“Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I covered the Super Bowl?”
It was a question I posed just a few weeks ago, imagining a fish-out-out-water report from a Swiftie with nascent sports knowledge at the biggest football event of the year. Now, face-to-face with Travis Kelce, the idea seemed less brilliant.
It was Thursday morning, and I was at a resort 30 minutes outside the Las Vegas Strip where the Kansas City Chiefs were staying in advance of the big game. Broadcasters were doing stand-ups outside the entrance to the hotel, using the tranquil desert landscape as background. After stopping to greet a bomb-sniffing dog and walking through a metal detector, I made my way to a ballroom where the team’s press conferences were being held.
The set-up was exactly like I’d seen on TV. Cameramen had their gear set up on tripods, journalists sat preparing iPhones and microphones for recording, and a podium at the front of the room stood ready for guests coming to the stage.
My colleague (and personal hero) Gary Klein, who has been writing about football for The Times for more than two decades, had snagged me a coveted front-row seat beside him to give me the best shot at getting a question in with Kelce during his 15-minute appearance. Coach Andy Reid was up first, and as he took the stage Gary whispered some pointers: If I got called on, he thought it might help to describe myself as a Swiftie, differentiating myself from the others in the room asking about pregame workouts or his chemistry with QB Patrick Mahomes.
Kelce has fielded plenty of inquiries about his famous girlfriend this week and each time I’d marveled at his graciousness — how he seemed to take the questions seriously instead of getting annoyed that the focus wasn’t entirely on the team’s chances or his athletic ability. And this was his fourth press conference. Coming from Hollywood, where many actors lament the rigors of one-day press junkets, the players’ accessibility seemed almost excessive. Can you imagine George Clooney standing in front of the media four days in a row while in the midst of filming a studio movie?
Still, I felt conflicted. What if my question incited groans from the audience — a group of about 150 journalists, only a dozen or so of whom were women? I didn’t want to seem like a shallow, gossip-loving teenybopper. Still, I had spent hours on TikTok in the last few weeks, dissecting the couple’s post-AFC-game PDA session from all angles.
I had to own my truth.
Kelce walked out at 8:15 AM, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. He was dressed in all black — a baseball cap, quarter-zip fleece, sweats and slides with socks. I promptly raised my hand and after just four minutes, I was selected by the all-powerful PR man and someone rushed over to hand me a microphone.
I’ve had plenty of “How the hell did I get here?” moments in my career as an entertainment reporter. Standing in the wings backstage at the Oscars, Ubering to Lady Gaga’s house for an interview, leading a public chat with Al Gore. But rarely have I been more anxious than I was preparing to ask a tight end one single question about his personal life in front of a room full of sports journalists. Which probably says as much about the cultural power of this couple in this moment as it does about me.
“Hey Travis,” I began, the speed of my speech betraying my nerves. “I’m Amy with the Los Angeles Times. The paper sent me here just to cover you and Taylor.”
“OK,” he said, smiling and seeming somewhat amused. I heard some light snickering in the background, but pushed ahead.
“Obviously, everyone is so captivated with your relationship. Some people have likened you to the American royals because you’re a football player and she’s a pop star. Why do you think everyone is so fascinated with you two?”
He didn’t miss a beat.
“I think the values that we stand for,” he replied. “Who we are as people. We love to shine a light on others — shine light around the people that love and support us. And on top of that, I feel like we both just have a love for life.”
And then it was over. I’d survived. But in my rush, I’d forgotten to signal that I had two questions, so Gary volunteered to ask another on my behalf about Kelce’s potential future in Hollywood. Kelce said he was most interested in comedy, but would “dabble” in other genres to see if he had fun with them. “There’s definitely Hollywood talks out there, but I’ve been focused on football,” Kelce responded. “I’ll probably have a lot of those meetings and conversations when the season is over.”
It was the last question he answered before leaving the stage. But in an adjacent room, about eight smaller podiums had been erected for other Chiefs players to speak to the press. These interactions were less formal. You could approach any booth and ask questions without a representative overseeing the interviews. (Kelce had been in this room the day prior.)
Mahomes, predictably, attracted the largest crowd, with dozens of camera lenses resting just a few inches from his face. Others, like kicker Harrison Butker and cornerback Trent McDuffie, only had to contend with three or four journalists at a time.
