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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a lot to celebrate: his team is once again heading to the Super Bowl, and they just won the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. But his winning streak has been accompanied by scrutiny of his physique.
A shirtless Mahomes congratulated his team in the locker room Sunday night, in a video shared by the NFL, which prompted some online commenters to pass judgment on his fuller body, calling him "bloated" and "fat," and claiming he has a "beer gut." To call Mahomes fat in said photo is a stretch, but the internet moves in incomprehensible ways: GOAT and famous beanpole Tom Brady has suffered the same B.S. in the past.
Mahomes responded in good humor, responding to the video in a tweet, "Yoooo why they have to do me like that!?!?!?" and following it up with a post that read: "Like i got kids!!!!"
In other words: Mahomes is a dad, and therefore he's rocking a dad bod—the term originally coined to describe a thicker male build, and frequently misappropriated to describe typically fit men. Some bigger guys might be annoyed that the phrase "dad bod" is being applied here to literal pro athletes who are playing at the height of their skills, and carrying the weight they need to bring power to their game. But while trolls and tabloids will often invoke "dad bod" as a tacit form of body-shaming, the term should be worn proudly. And Mahomes fans understood that, flooding his mentions this week with affirmation to combat the small proportion of haters.
As one reply put it: "Everyone acting like he’s not more fit than 90 percent of America still."
It's also worth remembering that aesthetics aren't necessarily an accurate indicator of performance, especially for quarterbacks, because that position has historically always been not built around pure athleticism. Mahomes was drafted for his arm and ability to throw from multiple platforms, which doesn't require anything like six-pack abs, ripped pecs, or 6 percent bodyfat.
Just one week earlier, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce brought out his dad bod while watching the Kansas City Chiefs play. He celebrated his brother Travis' touchdown against the Bills by getting shirtless, leaping down from the suite window, and doing a victory lap with the crowd. Photos of Kelce pumping his fists in the air with his belly proudly on display immediately went viral.
Kelce joked afterwards that his wife, Kylie McDevitt, scolded him for whipping off his shirt. Speaking with Travis on their New Heights podcast, he recalled how Kylie had told him to be on his best behavior that night as they were meeting Travis' girlfriend, pop superstar Taylor Swift, for the first time.
"This is part of the Jason Kelce charm," he quipped. And the internet found it very charming indeed. As was the case with Mahomes, there was a small contingent of online haters who felt they had the right to sneer at Kelce's body—but otherwise the response to his triumphant dance has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans decorated celebratory cakes in the Eagle's image and worked Photoshop magic to drop Kelce into various iconic locations around the world, and we even got a mock-up of what a LEGO and Funko Pop version of the shirtless center would look like. (Spoiler: cute as hell, is what.)
Some comments have even suggested that the next Super Bowl half-time show should consist of Swift performing hits from her recent Eras tour while her boyfriend's big brother dances shirtless on-stage—surely the apotheosis of the recent merging of the respective Swift/Kelce brands.
— Funko (@OriginalFunko) January 28, 2024
It was just a funny-but-fleeting viral moment that will inevitably be buried in search results next time anyone in the seemingly unstoppable Kelce family does anything. But it's perhaps noteworthy that rarely did it feel like these jokes were on Jason or his body. If anything, it hinted at a consensus that this is simply what a lot of men look like. And then there were a whole bunch of commentators who were eager to remind everyone that this thicker, hairier body type is actually preferable and more desirable than the leaner athlete physique to a lot of people.
You and @JasonKelce doing more for dad bods than anyone in history. Doing the lord’s work.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 31, 2024
For contrast, when George Kittle shared footage of the shredded San Francisco 49ers Christian McCaffrey and Kyle Juszczcyk basking shirtless in the sun, it made barely a stir on X, née Twitter. Maybe, in a time when practically every male celebrity is expected to have the jacked, rippling body of a Marvel superhero, audiences are becoming desensitized to their appeal. Sure, Jeremy Allen White's Calvin Klein campaign had half the internet barking like dogs, and it's unlikely that the trend of famous men being praised and fawned over for packing on muscle will end any time soon.
But the avid support shown to Mahomes and Kelce marks a refreshing change. Perhaps it's simply that sports fans don't demand the kind of defined physical perfection from NFL players as moviegoers do from screen actors. It could be that this is just Chiefs and Eagles supporters going to bat for their MVPs. Or maybe it's a sign that we are finally making room in our cultural appetite for more than one or two strict male body types, and that after years in the public consciousness, the dad bod is finally taking its rightful spot.
Hardly a sweeping win for body diversity, but a step in the right direction nonetheless. Because plenty of people are already vocal about how they have the hots for the musclebound Hemsworths and the slender Chalamets. It's about time we recognize that men with bellies are hot as hell too.
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