(October 24, 2023).  Curious about the actual impact of singer Taylor Swift’s presence on Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s play in the six weeks since she entered his life?

Look no further.

The true stats (below) seem compelling in favor of the relationship on the surface, but are they?

A not-so-cruel summer for Taylor Swift; amid her new relationship, this single just topped the Hot 100

It isn’t often that this blogger is compelled to deviate (slightly) from music to cover sports.  

In fact, of the blog’s more than 800 articles posted since January 2015, only five have been related to sports moments, with four of those having clear music tie-ins. 

The four musically linked sports pieces covered the passings of 20th century legends Mohammed Ali and Hank Aaron (with musical connections made to both), Serena Williams’ grand slam tournament wins (and the No. 1 songs during each one), and the Super Bowl (again with a musical connection made to each one).

The only sports article that had no musical connection was one discussing the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of Bill Cowher (former head coach of my favorite team the Pittsburgh Steelers) and what that membership portended for the team’s current coach Mike Tomlin.

On the contrary, 35 of this blogger’s 812 articles before now have tagged Taylor Swift.  That’s just over four percent of this blog’s coverage being devoted to music’s most powerful figure… or an average of four articles per year.

This article makes it six for sports and 36 for Swift.

As a big sports fan—and an even bigger fan of music—it’s tough to ignore when the two worlds collide as they have so explosively this month, thanks to Swift and her latest romance. There’s rarely a day that goes by that Swift’s new relationship with the Chiefs’ tight end Kelce isn’t dominating news cycles.

The ten-year NFL veteran and future Hall of Famer’s life was far from boring before Taylor–with two Super Bowl championships (the most recent match being dubbed the Kelce Bowl given the Chiefs’ opponents were the Philadelphia Eagles, on whose roster Kelce’s big brother Jason plays), one of the most popular podcasts on YouTube with Jason, a hosting gig on SNL last season, several TV ads, and a reality TV dating show starring Kelce as one of the world’s most (previously) eligible bachelors.

But even with that impressive resume, doesn’t it seem like Travis’ life and career must now be characterized as TKBT and TKAT? That is, Travis Kelce before Taylor and Travis Kelce after Taylor?

Even the Super Bowl champion Chiefs have been reduced to having every one of their mentions in sportscasts include a reference to the “Look What You Made Me Do” singer.

By now, Swifties–the devoted fan base that has been with Taylor through thick and thin (and through numerous well-documented love affairs with suddenly insignificant ex-beaus)–know a little more about the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs than they did before mid-September, when speculation about “Traylor” first broke and the “Anti-Hero” singer made her first appearance at a Chiefs game.

Swifties also know that the Chiefs–this year’s defending Super Bowl Champions–haven’t lost a game since Taylor began appearing in the private box seats hamming it up with Kelce’s mom and dad or with Britney Mahomes, wife of the guy who throws Kelce the ball, quarterback Patrick Mahomes (himself a two-time NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl MVP).

But ESPN’s First Take (with Stephen A. Smith) on Monday (Oct. 23) ran a surprising statistic to illustrate the effect that Swift’s presence at Chiefs’ games has had on the play of her boyfriend Travis… one that even this doubter (not hater, doubter) found hard to ignore.

It’s basically this: while the Chiefs have won every game in which Kelce has played this season (losing only in Week 1 when he was scratched from the lineup due to injury), the tight-end’s performance is clearly better when Taylor is in the house and millions of Swifties are tuning in.

In the two games Taylor wasn’t present, with the Chiefs playing at Jacksonville and at Minnesota, Kelce averaged 7 catches for 46.5 yards/game. In the four games she’s shown up (at home vs. the Bears, the Broncos and the Chargers, and away at the Jets), Kelce’s production goes up to 8.5 catches/game for 108 yards/game.

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift after a Chiefs game on Sunday, October 22, 2023

Swifties might be quick to add those numbers to the growing evidence that Taylor has way more power and impact on the world than anyone ever imagined before all of this year’s triumphs (the highest-grossing concert tour in history, the highest-grossing concert film in history, the highest single-day voting registration inspired by a pop musician in political history, a twelfth No. 1 album in Billboard…with the 13th a few weeks away, the list goes on…).

But are the above stats an over-simplification of the impact Taylor is having on Travis’ game? Was ESPN’s mention of it just another example of the super hype machine that Taylor generates with everything she does or touches?

Let us analyze.

For Swifties’ info, Travis Kelce was a big baller (and a two-time Super Bowl champ) long before Taylor entered the picture. He has finished as the Chiefs’ No. 1 or No. 2 receiver for each of his first nine seasons with the team. He is the team’s only player who’s finished with more than 1000 yards receiving in each of the past seven seasons. He’s on track to finish with 1400 yards this year (even after missing the first game in September).

And he’s done all of that as a tight end, which basically means that, unlike a wide receiver, his position is not expected to line up and catch balls during most pass plays. Kelce is one of only two tight ends in the NFL to lead his team in receiving yards so far this season (the other is NY Giants’ Darren Waller). The other 30 teams’ leading pass catchers are all wide receivers.

Kelce is clearly a standout tight end and Mahomes’ favorite passing target… both before and after Taylor.

This year is just a continuation of that fact.

Kelce has been targeted in throws from Mahomes 59 times (catching 48 of those passes, for a completion percentage of 81.3%). Those 59 throws in his direction are more than the next two Chiefs’ receivers combined (51 targets). Kelce’s 525 yards receiving are also more than the yardage of the team’s next two receivers combined (524 yards).

Then there’s the issue of where Kelce has been playing–either home or away–as he’s racked up those stats.

In home games, as anyone might expect, Taylor’s boyfriend has been better in the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium than he has been in enemy territory. In the Chiefs’ three away games with Kelce in the lineup, the tight end has caught 20 passes for 153 yards. In the three contests at Arrowhead, he’s caught 28 passes for 372 yards.

A no-brainer that should serve to minimize the Taylor factor, right?

Not so fast.

If one considers that Kelce actually posted better stats in away games during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl season last year–57 catches for 754 yards and six TDs away from KC vs. 53 catches for 584 yards and six TDs in home contests–it might lend some credence to the positive impact that Taylor seems to be having on Kelce’s numbers this year.

One thing is for sure: there is a mutual admiration society about all things “Traylor” (or is it “Swelce”?) that includes everyone in both Kelce’s and Swift’s camps.

Swifties, of course, approve of their Queen’s latest conquest. Meanwhile Kelce’s parents–and his big brother Jason–have all given the budding relationship their public stamps of approval.

After last Sunday’s win against the Chargers, the increasingly pop-culture minded Chiefs head coach Andy Reid–he of the “Jake with State Farm” commercials–offered that Kelce’s performance has improved since the new romance began. Reid said “Taylor can stay around all she wants” in his post-victory conference.

Ultimately, the most important measure of a player’s performance is whether his team can go to and win the Super Bowl at the end of the season. And since the Chiefs are the defending champs, the only way they can declare the Swift factor a real success is if they repeat as champions in February 2024, maybe with Travis–not Mahomes–winning the Super Bowl MVP trophy.

We still have three and a half months of football left before we learn that fate. In the meantime, there’s certainly an argument that can be made for who’s been the NFL’s MVP for the past six weeks.

That would be Taylor Swift, the pop superstar who’s singlehandedly created record-level TV ratings for regular season games at which she’s been in attendance, the singer who’s brought a whole new army of fans to the NFL just a few years after the league saw some of its lowest points in the wake of social protests and political backlash.

And if you think the Taylor hype train is going to die down anytime soon, think again.

Just Monday (Oct. 23), “Cruel Summer,” the single she released this past June from her 2019 album Lover, ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Swift her tenth chart-topper on that list.

As if that isn’t enough, on Friday (Oct. 27) she’s scheduled to release the re-recorded 1989 (Taylor’s Version), which will no doubt enter the album chart at No. 1 in a couple weeks–giving the megastar her 13th Billboard 200 crowning and placing her in a tie with Drake for third place all-time behind the Beatles (with 19) and Jay-Z (14).

And the hype train just keeps rolling right on along!


DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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