On Saturday night, October 14, season 49 of the Saturday Night Live (SNL) premiered in the United States. The show returned for the first time to the air since the Writers Guild of America strike canceled the final three episodes of season 48 in May, after a six-month hiatus with the strike ending in late September. Although Pete Davidson, a long-time cast member, was the show’s host, the biggest buzz of the night was reserved for the two stars who made surprise cameos: Travis Kelce who appeared in the NFL sketch and Taylor Swift who introduced musical guest Ice Spice. Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift had a perfect night out that included a pre-show dinner date and a post-show after-party. It’s now a well-established fact that Kelce and Swift are an item. Let’s take a look back at what happened over the past month leading up to this Saturday night.
First, a brief introduction of Travis Kelce is in order. Kelce is an American football player for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). The dominance of football in the U.S. professional sports industry is absolute. In 2022, 82 of the top 100 programs in TV ratings were live NFL games. Five of the remaining 18 were college football games. The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most dominant teams at the moment, having won Super Bowls in the 2019 and 2022 seasons. Travis Kelce is a franchise player who has played exclusively for the Chiefs since his professional debut in the 2013 season and is considered one of the greatest tight ends in league history. He has a solid status not only as an athlete but also as a celebrity, and in 2016, he appeared on a dating reality TV show with himself as the main character and hosted SNL in March of this year.
On September 7, Kelce missed the 2023 NFL Kickoff due to injury and his team suffered a defeat. It’s rare for a powerhouse like the Chiefs to lose their opener. On September 12, news broke that Kelce and Swift were secretly dating. This came two months after reports surfaced in July that Kelce unsuccessfully tried to give Swift his number during her Eras Tour held at the home venue of the Chiefs. On September 17, Kelce returned from injury to catch a pass and score a touchdown. At one point in the live broadcast, CBS announcer Ian Eagle said, “Kelce finds a blank space for the score,” a nod to the Grammy winner’s hit single “Blank Space.” Up until that point, it was a fun joke for everyone.
On September 24, Swift was spotted at the Chiefs’ home game cheering on the team joined by Kelce’s and other players’ families. Fox, broadcasting the game, showed Swift’s reaction to every notable play and touchdown of Kelce’s. The game was the most-watched NFL game of the week. Kelce’s jersey sales quadrupled. After the game, they left the field together and rumors of their relationship grew. On October 1, the Chiefs played a road game against the New York Jets. The game was part of Sunday Night Football, an exclusive evening prime-time show that is broadcast live across the United States. Ticket sales for the game spiked with rumors that Swift would be in attendance. This time, instead of Kelce’s family, Swift watched the game with her celebrity friends including Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner, and Hugh Jackman. The ratings for the game were the highest since the last Super Bowl.
The alleged relationship generated conspiracy theories that the romance was either a publicity stunt or fake. At first, even Travis Kelce would joke that they had set everything up. Some pointed out that Swift’s public appearances have been distinctively different from those of the past, where Swift had protected her privacy. As is probably the case with all conspiracy theories, some of the timing was oddly coincidental. In August, Swift wrapped up the North American leg of the Eras Tour in Los Angeles by announcing the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and went on a hiatus. Aside from the Brazil leg of the tour in November, Swift won’t be performing until next February when she will start touring Asia and Europe. Instead, a concert film was set to premiere on October 13. Indeed, Swift’s packed schedule, including the Chiefs’ home game and Sunday Night Football in New York, along with the heightened attention from the giant league that is the NFL, sparked renewed interest in her. The similar goes for Kelce. Although he still has outstanding performances, it is time for tight ends born in 1989 to seriously consider the life after their career. Just in time, Kelce launched season 2 of his podcast, New Heights, with his brother Jason, who is also an American football player. At the height of the rumors, New Heights was number one in Apple Podcast and number two in Spotify Podcast. Needless to say, Kelce’s social media followers skyrocketed.
What is worse than the conspiracy theories took a familiar turn. Barstool Sports’ podcast made a sex joke about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s romance. As actress Rachel Zegler pointed out, “It’s not news that the media is particularly (and unwarrantedly) cruel to Taylor Swift, but the way men feel entitled to speak about women, their bodies and their sex lives needs to be seriously evaluated.” All modern celebrities increase their value by exposing themselves, and Swift is especially known for dropping all sorts of hints to her fans on social media. But that’s no reason for us to repeat the mistakes committed against Britney Spears and other teenage female celebrities.
The couple is skipping over the controversy in a graceful and glorious way. As The New York Times Magazine wrote, “There really is nothing (…) that we the media can offer her, that would help her sell more albums or become better known or more successful or more beloved than she already is.” The Eras Tour film grossed $96 million in its opening weekend, making it the most successful concert film ever. The Eras Tour is certain to become the most successful tour of all time when it wraps up next year. Swift has broken all of Spotify’s daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly records for streaming artists. And what about Kelce? He was already the centerpiece of NFL marketing. Last year’s Super Bowl was between his brother Jason’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Chiefs. People dubbed the game the “Bro Bowl.”
On October 14, SNL’s NFL sketch satirized how the industry was busy talking about Taylor Swift and neglecting the sport itself. When Kenan Thompson, the main character of the sketch, said that when he returned from the commercial break, he would like to talk to someone who actually wanted to talk about football, Kelce made a surprise appearance and screamed, “Yes, please!” On the same day, on their real-life public date, Kelce made it clear what kind of man he was by being caring and protective of Swift. He brings his best to the public world of American football, but also is a good man in his private life. Now, the Chiefs are 5-1. They’ve been winning ever since their first loss. Have you ever seen a pop star scandal where massive success makes it all the more beautiful? This is a case in pop history that you’ve never seen before.
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