Using my 5 foot 1 height to my advantage, I ducked and weaved through the group until I was within arm’s length of Mahomes’ curly mop. Standing this close to one of NFL’s all-time greats, I felt a bit guilty, knowing how much more meaningful the interaction would be to a die-hard football fan. Maybe that contributed to my question for Mahomes, which was about whether he thought it was fair that he and Kelce were getting so many questions about Swift during a professional high moment in their careers.
“I understand why people are so interested in knowing about her and everything she does,” he said, media training on lock. “I know the questions are gonna come and I’m gonna answer them because I know how great of a person she is.”
This has generally been the attitude from most of those I’ve approached about Swift so far in Las Vegas this week. I’m sure the haters are here, but we’ve yet to cross paths. After my morning with Kelce and the team, I headed back to the Strip to attend the NFL Honors, which had been described to me as the league’s version of the Academy Awards.
If one was making that assessment purely based on the number of outlets perched on the red carpet, sure. The event attracted hundreds of journalists from international television stations, sports radio programs and local news publications. I was given a spot next to a reporter from the Las Vegas Review Journal, whose cameraman was forced to abruptly leave in the middle of the assignment to cover a Trump rally.
But the environment was far more chaotic than the ultra-locked-down Hollywood affairs I’ve attended — which, frankly, I relished. It meant that no one was there to police me wandering around and interviewing whoever was willing. It also meant that a crew came to literally slash the red carpet in half and retape it to the ground because it was causing so many people to trip.
The guest list was delightfully eclectic — Prince Harry was a surprise presenter at the telecast, though he came nowhere near the carpet — as was the dress code. Curtis Unfried, a 50-year-old from Winnipeg who’d come to town on a bucket-list birthday trip with his buddies, was sporting a custom-made suit with “Swift-Kelce” and the number 87 on it. The whole get-up cost him 400 Canadian dollars.
“I have to admit, when it first started, it was driving me nuts,” Unfried said of the popular couple’s relationship. “I wanted to watch football, not Taylor Swift. There was just too much coverage.”
It wasn’t until three weeks ago — and some talks with his 17-year-old Swiftie daughter — that he changed his tune.
“I just decided to have some fun with it,” he said. “Frankly, I thought they’d date for a couple of weeks and then be done like a lot of celebrity couples.”
Flavor Flav, one of the founding members of Public Enemy, has been on board the Swiftie train for much longer, having attended both the Eras tour and the premiere of her concert film. Less than a week after the Grammys, the rapper was still high off his run-in with the pop star at the ceremony last Sunday. He said he congratulated her on her success and reiterated what a big fan he was.
“Having her acknowledge that her fanbase, the Swifties, gave me a name — King Swiftie — I said, ‘You know they call me King Swiftie?’ She said, ‘I know!’ Yo, when I heard her say that, that was huge to me.”
While I was blanked by Swift’s ex-turned-friend Taylor Lautner, TikTok star Alix Earle and University of Colorado Boulder coach Deion Sanders — “I’m good,” he said, shaking my hand and walking away — I did talk to a few key players in Chiefs Kingdom. One was Mahomes’ mother, Randi, whose daughter-in-law, Brittany, appears to have become one of Swift’s best friends over the course of the season.
“You know, it is weird,” she said of watching the unlikely friendship develop. “But everything in the last seven seasons has been so surreal.”
She said she’s noticed a serious uptick in the number of women who attend Chiefs games as a result of Swift, and she thinks the phenomenon is “bringing families together.”
“When I meet little kids at the game and they have their [friendship] bracelets on and they’re with their parents, I think, normally these parents wouldn’t have brought their kids,” Randi Mahomes said.
Tavia Shackles Hunt, whose husband Clark is co-owner and chief executive of the Chiefs, said the organization had welcomed Swifties with open arms. She and her family have also tried to make Swift feel personally welcome: For the singer’s 34th birthday in December, she bought Swift a $5,000 Judith Leiber purse shaped like a microphone.
“We were actually at a party at Neiman Marcus and while we were there, we saw it,” Shackles Hunt recalled. “I sent it to Travis in a message and said, ‘I found a great gift for Taylor if you’re looking for something. And he was like, ‘I don’t even know if she’d like stuff like that.’ I was like, ‘Well, if you’re not gonna get it, I’m probably gonna get it.’”
As for the big game on Sunday, however, the Hunts won’t be cheering on Kelce in the same suite as Swift.
“I think she has her own accommodations,” Shackles Hunt said.