Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with additional glossary entries to reflect reports that Taylor Swift is set to attend Sunday night’s game between the Chiefs and the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
We’re going to do something here before we talk about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, OK? There’s a wrong that needs to be righted. OK. Here goes:
USHER IS DOING THE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW. I REPEAT: USHER RAYMOND IS DOING THE HALFTIME SHOW. AT THE SUPER BOWL. WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE BOPPING TO “CONFESSIONS PART II” AT THE SUPER BOWL IN FEBRUARY, BECAUSE USHER IS THE HEADLINER. I FEEL LIKE WE ALL MISSED THIS. I HOPE HE SINGS “CAUGHT UP,” BECAUSE “CAUGHT UP” IS THE BEST USHER SONG. I’M GLAD I HAVE THIS JOB, BECAUSE IF I DIDN’T HAVE TO WORK THE SUPER BOWL I WOULD DEFINITELY DO THE LUDACRIS PARTS OF “YEAH!” VERBATIM IN FRONT OF MY MOM.
Phew. Glad to get that out there. Now, where were we?
Oh, yes. The reason the halftime show announcement got overshadowed on Sunday was likely because, even though Usher is a multitalented generational heartthrob, eight-time Grammy Award winner, and the man who just this summer made Keke Palmer’s ex melt down to the point of tweeting the phrase “showcase booty cheeks,” Usher did not eat a chicken tendie with—seemingly—ranch while also being Taylor Swift, and that’s what we, as a society, were busy with that day.
Things you already know: Swift, the biggest pop star on this planet, attended the Week 3 NFL game between the Chiefs and the Bears as a guest of Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, amid rumors that the two are texting or a couple and/or just tall, hot, and single at the same time. On the scale of pop culture mega-events, Taylor’s appearance in an Arrowhead Stadium luxury suite falls somewhere between West Elm Caleb and the Ellen DeGeneres Oscar Selfie. Your friends probably commented. Your dad probably commented. Every NFL broadcaster within spitting distance of a microphone definitely commented, feverishly racing to reveal the best lyric pun they came up with during their last commercial break. The History Channel weighed in. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who famously hates talking about everything except for Ray Guy, offered his two cents.
Swifties and football fans may represent the two largest and most powerful forces in American popular entertainment. It would be silly to suggest that these fan bases are mutually exclusive (hello!). It is fair to say, though, that the two groups are mingling like never before, and learning to speak each other’s languages. (For instance, I know the Ray Guy reference above was a struggle for some of you reading this; it’s fine, you don’t need to look it up. Likewise, I probably lost a few of you with West Elm Caleb; you don’t need to look it up, but I’d recommend it.) Don’t worry. We’re here for all of you. Let this glossary bridge the gaps between those of us who know the “All Too Well” bridge by heart, and those of us who know how to find the gaps in a zone defense:
tight end (n.): This is the position Kelce plays within the Chiefs offense. The best question I was asked yesterday was whether there is a “loose end,” which is what I will be calling wide receivers now. Playing tight end requires a combination of strength and athleticism, and Kelce, a two-time Super Bowl champion and eight-time Pro Bowler, is among the best to ever do it.
Easter egg (n.): A hint or clue, often strategically placed by Swift in song lyrics, music videos, social media posts, or public appearances. For example: In November 2021, Swift wore a black dress to an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers that resembled the famous “revenge dress” worn by Princess Diana in 1994. About a year later, she released the album Midnights, containing the song “Vigilante Shit,” containing the lyric “lately I’ve been dressing for revenge.” Ahead of the announcement of her Lover album in 2019, Swift posted a photo of seven palm trees to her social media accounts, which fans correctly deciphered to be a clue that the first single from her seventh studio album would come out on—I shit you not—Arbor Day. Swifties have become adept and, at times, overzealous interpreters of Swift’s every move because of this. Now, as it relates to current events: Kelce wears jersey no. 87, and there is a lyric in Swift’s “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” that goes, “When I’ll be 87, you’ll be 89.” She is currently promoting her upcoming album, 1989 (Taylor’s Version). You know the drill.
clowning (gerund): When we Swifties go overboard with the Easter egg hunting, we’re clowning. For example: After Swift went to the Chiefs game on Sunday, Swifties recalled a photo she’d posted in July after the Eras Tour came through Kansas City. Visible in the photo was the red collar on a yellow shirt—you know, Chiefs colors—which some took as a sign that a relationship between Taylor and Travis was already underway. More likely: Swift was wearing her own merch, and we were just clowning.
bringing this back since i’ve seen some saying it’s a chiefs shirt which it very well may be… but we know she loves wearing her own merch so ♀️ https://t.co/if8wj22dhf— al (@wondlorland) September 25, 2023
delulu (adj.): When we clown too hard, we’re delulu.
