This will be a big weekend for legendary actor Henry Winkler.
He finishes shooting Season 4 of the award-winning TV show “Barry” on Friday, then heads to SoFi Stadium to watch the Chiefs play the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
While admittedly not what you’d describe as a die-hard football fan, Winkler is as big a supporter of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as you’ll find.
“It’s something, and they talk about Josh Allen and all the other great guys, the young guy from Florida (Tua Tagovailoa),” Winkler said Wednesday in a phone interview. “Patrick, you can just see his brain thinking, ‘How do I get into that end zone?’ He walks and is thinking; you don’t see a lot of jokes going on.
“He’s so locked into it, ‘How do I get to the finish line? Hmm. Those big people are over there, I think I’ll go over here.’ And then – boom – like a cobra.”
Winkler, who turned 77 last month, was on “The Rich Eisen Show” earlier this year and interrupted the host’s question about “Barry” to inquire about Mahomes, whom Winkler called his hero. When Eisen said he’s met Mahomes and watches the show sometimes, Winkler turned and addressed Mahomes directly, inviting him to dinner.
A few months later, Mahomes was on “The Rich Eisen Show” and said he would invite Winkler to a game the next time the Chiefs were in Los Angeles. Well, that’s Sunday, and Winkler will be in a room at SoFi with his sons Max and Jed, along with son-in-law Rob Reinis, thanks to Mahomes.
Unfortunately, Mahomes won’t have time for that dinner.
“It’s not going to happen, but the invitation is open,” Winkler said. “At the drop of a hat, the chicken will be whipped into shape. But because it came from Rich Eisen laughing, I wanted to somehow communicate with Patrick, and maybe a friend of his watched that show and (said) to him, that’s what happened.”
It’s an unusual road where Winkler will be watching Mahomes in person for the first time.
While Winkler isn’t planning his week around NFL games, Mahomes has seen enough to know the Chiefs quarterback is something special.
“On Sundays, my youngest son Max, sometimes my oldest son Jed and some of their friends come and watch (football) or I watch by myself,” Winkler said. “I enjoyed it very much. I don’t always understand it. And I’m drawn to the technique, how great a person plays.
“And now I’m watching all these people and it’s not that I’m surprised by other players, but when you watch Mr. Mahomes play, it’s no nonsense. There is a man who is so thick. The subtlety, the inventive nature of his abilities – he has captured my imagination.”
Mahomes has a reputation for adapting to what defenses give him, which means he will sometimes adjust on a called play. Sometimes that means giving up running. Other times, he will scramble and spend on the run.
It is the equivalent of an actor improvising sports.
“In structure comes freedom,” said Winkler, who starred as The Fonz on “Happy Days,” and was in “Arrested Development,” “The Waterboy” and many other projects during his five decades as an actor. “So all the guys who play football know exactly what it is, all those complicated plays and where they go and what they do and the trickery and everything else. And then inside that structure comes a person like Pádraig, who is not only able to do it, but who, in the moment, in the absolutely magical second when he has to slow down time in his brain, he is able to create still there. another piece with an already established play. That is just amazing to watch.
“There are actors who can make a moment between two moments that you would never think existed. You can’t even slip a piece of loose-leaf paper in between the traditional and then the improv. Do you understand me? I have seen it on stage. You know, there’s a similarity.”
That respect for Mahomes’ abilities led Winkler to ask Eisen if he knew the Chiefs quarterback. Winkler wanted to tell Mahomes how much he loves what the Chiefs quarterback does on the football field.
Indeed, it is morally necessary for Winkler, who also wrote more than three dozen children’s books with Lin Oliver.
“I praise God, I really believe that if somebody is doing whatever it is, great, you have to mention it,” Winkler said. “You have to tell them, ‘Yes, it flew all the way through the wire, through the waves, into my house, into my brain and made me happy. And I think you have to let the person know, and you don’t know if they know. You have no idea if they’re going to see it.”
Those who know how Winkler feels about Mahomes are Chiefs fans. They regularly respond to Winkler when he tweets after a game. He noted the “heat” when Chiefs fans respond to him on social media.
On Sunday, WINkler will join many of those Chiefs fans, who have been known to show up at SoFi Stadium for games against the Chargers.
Although there won’t be a dinner at his house, Winkler is hoping to greet his hero.
“I don’t know if I’m going to meet him,” Winkler said. “I know that Mrs. Mahomes is pregnant and will not be traveling. So I know they can’t come to my house for dinner. But if I can, I’ll proudly post it on Twitter dog days it seems.”