KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With offseason workouts in full bloom, Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray and rookie Kevin Hogan have formed a tight bond.
They train together, after all, and are rarely far from each other on the practice field. When not on the field, the quarterbacks spend time in the meeting room going over the playbook and dissecting film.
Monday mornings, however, are devoted to breaking down another area outside of football.
That is when the four quarterbacks of Chiefs Kingdom enter the Seven Kingdoms to join millions of everyday people to analyze Sunday night episodes of HBO’s Emmy award-winning smash hit, Game of Thrones.
“Huge fan, all the QBs watch,” Smith said. “Hogan is the only one who reads the books, though, so shocker for a Stanford guy.”
For his part, Hogan became enthralled with the TV program early in college.
“I started watching the show my freshman year, I think it was Season 2 or 3 by then,” he said. “And then last summer I decided to read the books, read all five of them probably summer into winter.”
The rookie signal caller said he and his quarterback teammates dedicate time on Mondays to recap the show and offer theories on what could happen next. Hogan has also enjoyed watching Bray, who wasn’t available for this story, get swept away in the Game of Thrones mania.
“I think he got caught up all five seasons in a week and a half,” Hogan said. “It was fun watching him kind of go through and his reactions to each of the major things that happened throughout the show.”
Meanwhile, Hogan isn’t entirely alone in reading the novels to better understand the TV show.
Murray said he read the first three books, which he admits proved a challenge because of the vivid detail, which could include numerous pages dedicated to describe a room in a castle.
“It’s a tough read, it’s a good read,” he said. “If you’re a huge fan, I would suggest reading it because it definitely gives you more than what the show does.”
Game of Thrones, which premiered on HBO in 2011, is one of cable TV’s top-rated shows and the most-watched show in HBO history. Season 6 has drawn an average of 7.53 million viewers, according to Nielson ratings, and that doesn’t take streaming into consideration.
The program’s influence extends beyond the U.S. border, where it is a pop-culture global phenomenon.
Based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the show is headquartered in Ireland with filming locations that include Northern Ireland, Malta and Croatia, among other countries.
From character growth, royal betrayal, action-packed scenes to moments of romance, Game of Thrones offers numerous storylines to appeal to the masses.
“Certainly, with it, I think it’s kind of the complexity,” Smith said. “A lot of characters, big plot going on, a lot of stuff going on, a chance to kind of enter a different world for even me and my wife. We both watch it a lot. We watch together and it’s fun.”
Murray agreed on the plotlines, adding he especially enjoys how long-developing stories are starting to merge.
“I think it’s just amazing something that happened in Season 1 can connect now to Season 6,” Murray said. “How they’re able to think that far in advance is kind of crazy to me. So, being able to follow all the storylines is exciting and also no one is safe.”
Devoted fans of the show will understand the third-year quarterback’s last point.
A review of Season 1’s opening credits depicts actors and actresses long gone and the show’s willingness to kill off main characters quickly commands attention.
“I think we saw in Season 1 when Ned Stark dies, this is a show unlike any other,” Hogan said. “It keeps people interested because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The show’s popularity isn’t limited to the quarterbacks in the Chiefs locker room.
Center Mitch Morse and Murray come together every Sunday to watch the program, alternating viewing locations between respective residences.
Morse and Murray discovered a mutual affinity for the Game of Thrones while training together in Atlanta during the offseason. The two started off watching TV shows, such as House of Cards, during downtime and Murray’s curiosity set the wheels in motion for a two-person watch party.
“He asked, ‘What other shows do you like?’ and I go, ‘I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan,’ and then he went nuts,” Morse said. “We watched it every weekend. Much like the plays in the film, we bounced stuff back at each other what we think, constructive criticism, stuff like that. It was pretty fun. It’s just an escape.”
Morse, a self-professed “bigger fan” of The Lord of the Rings movies and books, said he prefers TV shows with complex storylines and characters played by quality actors and actresses.
The second-year pro didn’t have to search far after finding HBO’s program.
“I think the emphasis on detail is really cool in Game of Thrones,” Morse said. “They really take their time, the actors are really dedicated even if you watch anything outside of that, they’re really dedicated to their craft and I respect that.”
With so many actors and actresses representing characters from seven kingdoms, it could become difficult to identify a favorite.
That scenario, however, wasn’t the case for the Chiefs quarterbacks and Morse when solicited to name their preferred character.
“Jon Snow and Daenerys, for sure, the Mother of Dragons, those are my two favorites,” Murray said. “Oh, and Tyrion, definitely. I mean, Tyrion is hilarious and just so smart. Those three are probably my top three.”
Smith named Tyrion as his favorite character, while Hogan, who said he views Daenerys as “kind of a villain,” agreed with Murray on Tyrion and Snow, adding the latter character’s moral foundation proves especially appealing.
“I think he has a lot of honor,” Hogan said. “He wants to do what’s right and he’s a great fighter and warrior.”
Add Morse to the list of fans of Snow and Tyrion, both of whom he categorized as “awesome” and “studs.”
But there is another character the Chiefs center has thoroughly enjoyed watching since the first season.
“I even like Arya Stark,” Morse said. “I think she’s a little badass.”
“I’m a big fan of Arya,” he said. “She’s a little ball of fire and I think her story is going to get even better.”
In the meantime, Game of Thrones has two episodes remaining in Season 6.
While a seventh season is confirmed, it will likely debut in the spring of 2017 if HBO stays the course of season premieres. A spring unveiling signals the program won’t compete with ratings against the NFL, which also has a wide-reaching audience.
But what would happen if Game of Thrones ever went head-to-head against an NFL game in a battle for viewers? Who wins?
“Depends on who’s playing,” Hogan said with a chuckle. “Honestly, I think that it’s such a worldwide phenomenon that the Game of Thrones would probably have more viewers.”
Morse agreed emphatically.
“Game of Thrones, for sure,” he said.