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Why Does Travis Kelce Have His Own Dating Show?

He’s not necessarily looking for love

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

In the second episode of Catching Kelce, a dating show on E! in which women attempt to catch Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Kelce enlists six of the women trying to catch him to help him film a video for 24 Hour Fitness.

“A huge part of being a professional athlete is my brand,” Kelce tells them. “And that’s built through the companies that I represent.”

Kelce’s Brand is on full display. He’s wearing a “T” hat and a sweatshirt with a “TK” logo.

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Ostensibly, Kelce is talking about the importance of the date. This video will introduce Kelce to 24 Hour Fitness customers. And we are told on multiple occasions that 4 million users belong to 24 Hour Fitness.

But more generally, Kelce’s statement might explain why a semi-well-known tight end is the star of a reality show in the first place.

In the show’s opening, Kelce tells us that he’s explored the bar scene and the club scene, but hasn’t been in a serious relationship since entering the NFL in 2013. Statistically, dating shows have a lower success rate than Alex Smith deep balls. And Kelce doesn’t promise to marry anybody on the show, so I’m not holding out hope for his relationship here. But dating shows do have a solid history of introducing midtier celebrities to large audiences. Flavor Flav was in one of the most influential rap groups of all time and probably has more name cachet from his dating show than from his actual career.

They can do wonders for football players, too: The Bachelor made Jesse Palmer into a familiar face, and he has a TV gig now. The Bachelorette made Jordan Rodgers into a familiar face, and now he has a TV gig, too.

Although he’s having a bit of a down season, Kelce is one of the better tight ends in football, but that typically isn’t a path to superstardom. (“Hi, Alge Crumpler here for Rolex. Rolex — the only watch that lets Alge know when it’s Crumplin’ time.) Maybe Kelce won’t find love, but he’ll definitely find a few hundred thousand non-football fans who now know who he is.

Catching Kelce wants viewers to know the show’s protagonist is not only dreamy, but also a football megastar. It shows him rolling up to red-carpet events attended by major sports celebrities we all know and love.

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Oh you KNOW it’s a celebrity event when Olden Polynice rolls up. He’s one of my favorite Suppersonics; I consider the Footlong Coney more of a lunch item.

Fun fact: In 2009 I ordered an item of clothing claiming to be Olden Polynice’s Utah Jazz game-used warm-up suit on eBay for about $19 plus $8 shipping and handling. A replica on-court Utah Jazz warm-up jacket costs $109 on NBA.com before shipping. (I have never confirmed Polynice once wore the warm-ups, but they were clearly intended for a 7-footer. It made a great Halloween costume sophomore year of college, and I wear the jacket on rainy days sometimes. Money well spent.) Anyway, my point is: The show trots out Polynice as evidence Kelce is surrounded by the sports world’s elite, when in fact Polynice’s association with a warm-up jacket caused it to depreciate by $80.

The initial premise of Catching Kelce, which is currently four episodes in and airs every Wednesday, is that Travis will date 50 girls from 50 states. (I really didn’t expect E! to take such a strong stance against D.C.’s right to congressional representation right off the bat.) They meet at the L.A. Coliseum, which is now an NFL stadium, but also filled in as an important sports venue when The Bachelor needed one. The L.A. Coliseum: for when you have a reality show and really, really need a sports venue to seem important.

Kelce instantly eliminates 30 of the women. (Apologies to the people who flew in from Alaska and Maine and Hawaii to get dumped by Travis Kelce in two hours.) Kelce and the contestants refer to each other by state names instead of actual names for most of the first three episodes. I think the state thing was just a tactic to avoid forcing Kelce to remember everybody’s name.

If this show is a play to make Kelce a well-known, beloved figure, he does really well for himself. He’s obviously handsome, and comes across as a caring, funny, smart dude. He also has spectacular taste in blazers:

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Despite his impeccable collection of sport coats, the show probably forces a little bit too much of Kelce on us. I know he likes dancing, but over and over again, the show tries so hard. I mean, this is literally how it starts:

Like, relax, bud. It makes me wonder whether Kelce’s people pitched this show, or whether somebody at E! asked for Rob Gronkowski, got shut down, and pushed on to the next-most-marketable dancing tight end.

Reality TV shows spend millions on hosts who appear on camera for only a few seconds an episode. And Catching Kelce shows why: It gets a little boring when the same person is the main character, the one who explains all the rules and formats of the show, and the one who reads the voice-overs. It’s just a lot of Travis.

It’s not all Travis, though. He’s practically always joined by his brother Jason, a center for the Eagles. Jason is roughly as good at football as Travis — he went to the Pro Bowl two years ago — but, well, offensive linemen don’t get reality TV shows, so Jason is relegated to hanging out with Travis on dates and saying which girls he thinks Travis should continue dating. Sorry, big guy, but we appreciate the input.

While Kelce is charming and on camera the majority of the time, he’s not the star of the show. The actual person everybody is trying to date never is. Instead, the star is Anika, the contestant from Minnesota. These are all clothing items Anika wore intentionally:

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Anika claims to have dated Fabio. This is either the boldest lie you can tell a potential boyfriend or the most intimidating truth.

There’s also Lexi (who almost gets kicked off the show for mentioning her Instagram following); London (who speaks in the third person and fails miserably in her attempts to woo Travis by repeatedly asking him about his relationship with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ); Avery (who is Mark Schlereth’s daughter, and at whom I cannot look without thinking about how much she looks like Mark Schlereth); V Rich (who calls a HOUSE MEETING when somebody spills wine on the stairs of the mansion she does not own, and also voluntarily chooses to be referred to as “V Rich”); and, of course, Lauren, who gets dunked on by Travis:

The key to a reality dating show is never The Person. It’s always the people bold enough to be debased on national television for the right to date The Person.

Dating shows started out plucking people they thought would actually be interesting to serve as The Person — like Flavor Flav, Bret Michaels, and Chad Ochocinco. The Bachelor started with CEOs, millionaire heirs, and even an NFL player in Palmer.

We don’t really need a celebrity, though, which is why one of the girls Flav dumped had her own successful spin-off show (remember I Love New York?) and why The Bachelor and The Bachelorette now just usually grab people who got dumped by the previous Person. The Bachelor can even be a software salesman — and the shows are still great! We don’t actually need The Person to be interesting: We just need to be able to plausibly pretend they are during the time they’re on TV.

As the title of the show suggests, a large amount of each hourlong episode is spent telling us how catchable Kelce is. It’s almost better if you know nothing about sports, so you can buy those claims without thinking about them. That leaves you more brainpower to focus on what’s actually interesting.

Like Fabio: