May 29, 2024

In case you haven’t heard, football fans are in their Swiftie era, and pop music fans are in their Travis Kelce era amid widespread rumors that the “Speak Now” artist and the Kansas City Chiefs tight end are an item.

Memes, TikTok videos, Instagram reels and timelines dissecting every inch of the celebrities’ rumored love story — from a viral photo of Swift wrapping her arm around Kelce’s neck (gasp!) to the musician’s choice of sauces (ketchup and “seemingly ranch”) while eating chicken fingers at Sunday’s Chiefs game — have dominated the news and social media.

And with Swift reportedly planning to make an encore appearance this weekend at the Jets vs. Chiefs game in New Jersey, there’s no telling what fresh Traylor content (Tayvis content?) awaits us. That’s why we, an entertainment reporter and a sports reporter have gotten together to analyze this game of love. (Sigh, look what you made us do.)

But before we unpack some recent events that have unfolded in the Tayvis universe, let’s review some history.

It all started in July, when Kelce lamented on his “New Heights” podcast that he wasn’t able to meet Swift while attending one of her Eras tour concerts at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. “I was a little bit hurt I didn’t get to hand her one of the bracelets I made for her,” he said at the time.

Since then, cheeky remarks from Kelce’s older brother Jason and his Chiefs teammates (“Please, everybody, stop asking my brother about … my love life,” the younger Kelce jokingly pleaded last week) have fueled the fantasy that the “Lavender Haze” hitmaker and the two-time Super Bowl champion will end up together.

That fantasy came one step closer to reality on Sunday when Swift accepted Kelce’s invitation to watch him play at the same Arrowhead Stadium she recently rocked. The Grammy winner was spotted cheering enthusiastically for the home team alongside the jock’s mother, Donna Kelce.

“Shout out to Taylor for pulling up, that was pretty ballsy,” Travis Kelce said Wednesday on his podcast. “It was awesome how everybody in the suite had nothing but great things to say about her.”

“She looked amazing,” he added. “Everybody was talking about her in a great light and on top of that, the day went perfect for Chiefs fans, of course.”

Now let’s kick off that discussion.

Christi Carras, entertainment reporter: So, Chuck, how does it feel to see Taylor Swift putting Travis Kelce on the map?

Chuck Schilken, sports reporter: Christi, I think you need to calm down (hahahaha! just wanted to get my favorite Taylor Swift song title in here right off the bat). But yeah, I actually have some thoughts on this apparent trend of football fans being triggered by that question.

Carras: LOL. Shake it off, Chuck! But also, say more. (We are of course referring to the TikTok trend in which women ask the male football fans in their life about Taylor Swift putting Travis Kelce “on the map,” causing their gullible targets to lose their minds.)

Schilken: While the phrase “on the map” is kind of vague, overall it’s actually a pretty accurate statement. All football fans know who Travis Kelce is — two-time Super Bowl champion, three Super Bowl appearances, eight Pro Bowls, already considered a future Hall of Famer. And while he’s definitely known by some in wider circles (hosted “Saturday Night Live,” had his own dating show, apparently has his autograph tattooed somewhere on Post Malone), Kelce wasn’t close to being a household name before this.

So any football fan who flies off the handle at a non- or casual football fan suggesting Swift put Kelce “on the map” is basically behaving in the same way many people accuse Swifties of behaving whenever a slight toward their “Anti-Hero” is perceived. Swift has absolutely elevated Kelce several stratospheres in terms of mainstream recognition.

Carras: To your point, I have to admit that as a non-football fan I did not know who Travis Kelce was until this month. You also bring up an interesting comparison between Swifties and football stans. Many would argue — and have argued — that pop music enthusiasts (particularly young women and girls) are often judged harshly for obsessing over their idols, while sports fans don’t receive the same level of scrutiny for obsessing over their favorite teams or players. So it’s fascinating to see how this unexpected crossover has seemingly bridged those two worlds.

Though I will say that I’m sure there were already tons of people in the middle of the Taylor Swift/football fan Venn diagram before this whole thing even started. What do you make of this moment that appears to have taken over every corner of the internet, from Swiftie circles to the NFL’s official TikTok?

