The immovable object that is the NFL has met a new unstoppable force in Taylor Swift, a collision of two worlds that came to prime time Sunday night.
Approximately 40 minutes before the visiting Kansas City Chiefs - featuring Swift’s new beau, tight end Travis Kelce - played a nationally televised game against the New York Jets, the pop star was spotted entering MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That confirmed reports she would spend a second straight week cheering on her favorite NFL player, after Swift made a dramatic appearance in a luxury suite, next to Kelce’s mother, no less, at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
In the first quarter of the game, Swift was shown cheering enthusiastically for a Kansas City touchdown. It was scored by running back Isiah Pacheco, not Kelce, but the “Cruel Summer” singer appeared suitably impressed by the 48-yard effort. Later, Kelce acted as something of a decoy on a touchdown scored by fellow tight end Noah Gray, as the Chiefs took a large early lead that bode well for an enjoyable evening for Swift and the many other Chiefs fans on hand for the road game.
(The Jets ended up turning the contest into a nail-biter, but Kansas City came away with a 23-20 victory. The Chiefs improved to 3-1 on the season — and 2-0 when Swift comes to see them in person.)
At the end of the first quarter, MetLife Stadium featured a “Celebrity Spotlight” segment on the Jumbotron that showcased stars at the game - and notably did not include Swift and her suite of celeb pals while highlighting actors Jeremy Strong and JB Smoove and television personality Carson Daly.
Ratings for last Sunday’s game, in which the Chiefs trounced a dismal Bears team, totaled 24.3 million viewers, becoming the second-most watched game of the young season. With Sunday night’s game suddenly a much hotter draw than it already was, Swift was joined by Hollywood stars such as Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
As Swift arrived at the stadium, a number of Swifties settled into their seats, carrying Taylor-themed signs, wearing friendship bracelets and Eras Tour T-shirts, eager to spot a glimpse of the singer. Some already had tickets to the game; some ran to resale sites as soon as they put two and two together after last week’s game and realized she might be in attendance Sunday. At least one brought a pair of binoculars, hoping that Swift would show up in the suites as she did at last week’s game.
Ticket prices soared from an average of $83 to $119 earlier on Sunday, according to the online marketplace TickPick, presumably because Swifties are pouncing on the chance to see their girl cheer. And NBC found a way to promote the game using, wait for it, a Swift soundtrack.
Sales of Kelce’s No. 87 jersey spiked 400 percent, and Swift’s 367 million followers on Instagram and X have moved into NFL territory, with Travis Kelce gaining over 860,000 followers on Instagram and his brother Jason, the Philadelphia Eagles’ center, adding 137,000. Travis gained more followers in September, when buzz about his relationship with Swift began, than in all three of the Super Bowls in which he has played.
Which brought us to a “Sunday Night Football” game that promised to be more Super Bowl than Week 4 of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers, the Jets’ quarterback whose season ended with a torn Achilles’ in the season opener, was also in attendance. (He might be a bit conflicted, though, given how much he enjoyed dancing at one of Swift’s MetLife shows in May.)
On a break from her blockbuster Eras Tour, which resumes in Buenos Aires next month, Swift took Kelce up last week on his offer to come watch him play. That served as a returning of the favor, after he had seen her perform at Arrowhead in July. Kelce said recently that, after the concert, he tried to give her a friendship bracelet with his phone number on it, but that he was told then she wasn’t interested in speaking with anyone. That left Kelce feeling temporarily demoralized, but clearly events have since taken a turn in his direction.
Swifties may be watching their girl on Sunday, but there will again be some football being played, and the Kelce brothers took some basic football questions from newbs in last week’s episode of their “New Heights” podcast, which drew over 2 million views on YouTube.
The first question of the segment: “What’s a field goal?”
“A field goal is when you kick the ball through the uprights,” Jason said, noting that it’s worth three points. “Why would you want to do that?” Travis asked, adding that “you settle for three points” because “the goal is always to get the ball in the end zone” for a touchdown.
Then the guys were asked to explain what a “down” is.
“When an offense gets the ball, they have four tries to get four downs to get 10 yards,” Jason said. “A down occurs when either someone has been tackled to the ground or the ball has been rendered incomplete unless you get 10 or more yards. Then you get a fresh set of downs and you start over.”
“Every time the ball is snapped, that is a down,” Travis simplified, with Jason adding that “a down is an attempt to get 10 yards and all this is measured by guys with chains.”
And finally, what is the deal with the tight end position, they were asked. “It’s a combo position,” Travis said. “You do a lot of what the offensive linemen do, which are the big fatties like Jason [the Eagles’ center] and then you do what the receivers do.”
Jason stripped that down to its essence: “The tight end basically is a Chippendale’s position.”
In the podcast, Travis noted that his life had changed dramatically before the Sept. 24 game.
“I’m on the roller coaster, man,” he said, “the roller coaster of life.”
And now it’s hurtled into prime time.
Bieler and Boren reported from Washington. Yahr reported from East Rutherford, N.J.