Take a surreal merger of disparate worlds, a fusion of compelling forces at the zenith of their games and fame, and you get the sensory overload that was Week One of the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce saga.
Transport the spectacle to the media capital of the world, or mere miles from it in New Jersey, and you step into a portal to another dimension.
Already an international sensation in about any language you can conjure, the budding relationship between the pop icon and the Chiefs’ superstar tight end engaged the full hysteria treatment: paparazzi on the stakeout at the Chiefs’ hotel and Swift’s New York City townhouse, local media outlets chasing down their whereabouts all weekend, gossip from exclusive unnamed sources.
(No, as a matter of fact, Kelce didn’t violate curfew and didn’t spend the night at her place.)
Yes, we were there to write about the Chiefs, but processing this dynamic has become entwined with that now. And figuring an essential part of this job is to take you where you don’t get to go and, perhaps loftily, write the rough drafts of history, this has morphed into something more than just incidental background.
The out-of-body experience was amplified on Sunday with NBC contouring its Chiefs-Jets broadcast production to the legion of so-called Swifties tuning in at MetLife Stadium, where Swift arrived with friends including Hugh Jackman, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
Considering Kansas City’s own Paul Rudd was there, too, that meant the beautiful people in the audience included at least three former People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” selections.
That’s a stray realization that I can’t believe I just typed. But as I find myself drawn into sorting out what this means and where it’s all going, that got me thinking ... this: Perhaps a future candidate is a certain hip-swiveling Saturday Night Live host with an infinitely popular podcast — the only place he’s spoken publicly in recent weeks.
Certainly, the Swift-infused clamor has made him the current center of attention for the Chiefs. One minor but telling example: When he was warming up before the game near Patrick Mahomes, cameras on the field were zooming in not on the two-time NFL and two-time Super Bowl MVP but on Kelce.
Honestly, I didn’t want or mean to start getting consumed with this. In one sense, it’s a mere sideshow from what we’re following.
Also, about all I’ve known about Swift to this point is she’s a cultural icon as a 12-time Grammy award winner who performs amazing marathon shows. But I sure appreciate how she resonates with so many and the curiosity and energy this cross-cultural relationship sparks.
Turn on a computer, or turn on the TV, and chances are it’s coming your way in 3-2-1 some way or another. It certainly was in New York.
Not just in obvious hot spots such as the back cover of the New York Post, which summed up the Chiefs’ 23-20 victory as a “Cruel Bummer” and added, “Heartbreak for valiant Jets as Taylor looks on.”
Heck, in the cab on the way to LaGuardia Airport on Monday morning, a CNBC video about Swift and Kelce and his through-the-stratosphere jersey sales suddenly popped on.
A woman next to me on the NYC subway the other day was scrolling and scrolling through her phone for something, anything, about them.
And at the airport on Monday, my wife, Cindy, overheard a Chiefs fan skeptically asking another just how long she’s been a Chiefs fan and wrote on Facebook, “So it’s come to this.”
Indeed, it’s not hard to understand how the delirium might inspire some competitive fandom.
Or perhaps even annoyance over the space this is taking up relative to the Chiefs per se.
To that end, I like another parallel thought Cindy had about the mixed feeling of your favorite indie or otherwise under-the-radar band getting discovered and lighting up the charts.
It’s all relative, of course. It’s not like the Chiefs were some secret before.
So for me this tracks a bit with the feeling of seeing Bruce Springsteen go from rock star to megaforce with the Born In The USA release and tour.
Suddenly, everybody wanted to be a part of something Springsteen fans kind of liked having more to ourselves.
Then again, well, it was pretty cool that everybody suddenly was into something you were onto before.
Maybe some Chiefs fans are experiencing that sort of conflicted feeling now.
Still, here’s the thing when you get right down to it: What’s not to enjoy about this?
However long it might last or whatever direction it goes, there is something simply fun and appealing about what it is right here, right now.
No doubt the radiant Swift’s connection with the widely appealing Kelce is inspiring a new frontier of interest in the Chiefs — and surely in Kansas City itself. And it comes at a fascinating time in the evolution of the city.
Among other signs of a city on the move in the wake of the new KCI terminal opening a few months ago, the 2026 World Cup looms and the KC Current are building the first dedicated professional sports stadium for a women’s team scheduled to open in early 2024.
Some kind of synergy comes from all that stirred in with the pulsating image forged these last few years by the Chiefs and Mahomes, himself an internationally renowned figure, as they now aspire to become the first NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls in nearly two decades.
If the Chiefs, as we’ve written before, already were the “it” team in the NFL, the multiplier impact from the Swift factor is practically unfathomable in terms of television ratings, social media engagement, ticket interest and pricing and, to be sure, page views around the world.
Maybe that’s why I’ve heard from skeptics who dismiss this as a marketing ploy and from others who assume some disruptive distraction for the team bubbling up from this.
Call me naive, but I don’t believe this is contrived or concocted. Or that the Chiefs under Andy Reid are susceptible to internal issues stemming from this: As outsized as Kelce’s personality can be, he also respects Reid’s authority and all he’s done to set him on this track.
Plus, well, after Swift’s appearance at the Bears game, Reid (playfully) said he was the one who set them up.
On his “New Heights” podcast with brother Jason last week, Kelce said Reid had met Swift’s family when he was coaching the Eagles. As for the setup premise, Kelce joked, “Who knew Cupid was so big?”
Who knew, too, that this would become so big?
But that’s entertainment — a galaxy they share more than ever even if they come from different worlds.