when Bling, his brother, and a friend got together for a late afternoon game only to realize there was a party going on down the street for Dallas Cowboys fans. “There were maybe 20 people with jerseys. We’re in Cowboy country. My brother made a Facebook group so we could find the isolated 49ers fans that are all over the Valley,” he said.
Now, #RGV49ers meets regularly and also organizes events to assist local organizations, giving back to the community as a united front.
According to Bling, they’ve been able to assist Friendship of Women, Neighbors in Need of Service (NINOS), and Good Neighbor Settlement House. The group was also able to work with BISD’s Youth Connection Project to donate backpacks full of school supplies.
The 49ers played their last Superbowl in 2014, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31. The team won their last Superbowl title in 1995. That won’t stop #RGV49ers, which has over 1,000 members, from celebrating on Sunday.
“We only won four games last year. The five years the group has been together, we’ve had some very, very rough seasons in that timespan.”
“We’re going to hang out at…..we’re going to have raffles, we’re going to give prizes away. We’re going big,” said Bling.
Dannie Alvarado, a local bar owner and Pittsburgh Steelers fan, says he’s rooting for Kansas City but will open his doors to friends and fans of all teams for the game this afternoon.
“I was rooting for the Texans but they didn’t make it. I’m going for Kansas City because it would be a great thing to see such a young quarterback win the Superbowl,” he said.
Asked which team he thinks will win the title, he said, “I feel like defense beats offense all the time. The 49ers have a better defense. Kansas City has a better offense. Defense has been proven to beat offense in past Superbowls, so I feel like it might be the 49ers.”
“Everybody is going to be watching. People will come hang out, eat pizza, drink some beer, and enjoy the game. This is a team-neutral zone.”
Another Brownsville-based 49ers fan, Michael Gutierrez, said he plans to host friends and family for a pre-game barbecue before they pack into a room he has dedicated to the 49ers to watch the game.
Gutierrez, who co-owns the Orange Theory gyms in Brownsville and Harlingen, estimated that he’s been a 49ers fan for over 25 years. “My wife and I travel to Santa Clara at least once a year to see a game,” he said, explaining that he became a fan through his brother in his early teens.
The group will be joined by Gutierrez’s five dogs, all of which will be outfitted in jerseys and ready to root on the team.
“San Francisco fans have had a rough five years,” he said, referring to the team’s 2014 Superbowl loss. This year, Gutierrez said he thinks the team has a real shot at winning the game.
“The 49ers have a good running game, a good passing game, and the best defense. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. They have a better offense, some good receivers,” he said, adding that San Francisco will have to keep a close eye on Mahomes throughout the game.