Taylor Swift takes over the NFL


Two weeks ago, many NFL fans tuned to Sunday’s action and found that most of their regular coverage had been replaced by TMZ, giving them regular updates on pop superstar Taylor Swift’s reactions from a luxury box at Arrowhead Stadium, as her new special friend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, played in the game before her. To judge from the breadth, depth, and intensity of the coverage on what had previously been sports programming, this was the single most newsworthy event since the sinking of the Titanic.

The National Football League had become a wholly owned subsidiary of Taylor Swift Pop Culture Enterprises Inc.

Swift is apparently now dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. I know this because NBC News published a helpful timeline, starting with how the dating rumors started, to the pop star’s appearance at Sunday’s Chiefs game against the Chicago Bears. (This is separate from the “hype timeline” brought to you by ESPN.)

Good for Swift and Kelce. I hope it works out for them. If they hit it off, you could easily envision Swift soon performing a jazzy remake of “Kansas City, Here I Come.” If they don’t, I’m sure Swift will find inspiration for yet another breakup anthem that will go multi-platinum. She’ll probably title it, “This Ain’t It, Chief.”

But I do think there’s something fascinating in the way that the Fox Sports game coverage focused on Swift’s attendance, the near-obsessive coverage on ESPN (“Every Taylor Swift moment as she cheers on Travis Kelce and Chiefs”), and CBS Sports feeling the need to let me know that “Kelce rented out an entire Kansas City restaurant to hold a private party for Swift and his teammates.” Sports Illustrated felt obligated to let us know “Taylor Swift Appeared to Yell a Loud F-Bomb After Travis Kelce’s TD, and Fans Loved It.” USA Today made sure we could watch videos of the couple first walking out of the stadium together after the game, then driving away in a convertible.

There are stalkers who give people more space than this.

A CNN opinion columnist warned, “at the end of the day, whether or not Swift and Kelce are actually dating, the boys and men who consume sports media have ingested some incredibly harmful messaging about entitlement, consent and how to get the girl.”

Oh, also, the Chiefs won the game, 41–10.

Here’s the headline at The Athletic: “Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes dominate struggling Bears with Taylor Swift in attendance.”

It’s as if TMZ or Entertainment Tonight took over the sports journalism world. The NFL is usually a pretty darn big deal, far and away the most popular and most-watched team sport in the country. But then Kelce, probably the second-most famous player on the defending Super Bowl champions after quarterback Patrick Mahomes, started dating one of the most popular pop stars in the world, and the sports media world just broke. This past weekend, the NFL became the backdrop for saturation celebrity relationship coverage. I’m pretty sure Mahomes was joking when he told Erin Andrews that he felt pressure to make Kelce look good for all of the Taylor Swift fans watching the game.

As our Abigail Anthony noted, USA Today had a job opening for “Taylor Swift Reporter” who can “quench an undeniable thirst for all things Taylor Swift with a steady stream of content across multiple platforms.” Swift is a one-woman news cycle, and one-woman economic force with her concert tour. (Between the last leg of her ongoing concert tour and the next one scheduled for 2024, Swift’s tour could gross $2.2 billion in North American ticket sales alone.)

It’s as if the sports media world decided, en masse, to try to glom onto the teeming millions of Swift fans to expand their already-considerable audience. That’s their right, but there’s got to be some percentage of football fans, even Kansas City Chiefs fans, who don’t particularly care who Kelce is dating and just want the down and the distance. This isn’t Swift-bashing, it’s just wondering why coverage of a football game has to get swept away by the endless Category 5 Hurricane of Taylor Swift coverage.

Is there some sports channel that’s interested in prioritizing the coverage of . . . you know, sports? If Swift becomes a regular attendee of Chiefs games, could we do something like ESPN’s ManningCast, where a separate feed gives the Swifties the coverage of her reactions that they’re craving, and the rest of us can just watch the game?

In a column under the headline, “Who cares if Taylor Swift is dating NFL star Travis Kelce? After Sunday’s game, everyone,” Arizona Republic columnist Bill Goodykoontz declared, “We are a nation obsessed.”

I can hear a lot of people thinking, “What do you mean, ‘we’?” Are “we” obsessed, or is the media obsessed with the notion that we’re obsessed?

CNN declares, “It seems everyone is a Swiftie these days.”

Okay, but is it actually that way?

Did anyone ask you if you wanted saturation coverage of a couple that will inevitably get nicknamed “Tay-ce”?

I hope all of you enjoyed NBC Sports’ coverage of Taylor Swift attending a football game last night. In the fourth quarter when the game was tied, NBC Sports’ sideline correspondent Melissa Stark felt the need to update viewers on the fact that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce gained a lot of new Instagram followers because of his new relationship with Swift. Meanwhile, on the field, the Jets came back from down 17-0 to tie the game 20-20, and Zach Wilson had the game of his life, before two very debatable late penalties sealed the deal for the Chiefs. A conspiracy? Look, the league loves the Swift–Kelce storyline, loves the ratings and the revenue, and it couldn’t have the defending Super Bowl champs losing to the Jets and Wilson with Swift in attendance on Sunday Night Football. A Jets win would have started talk that Swift is the Yoko Ono of the Chiefs.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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