Catching Kelce (proper noun): Travis’s dating show on E!, which aired for one season in 2016. The premise was that Kelce would date 50 women from 50 states, though he dumped 30 of them in the first episode. One of the women made a big thing about having previously dated Fabio, and Kelce wore a lot of bright sport coats. A contestant from Kentucky named Maya Benberry won, but she and Kelce broke up after just a couple of months, and she kind of accused him of cheating on her. Travis does not enjoy talking about Catching Kelce these days and said during a podcast interview last year that he just did it for the money.
seemingly ranch (phrase): Description made by one Swift fan account of a condiment spotted on the pop star’s plate in a photo taken in Kelce’s luxury suite on Sunday. A good example of the level of scrutiny Swift draws, and a budding in-joke within her fandom.
| Taylor Swift was eating a piece of chicken with ketchup and seemingly ranch! pic.twitter.com/rpAOP2HFtT— The Eras Tour (@tswifterastour) September 24, 2023
tape grinder (colloquialism): A football fan ball-pilled enough to pore over the All-22 film and obsess over details. Though it would be a new kind of endeavor, this is the type of energy Swifties feast on. By Sunday afternoon, several Swift fan accounts were already displaying a more sound understanding of situational football than Josh McDaniels.
FOOTBALL EXPLAINER FOR THOSE CONFUSED— shannon (is celebrating 1989 tv! ) (@holygroundsound) September 24, 2023
you have 4 tries (downs) to go 10 yards, if you do you keep the ball and the cycle repeats, and if you don’t the other team gets it
you can score touchdowns for 6 points or kick a field goal for 3
thats basically all you need to know
Swifties (proper n.): An extremely powerful force. It is unclear what kind of influence they will wield if their attention is turned en masse to football, but everything is on the table. Officials could be memed into making only perfect calls, hand-tended grass fields will be crafted for every team, every one of Roger Goodell’s burner accounts will be discovered. Swifties could fix the Jets offense. Swifties could fix the Bears offense.
Andy Reid (proper n.): Longtime Chiefs head coach, known for schematic wizardry on offense and questionable clock management. He should tread carefully.
13 (number): Swift’s lucky number, destined to be a factor in every Chiefs score henceforth.
Joe Alwyn (proper n.): British actor of questionable ability to fight. Swift’s ex; news of the end of their six-year relationship broke in April.
The Eras Tour (proper n.): Swift’s ongoing record-breaking tour showcasing the depth of her catalog. (Swift heads back out on the road, first to Argentina, in November.) Kelce took in the show at Arrowhead in July, and it was there that he first decided to shoot his shot and begin openly pining for the world’s most famous woman. Kelce said on his podcast that he tried to give Swift a friendship bracelet with his number on it after the show, but couldn’t get through her inner circle.
Jason Sudeikis (proper n.): American actor and noted Chiefs fan. Attended Questlove’s birthday party and played Adults Only Uno with Swift and friends in July. Calling it now, he has something to do with this.
Down bad (phrase): Being smitten enough that you’ll willingly debase yourself for a woman’s attention. Alt: What Travis Kelce is right now.
This is a good look, by the way. Initially, I was taken over by the feminine urge to gatekeep International Superstar Taylor Swift, and I wasn’t excited about this potential relationship. Kelce’s suggestion that, since he went to the Eras Tour, Swift should come to a game so they could “find out what’s more lit” wasn’t simpy enough for my taste. Kelce spent the offseason hosting SNL and sitting for a Vanity Fair profile, the kinds of moves one makes while actively trying to level up from sports star to household name. Nothing wrong with that—Kelce was very good on SNL, in fact—but it was enough to make me question his intentions with the greatest pop star we have ever known. The first real dating rumors leaked the same day he and his brother dropped a documentary on Amazon Prime Video.
But the way he stared, awestruck, up at her in the box? Wearing a game-day outfit in the color scheme of her upcoming album? Renting out a restaurant so that she can come to dinner? Kelce seemingly understands that Taylor Swift is Taylor Swift, and, apparently, it’s working for him.
And give him this: You never saw Swift stanning Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk this way:
Tree Paine (proper n.): Swift’s publicist. Master of the dark arts. The real mastermind.
2023 is probably the most tree paine has ever sat down and typed in her computer https://t.co/0JVfDZs74T— valeria (@ssparkisfly) September 25, 2023
Manifestation (n.): What Kelce is currently putting on a master class in doing.
Thirsty (adj.): Overly eager and, let’s be honest, a little desperate. See below:
A "relatively rare" sighting was discovered this week: A massive stingray nearly the length of Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Taylor Swift's rumored beau. https://t.co/MQBq49vRh7— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 29, 2023
I am begging the brands to simply let us make our little jokes and not make this whole thing annoying.
On the map (phrase): Where Taylor Swift put Travis Kelce.
FCC violation (proper noun): What making all of America watch the Zach Wilson Jets in order to see Taylor Swift in a luxury box should be.
Cris Collinsworth (person): Analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, who is broadcasting Chiefs-Jets. An all-time legendary announcer and wearer of quarter-zip sweaters. He will absolutely still make this weird.
“Gold rush” (song title): The third track on Swift’s 2020 album Evermore and an elite song for those with great taste. It features the lyric I see me padding ‘cross your wooden floors / With my Eagles T-shirt hanging from your door. When the album was first released, debate raged in the Swiftie community over whether the line referred to Philadelphia’s football team or the band, something Swift, who grew up in Pennsylvania, clarified this spring when the Eras Tour was in Philadelphia:
Little did we know her Go Birds era would be so short-lived.