Schilken: I am honestly kind of surprised at how much the NFL and its fans are embracing this. Sports fans are notorious for worrying that any positive development in players’ lives will become a dreaded “distraction.” But on Sunday everyone seemed to enjoy the circus, with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid making jokes about it to reporters. (Even New England Patriots coach/super-grouch Bill Belichick chimed in from a distance).

BUT! I can only imagine a completely different scenario if Kelce had a bad game or if the Chiefs, a team with Super Bowl aspirations again this season, had lost or struggled against a horrible Chicago Bears team — it would be like a flashback to the “Jessica Jinx” or “Carrie Curse” labels given to Tony Romo’s high-profile romances with Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood during his playing days with the Dallas Cowboys.

Carras: Ouch! Hoping for Swift’s sake that society has evolved past that misogynistic nonsense. I too have been overwhelmed by the amount of pro-Travis Kelce content I’ve been seeing on my feed — from fancams of him dancing in the end zone, to the tune of Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” to slow-motion videos of him allegedly gazing lovingly at Swift in the stands.

Even the NFL got in on the fun with a hilarious TikTok breaking down the romance rumors and incorporating some pretty clever Swift puns. I feel like I’m getting Travis Kelce-pilled and, honestly, I’m not mad about it? I went back and watched a bunch of clips from his “Saturday Night Live” episode — he has a winning smile and great comedic timing! And I hear he’s pretty good at sports too. So I can see the appeal.

Schilken: Well for me I guess it’s a little different. I did know who Taylor Swift was long before this (as did every other football fan — they are lying if they tell you otherwise). The only songs I know are from the radio and there are a few I really like. But I was also suffering from a bit of Taylor fatigue after this everything-Eras summer. And to be honest, I was even starting to get tired of Travis Kelce, as he and his brother Jason (the Philadelphia Eagles center) and their parents seemed to be the subject of every feature story going into this year’s Super Bowl (which, yes, was dubbed the Kelce Bowl by many) and Travis’ profile had continued to rise all offseason, even before all this.

Both Kelce brothers are very outgoing and have great personalities and without a doubt have their sights set on being the next Manning brothers when their playing careers are over. So I’m sure Travis is glad Swifties approve of him. But I will admit to being a little more than slightly annoyed this week when my feed is full of nothing but Taylor-Travis “news” when I just want to read about football.

Carras: That’s funny — this is the first time I’m hearing the term “Kelce Bowl.” Most people in my orbit referred to this year’s Super Bowl as “the Rihanna concert” (and what a concert it was!). But I can definitely understand the fatigue. I guess most of the countless headlines I’ve seen have focused on their rumored relationship. So I’m sorry but I have to ask, in your professional sports-journalist opinion, do you think Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift are actually dating?

Schilken: YES!!!! I mean, if they’re just a couple of buddies trying to punk everyone for a few laughs, they’ve really put way too much effort into it at this point. Plus, some of Travis’ comments in his podcast with his brother Jason on Wednesday — “What’s real is that it is my personal life and I want to respect both of our lives” — really sound like he’s talking about something more than just a casual friendship.

What do you think?

Carras: I am dying at the level of enthusiasm behind that response. You make some good points — the “personal life” comment definitely made my ears perk up too. But I have to say I am a little skeptical. … I think there’s a decent chance that this Super Bowl champion invited his pop star crush to come watch him play from his VIP suite, and Swift just figured, why not? Sounds like fun. He’s team captain, and she’s on the bleachers. But who knows? Maybe there is something more to it than that.

I will say that Kelce would be a bit of a departure from her recent dating habits — and not just because he’s a pro athlete. She recently got out of a long, relatively low-key relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, who kept details of their romance pretty private. So the fact that Kelce is constantly getting asked about her on his podcast and in interviews — not to mention the NFL milking this moment for all it’s worth and capitalizing on her stardom — that’s a lot of variables for someone as visible as Swift to weigh when considering whether to pursue a relationship with someone in the public eye.

I personally like the idea of them just being two buds supporting each other’s work, but I know a lot of people suspect it’s all just a big PR stunt. What are your thoughts on that theory?

Schilken: Well if it’s a PR stunt, the only one I can see really getting anything out of it is Kelce, just because it has raised his profile in a way that will make him super marketable now and much more recognizable when he’s pursuing his post-NFL projects. I don’t really think the NFL is necessarily milking it — they seem to be doing all right for themselves and I think are just having fun with all this.

And if it is a PR stunt, then I guess it’s like you said and Taylor is just having fun, because I really can’t think of any other way she benefits from this. But I also know she is very good to her fans and can’t imagine she’d lead them on about something this important. That would be cruel — and it’s not even summer anymore.

Carras: OK, OK. I know the NFL isn’t exactly a small local business in need of extra support, but the league is definitely benefiting from all this attention, and it knows it. My colleague Alexandra Del Rosario reported this week that Kansas City ticket sales and Travis Kelce jersey sales have increased significantly amid all the Traylor (Tayvis?) excitement, and much of the buzz I’ve seen about Swift attending Sunday’s game has been filtered through official NFL channels. Heck, a prominent NFL announcer made a “Blank Space” joke before Swift was even spotted at one of Kelce’s games.

But I digress (steps down from soap box). I agree that Swift doesn’t really have much to gain from this from a publicity standpoint — but I’m sure her team will nonetheless enjoy any bump in preorders for her upcoming album, “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” and box-office revenue for her Eras tour concert movie, both debuting next month.

I actually did put out a request to a music data analytics firm because I’m curious whether Swift’s streaming numbers have noticeably spiked in recent weeks. While we await the official results, it’s kind of fun to guess which Swift tracks have been streamed the most in this moment. What do you think the standouts will be?

Schilken: Hmmm. I would think Chiefs fans who are not super familiar with Swift’s catalog might be scanning the list to see if there’s anything that might provide some insight into what their beloved tight end might be experiencing at this moment of (alleged) blossoming romance.

Since Taylor does have a song simply called “Love Story” (in multiple versions, no less), that might be a good place to start, maybe followed by “You Belong With Me” and “Lover.” And then, the Kansas City fans might look for some breakup songs (“I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” seem like obvious choices) just to see how that might go for their guy if the (alleged) relationship doesn’t work out.

But I know you have a much greater knowledge of her music than I do. What do you think the top picks might be and do you have any recommendations for curious Chiefs fans who might not be all that familiar with her work?

Carras: All great picks! I have seen “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” referenced a lot recently (Swift falls in love with a football player in the music video for the latter), so I think you’re probably right on target there. A slightly deeper cut from her early career, the sentimental ballad “Fifteen,” has also gained some traction because of the lyric “In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team.”

And of course, “Cruel Summer” — one of the opening numbers from her sold-out Eras tour — has been having somewhat of a renaissance and has been the soundtrack of many a Travis Kelce TikTok floating around the internet. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that one got a streaming boost as well.

As far as recommendations go, her catalog is full of so many bops that it’s hard to choose. However, the thought of a whole stadium of Kansas City fans belting the lyrics to the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” (a la Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” becoming the unexpected anthem of the Boston Red Sox) and exchanging friendship bracelets is so entertaining that I’m inclined to leverage this opportunity to manifest it. Perhaps my wildest dreams will come true at this Sunday’s game — isn’t Swift rumored to be planning to attend?

Schilken: Yes, she is. But it’s a road game for the Chiefs, so Swift’s love story (sorry, I’m at the point in my Taylor knowledge where I need to start recycling song titles) with home fans in Kansas City will have to be put on hold. That’s not to say, of course, that New York Jets fans and the “Sunday Night Football” camera operators aren’t going to be thrilled to have the pop icon in their presence at MetLife Stadium. And maybe NBC will have better luck than Fox, which reportedly tried and failed to get Swift’s permission to use her music during the Chiefs-Bears game.

Carras: Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 — er, I mean I’m certainly planning on tuning in to find out.

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