Advertisement

I was (kind of) with Taylor Swift when her boyfriend’s team won the Super Bowl

A fan holds a sign reading "I'm here for Travis and Taylor" at the Super Bowl.
A fan holds a sign for Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce before the NFL Super Bowl LVIII game between the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)
Share

When I asked to cover this year’s Super Bowl, my goal was to get as close to the Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce magic as possible.

I had no idea I would be standing right in front of Swift when the Kansas City Chiefs scored the winning touchdown in overtime.

Before the fourth quarter began, I staked out a seat at a table near her suite. As the game went into overtime, more and more security personnel began amassing. The second the Chiefs scored their final touchdown, I was walking down a nearby staircase and there, less than a foot in front of me, was Taylor Swift. It was mayhem. Fans were holding up their phones and documenting Ice Spice, Keleigh Teller and Blake Lively all embracing Swift in a moment of sheer celebration. Swift wrapped her arms around Teller, jumped up and down, gave long hugs and kisses to her posse. “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled came on, and she began gyrating her hips to the music.

Suddenly, she was pulled to the back of the suite. I ran up the stairs and waited for her to emerge. She was clutching Donna Kelce’s arms, still giving off a “What the hell just happened vibe?” Jason and Ed Kelce followed behind, and they all took a freight elevator down to the field.

Ears ringing, I stood in the empty hallway. Just like Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, I had accomplished what I came here for. And here is how it happened:

I’d spent the week in Las Vegas tracking all things Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. I asked him a non-football question at a news conference filled with sports journalists, went to the NFL’s version of the Oscars and even went to a strip club that offered the couple a $1-million package to stop by on Sunday.

But today is different. Today we may actually gain proximity to Swift herself. I have dozens of friendship bracelets, a comfortable pair of sneakers and my eagle eye. Follow along as I bring you all the Swelce news I can find.

9:30 a.m: The earliest media buses depart Mandalay Bay at 10:30 a.m.; my colleagues and I decide to arrive as early as possible just in case. As luck would have it, the driver decides to leave an hour early, getting us on the road to Allegiant Stadium with plenty of time to spare.

Advertisement

The drive to the stadium isn’t long — five minutes, tops. We could walk, but there are so many security barricades that the best course of action is to go the official route. It’s so early that there’s still not a lot of action on the streets outside the stadium — no one has set up makeshift T-shirt stands or food carts yet.

Ed Kelce, the father of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, talks about how life has been since Taylor Swift started dating his son.

Feb. 10, 2024

9:35 a.m: Aaaaand we’re here. The only other people in the line to have their bags checked are stadium workers, decked out in official jackets.

Allegiant Stadium opened in 2020 and it’s still got that shiny and bright sheen to it. The second-most expensive stadium in the world ($1.9 billion), it crouches around its 65,000 seats, reflecting the growing swarm around it. I’ve heard some compare it to the Death Star, but I’m into it. I’ve never been to a non-college football game before. (I know. Life is unfair.) Still, the tunnels look familiar to me — not only because I’ve been to concerts in other stadiums but because, obviously, these are exactly the kind of halls we’ve seen Swift walking down this season on her way to her seats.

10 a.m.: My credential gives me access to the service level, which is where a lot of the action seems to take place. There are boxes of doughnuts and huge bags of popcorn ready to be rolled to the concession stands. Big red bags with Kansas City Chiefs logos are stacked outside of the locker room. And at the end of a long walkway is a huge open-air garage, where the buses dropping off the players are set to arrive. I decide to post up here, hoping to catch a glimpse of Kelce in his pre-game fit.

11:37 a.m.: The NFL camera crew starts shifting their gear onto their shoulders, indicating something might be happening soon. It’s been colder than I expected in Vegas this week — today’s high is predicted to be 54 degrees — and it’s at least 15 degrees cooler in this dark, windy garage. So I’m really hoping Kelce steps off the bus. Alas, while a handful of KC players arrive — including Patrick Mahomes, in his trademark suit — Kelce isn’t among them.

