With the Kansas City Chiefs playing in Sunday’s AFC Conference Championship against the Baltimore Ravens, there’s a good chance that Taylor Swift will be in attendance to cheer on Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Which means social media is about to blow up with angry men looking to make a name for themselves by ranting that Swift is ruining football.
It’s almost to the point where even non-sports fans can tell when the Chiefs are playing based on when Twitter blows up with anti-Swift vitriol — usually from men upset that a popstar who appeals to gays, women and girls is now as big a part of their sport as concussion protocols.
These rage-posting fans are missing the big picture. Swift is actually good for football because she brings two qualities rarely seen in the stands at an NFL game: joy and fun.
Even though I’m a baseball guy, my dad also had Chicago Bears season tickets so I’ve been to dozens of NFL games in my life. During almost every one, I had the sense that I was sitting adrift in a sea of seething humorlessness and testosterone-fueled rage.
At any point, it could all boil over if the fans found out someone among them had committed the crime against humanity of being from Wisconsin.
To this day, I still remember a Bears-Packers game where right before kickoff, a fan a few rows in front of me reached into a plastic bag and put on a Halloween mask.
Wondering what this could be about, I kept an eye on him. Then during the first time out, he turned around to hold up a sign reading “GREEN BAY FANS MAKE ME PUKE” and reveal his mask had fake vomit dribbling down the chin.
Fans stood and applauded as if this man had simultaneously brokered peace in the Middle East and reunited The Beatles. Later in the game, the Bears put him on the Jumbotron and Soldier Field erupted.
He was this crowd’s Taylor. Because for more than a century, Bears fans have been in their “GREEN BAY FANS MAKE ME PUKE” era.
To be sure, there are drunken jagbags and fights in every sport’s fanbase. But with football, it feels like they’re a feature, not a bug.
That’s the atmosphere at many NFL games. Which is why Swift has felt like a breath of fresh air.
Every time a football telecast has cut to a shot of Swift, I’ve seen someone having the time of her life. She cheers Chiefs touchdowns the way Swifties respond to the opening drumbeat of “Shake It Off.”
When Swift joined in on Chiefs fans “Swag Surfin’” dance, it was with total exuberance and no self-consciousness whatsoever, which is also every good part of being a sports fan.
Even when she shared a suite with the shirtless Jason Kelce last week, the contrast between the two was silly and fun. No one was threatening any opposing fans — partly because that would be on TMZ for weeks and partly because Bills fans knew if they did Swift wrong, she’d write her next album about them.
In all of these moments, she embodied all of the elation and drama of the sport at its best with none of the fake macho posturing.
No wonder some football fans see her as a threat.
Although “Taylor Swift is good for football” feels like a hot take, I’m not alone in this. Last week’s Chiefs victory over the Buffalo Bills set a record for most-watched divisional playoff game in NFL history with an average audience of 50.393 million.
It turns out that when you welcome a star who opens your sport to a whole new audience, the whole league benefits. Along the way, Swift has showed her fans how much fun someone can have watching football.