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Column: Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce is the cliché queen-football star romance that America loves

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift embrace on the field after the AFC championship game.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)
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The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers have become secondary characters in the game they’ll be playing Sunday, which at this point might as well be rebranded as the Taylor Swift Bowl.

There are people who are upset about how much Swift has been shown on television this season cheering on her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, which, in turn, has upset others who wonder how anyone could be offended by the pop star’s presence.

The debate over whether Swift positively or negatively influences football was for the most part settled when Apex Marketing Group estimated she had generated $331 million in brand value for the Chiefs and the NFL.

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That didn’t stop the flood of Swift-related story lines, of course.

Taylor Swift wears a Kansas City Chiefs sweatshirt and waves from a luxury box at a football game.
Taylor Swift has been regularly attending Chiefs games in support of boyfriend Travis Kelce.
(Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

When the Chiefs won the AFC championship game, American Airlines added flights from Kansas City to the Super Bowl host city of Las Vegas and back. The flights bear the numbers of Swift’s birth year, 1989, and Kelce’s uniform, 87.

While sports betting in the United States is generally limited to what happens on the field, foreign-based online sportsbooks are offering Swift-related proposition bets, including whether Kelce will propose to Swift.

Swift will be on tour in Japan this week, prompting the Associated Press to examine potential planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions by her private jet if she decides to fly to the Super Bowl.

The question of whether Swift could attend the Super Bowl became enough of a widespread concern to where the Japanese Embassy in the United States issued a statement declaring that after her Saturday night concert in the Tokyo Dome, she would be able to “comfortably” arrive in Las Vegas in time for the game.

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The quirky stories aren’t what’s strange. This is how celebrities are covered. What’s curious is how America has chosen Swift and Kelce to be its celebrity couple of the moment.

As accomplished as they are, Swift and Kelce are … well, kind of boring. And that might be the entire point.

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In a country in which the most visible figures in society are either condescending liberals or right-wing nutjobs, Swift and Kelce occupy the same middle ground occupied by most Americans.

That’s not to say the right hasn’t tried to move the goalposts more in its direction to place Swift and Kelce on the left.

Swift’s endorsement of Joe Biden in 2020 has the right concerned she might endorse the president again in the November election, leading to conspiracy theories that Swift is part of a plot to defeat Donald Trump.

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In October, Kelce found himself in the crosshairs of wacko New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who referred to him as “Mr. Pfizer” for advertising flu and COVID vaccines.

However, the view that Swift and Kelce are left-wing agents is held only by the crazies on the fringes. Views that Biden should be president or that vaccines are beneficial might not be shared by everyone, but they’re held by the majority.

A gifted songwriter, Swift is known for straightforward lyrics about universal themes that make her relatable to a wide range of listeners. Unlike many other popular female pop singers, she’s not overtly sexual, which is why many parents don’t mind if their preteen daughters listen to her music.

Kelce is a reformed bad boy whose image is softened by his association with his older brother, Eagles center and renowned family man Jason.

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Taylor Swift in a sheer top and black skirt holds hands with Travis Kelce in a beige jacket-pant set and black shirt.
The couple becoming more comfortable in public, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce enter the Waverly Inn in New York City for dinner in October.
(Gotham / GC Images)

Swift and Kelce aren’t threatening. They aren’t controversial. In a time of division, they are projections of what many Americans want America to be.

In this sense, they are products of their time. Neither of them has the kind of overwhelming personality that would have made them as famous in any other era, say, the way Muhammad Ali did. The America of today demanded a wholesome couple. Swift and Kelce happened to be around to occupy that role.

The Super Bowl isn’t just a game. It’s an event, which is a shorthanded way of saying the NFL figured how to effectively market more than just the game. The television commercials, the halftime show, the parties in the host city ... they’re all part of the spectacle.

Sometimes, these peripheral elements take up an unusually large share of the conversation in the lead-up to the game. In this case, it’s entirely taken over, which says more about the state of this country than it does about Swift and Kelce.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2024 Super Bowl, including start time, location, TV channel, streaming options and the halftime show.

Feb. 4, 2024

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