Love is in the air and the bars and the strip clubs as the Super Bowl countdown begins.

Feb. 10, 2024

Advertisement

11:58 a.m.: We have our first celebrity garage-sighting: Post Malone, who is singing “America the Beautiful” before the game today. He walks by leisurely, only to emerge with his posse a few times again shortly later, his guitar strapped around his neck. Reba McEntire, who is decked out in a fur coat I wish I was wearing, also arrives in time to get ready to sing the national anthem.

12:40 a.m: With less than thee hours until kickoff, Kelce has arrived — and he walks right past me. He’s looking remarkably shiny, dressed in what Vogue says is a sequin suit he had custom made for the occasion by Amiri. He’s wearing sunglasses and betrays no emotion as he struts in. “All right, Trav,” a woman next to me shouts. “Alright nah,” he responds, using his signature catchphrase from the “New Heights” podcast.

1 p.m.: A kind security guard has told me that all “friends and family” will be coming through this entrance, and I’m hoping that includes Swift. But my phone is at 15%, and I don’t want it to die before she comes, so I decide to chance it and book it up to the press box to grab my charger.

1:17 p.m.: A fellow reporter downstairs texts me that he sees some commotion coming from the side where the 49ers entered the stadium. (I’ve been on the Chiefs side.) I rush downstairs, until a slew of texts arrive on my phone: She’s here. And I missed her. How could this happen to me?

My colleague Sam Farmer caught some of the action and says she came in with Blake Lively, Ice Spice and her mother, Andrea.

The only thing that makes me feel slightly better is that she came in across the parking garage, far from my eye-line, and those close to her were apparently instructed by security to keep their phones down. That’s probably because the only ones who ended up getting a clear shot of her were the NFL cameras.

I missed this chance, but I will not give up. I have at least five hours left under the same roof as T.Swift.

Taylor Swift’s lucky number is 13. Does this mean the Chiefs are winning Super Bowl LVIII? Look at our stats to find out why the Chief’s should win it all.

Feb. 11, 2024

1:30 p.m.: Back out in the sunshine, fans have started to trickle in. I spot a telltale sign of a Swiftie: A pink glittering heart painted around her eye, just like Swift rocked on her “Lover” album. It’s Sloan Moyer, 11, a Kansas City resident who found out last week her dad had surprised her and her family with tickets to the game. They’re big fans of the Chiefs and go to all the home games, but Sloan loves Swift the most. She’s been to three home concerts and supports her idol’s new romance. “I think it’s a good idea. I hope it moves on,” she said giddily. “I just love supporting her. I would, like, probably start crying or something if I saw her.”

Advertisement
A girl poses with Super Bowl merch
Sloan, 11, came from Kansas City with her family to cheer on the Chiefs — and Taylor Swift. She’s rocking a “Lover”-themed heart around her eye.
(Amy Kaufman/Los Angeles Times)

1:45 p.m.: There are a handful of booths surrounding the stadium, selling standard Super Bowl merch and overpriced sodas. But Hunt Auctions catches my eye because they have a bunch of unique-looking memorabilia. I immediately ask Gary Reibsane, who is putting out the gear, to point out the Kelce items. He’s got six helmets signed by #87 on display ($925 to $1,150) plus his jersey ($975) and a photo signed by both Mahomes and Kelce ($2,850.) How do they get the stuff signed? “We buy it in bulk from the autograph sellers,” Reibsane says. I ask if he thinks he’ll sell out of all of the Kelce items today. “Oh, this isn’t everything out there — there’s back-stock,” he grins.

