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Taylor Swift enters her football era and breaks the internet

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Taylor Swift may be entering her football era. Over the weekend, the global superstar was spotted in a football stadium, cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs, specifically cheering on the tight end of the Chiefs, Travis Kelce. Swift's appearance at Sunday's game and the fact that she and Kelce left the stadium together blew up the internet. It seemed like everybody had something to say about the new it couple, even legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL BELICHICK: Travis Kelce has had a lot of big catches in his career.

(LAUGHTER)

BELICHICK: This would be the biggest.

CHANG: As for Swifties, well, they seem to have embraced their queen's new boo. Sales for Kelce's football jersey reportedly skyrocketed since Sunday. And here to talk about this meeting of two super-fandoms is Nora Pinciotti, staff writer for The Ringer and major Swiftie herself. Hello.

NORA PRINCIOTTI: Hello. Hello.

CHANG: OK, Nora, for listeners who may not be following all the ins and outs of Taylor Swift's dating life, give us a brief timeline of the rumored Swift-Kelce love story. How did this all start?

PRINCIOTTI: So it started in July, when Travis Kelsey went to one of Taylor's Eras Tour shows when she was in Kansas City. And he did something that a lot of Swift fans have done at the Eras Tour, which is that he made and wore and brought a friendship bracelet. And he did a funny thing, which is that he put his phone number...

CHANG: Oh, nice move.

PRINCIOTTI: ...On a friendship bracelet. I know - very savvy. And he tried to get it to Taylor but was unsuccessful. Then he told the story of not getting through the inner circle on his podcast with his brother, who's another NFL player. And then the rumors start. But that was what seeded some form of communication between the two of them that ended in Taylor accepting Travis' invitation to show up at Arrowhead Stadium to see the Chiefs play the Bears on Sunday.

CHANG: In perfect Chiefs colors. OK, well, Swifties are famously passionate about the pop star. Football fans are also famously passionate about their teams. Can you just compare these two fandoms for me? Like, is knowing your favorite NFL player's stats kind of like being able to identify all the little Easter eggs that Taylor is known to hide in her songs?

PRINCIOTTI: It sort of is for two groups that I think in some ways don't identify as having very much in common with each other. There is an enthusiasm and a detail orientation and an obsessive quality that definitely...

CHANG: I love it. They're colliding now.

PRINCIOTTI: Yeah, it's really great. There's a couple key differences, though. One is that NFL players, for the scope of the NFL writ large - you know, it's the biggest American professional sport - the players themselves can be relatively anonymous when they play. You can't really see their faces. There's 53 guys on every roster. It's not the same type of superstardom that you find even in other sports and definitely not in pop music.

CHANG: I want to know. What about the NFL in all of this? - because as we mentioned, sales for Travis Kelce's jersey have apparently skyrocketed. And that could very well be because of Taylor's fans. And I saw that many of the post-game questions were about Taylor Swift's appearance at the game. The commentators were all talking about it. Is Taylor Swift going to be awesome or terrible for the NFL and the future of football? What do you think?

PRINCIOTTI: Well, I suppose that remains to be seen. I do think in general, the NFL is incredibly excited about getting a piece of the Taylor spotlight. You could already tell over the summer because the Eras Tour concerts - they were all in NFL stadiums. And the football team that played in whatever stadium she was visiting - their social media account, their whole operation would bend over backwards to come up with something that, you know, allowed them to sort of connect with the Taylor Swift fan base. So the NFL, which does want to improve its exposure and appeal to women especially, I think is thrilled about this.

CHANG: That is Nora Princiotti, staff writer for The Ringer and host of Every Single Album, a pop music podcast. Thank you so much for breaking this down for.

PRINCIOTTI: Absolutely.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR SWIFT SONG, "FEARLESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mia Venkat
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.