Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift kiss after the Chiefs’ victory in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Is it possible for the NFL to get too big? If you asked commissioner Roger Goodell that question, he’d give you and your socialist leanings a death stare. It’d be like asking Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson if there’s such a thing as too many muscles.
But I do worry about us. I worry about overstimulated, overfed, over-everything-ed us. I’m convinced that Super Bowl XOXO, featuring Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, was all we could take. Anything more would have been too much. Anything more would have been the Chiefs tight end proposing to the singer on the field after the game. Communal hysterical blindness is funny until it happens to you.
Think about what we had Sunday: the queen of pop stardom coupling with the NFL, the TV ratings king, in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. Two massive fan bases. Sin City. A romantic relationship that some Republicans view as a liberal plot against the country.
And, oh, yeah, a football game between the Chiefs and the 49ers.
This was massive hype swallowing radioactive material and becoming Godzilla.
Never say never to how high the NFL’s popularity can go, but it’s hard to see it getting any more popular than it was Sunday, when Swift’s legions of fans watched football and the NFL’s legions of fans watched Swift cheer on her man many, many times, thanks to CBS’ cameras. Somehow, no one died from shock to the system. I’d argue that there’s nowhere else for us to go, glitz-wise, wow factor-wise and avert your eyes-wise, as humans. We’ve already done Christians vs. lions in the Colosseum, back when the lions could hold onto a 17-point, second-half lead.
The 34-year-old Kelce, a future Hall of Famer, is going to retire someday, but Swift can keep doing her thing for years. Now that she’s had a taste of the NFL’s power, you have to wonder if she’ll stick around for more. Now that the league has had a taste of her enormous drawing power, you can bet it will do whatever it can to keep her there. In the meantime, I believe the NFL has a team of relationship counselors following the pair in case of a tiff that could lead to a spat that could lead to a breakup.
There were many angles to Super Bowl LVIII that, under normal circumstances, would have taken center stage. Whether 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is more than a creation of the great players around him. Whether the Chiefs are a dynasty in progress. Whether 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would get his first ring. Whether Chiefs coach Andy Reid would retire after this season. Whether Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already better than Tom Brady was in his prime. Answer to that last one: yes.
Important topics, all of them. Just not as important as whether Swift would have enough time to fly from a Saturday concert in Tokyo in time for the game in Vegas. She did.
The NFL moved to another level Sunday, and it had something to do with the Chiefs’ 25-22 victory, but not everything. There was more excitement surrounding this Super Bowl than there has been for any other. The big game always attracts non-football fans who are in it for the TV commercials, the bean dip, the gambling or the significance of America’s yearly gathering. This was different.
Conspiracy theories can spring up around almost anything, but with the NFL, they’re usually confined to whether the officials are on the take. Some people are convinced that the Kelce-Swift alliance is fake and that the duo has teamed up not for conjugal visits in the prison of superstardom but for the purpose of increasing votes for President Joe Biden. You know you’re bigger than big when you can trick people into thinking they’re watching football!
The game’s purists didn’t like Swift taking attention away from the NFL this season. Swift’s fans pointed out that the networks have been restrained in how many times they’ve shown the singer during games. Both sides missed the point. Whatever attention Swift has taken away from the sport she has given back 10-fold in terms of new eyes on the product. And even if the networks had shown her just once per game, it would have given her admirers one look at heaven and her critics one look at hell. The allure/revulsion to Swift is the phenomenon, not how many times she’s shown at a football game.
Someday Purdy is going to get credit for being very good at what he does, but if he thought that day was Sunday, he was greatly mistaken. The Super Bowl had risen to new heights thanks to something that had nothing to do with football. Could it get bigger someday? Only if Swift learns how to play quarterback.