An autographed Kelce jersey.
A jersey signed by Kelce is going for $975 at a booth outside Allegiant Stadium.
(Amy Kaufman / Los Angeles Times)
An autographed Kansas City helmet.
Hunt Auctions is selling a variety of autographed Kelce helmets outside the stadium. This one goes for $925.
(Amy Kaufman / Los Angeles Times)

2:20 p.m.: It’s nearing game time, and I’ve yet to head to the press box. I head up to find my two colleagues from the sports section, Gary Klein and Sam Farmer, ready with binoculars for me to borrow. As it turns out, Swift is posted in a box directly across the stadium from us, and we can see her if we just use the special lenses.

It’s weird to be trying to catch a glimpse of her this way instead of anxiously waiting for the TV to pan to her during a telecast at home. But knowing she’s 150 yards or so away from me is a different feeling altogether. My co-workers and I try to calculate when might be best to try to head over and catch a glimpse of her IRL instead of through the binoculars. I don’t feel comfortable revealing my strategy here, but let’s say I will not be remaining in the press box for this entire game.

Advertisement

4 p.m.: With the first quarter over, I decided to see if I could get closer to Swift’s suite. (Also, the food in the press box included “Jackpot dogs” that I was warned had an “explosive payout,” so I wanted to peruse the offerings outside.) Less than five minutes later, I was in the area that houses the nicest boxes. Most had at least one security guard posted outside, but outside one door three men wearing blazers stood stoically taking in the scene. Nearby two young women — one in an 87 jersey — were staring at the door, alongside a man with a long-lens camera and another wearing a USA Today press pass. This had to be it, though there are bathrooms in the suites, meaning she wouldn’t have to exit until she was leaving the stadium.

I asked the young women in the jerseys if they were Swifties, gave them my card and explained my mission: that I, too, was here for Taylor and Travis. We started to chat until their mom interjected: “Do not talk to her,” she warned.

5:30 p.m.: Swift isn’t the only star I’m on the lookout for. The giant screens overhead keep showing celebs all over the stadium, so I decide to wander again. It doesn’t take long to spot another huge camera lens, so I look where it’s pointing and there’s LeBron James behind the glass wall of a suite. On the opposite aisle appears to be Michael Rubin’s box, where Justin Bieber, Quavo, Ciara, Russell Wilson and Zack Bia were guests. Rubin, the founder of Fanatics, hosts one of the biggest Super Bowl parties in Vegas. I covered its red carpet yesterday, because no press is allowed inside the actual bash (there were six checkpoints just to get to the red carpet). There I talked to TikTok star Alix Earle and her boyfriend, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Braxton Berrios, about post-game etiquette — especially if your partner is coming off a loss. “I think she’s probably a little bit quieter if we win than if we lose,” he said with a laugh. “If we lose, we talk about it immediately. She has questions, she wants to know what happened, what went wrong.”

6:20 p.m.: I ran into Curtis Unfried again — the guy who spent 400 Canadian dollars on a custom Kelce-Swift suit. The Winnipeg native says he’s had an eventful few days; he wound up partying with his Canadian idol Wayne Gretzky on Saturday. At the game today, Dina and Mita — Jenna Ortega’s fictional grandmothers in a Doritos commercial — spotted him and liked his suit so much that he said they asked him to film something for their next ad. TBD if that makes it to air, but either way, Unfried already feels like his $12,000 ticket was well worth it.

7:40 pm: OK, guys, an admission: I ACTUALLY WALKED RIGHT BY TAYLOR SWIFT EARLIER. I didn’t want other stadiumgoers to swarm, which is why I did not report what happened in real time. I wandered down to the suite level, noted a few members of security and hung a left down some stairs. Suddenly Lana Del Rey was in front of me. I’d seen footage of Swift reaching down to greet her “Snow on the Beach” collaborator earlier, so I knew Swift couldn’t be far. I turned around and there she was, talking to Ice Spice and wearing a sparkly 87 around her necklace. She had her hands over her mouth and was looking at the field pensively. I filmed a quick video of her and then stopped. But I knew the end of the game could provide a whole other level of excitement.

I was right.

Advertisement