Swifties Watch Their Hero and Learn to Love the N.F.L.


During one of the cutaway shots of the 12-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift at Sunday night’s football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets, Zainub Amir, one of the singer’s ardent fans, grinned.

“It’s like I’m watching the Eras Tour on TV, except it’s football,” Amir, 27, said from a bar in Midtown Manhattan, referring to the singer’s record-breaking concert run that crashed ticket-selling websites.

Amir arrived at the bar — she had briefly contemplated buying tickets for the game at nearby MetLife Stadium — armed with a notebook and a pen to watch Swift support Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, her new rumored love interest.

The game itself, the marquee weekly broadcast of America’s most powerful sports league, initially held no importance to her. But when Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco scored the first touchdown, Amir yelped in excitement and posted about it on social media.

Because of Swift and Kelce’s rumored relationship, which set off a cultural and economic frenzy last weekend, Amir joined the cadre of Swift fans educating themselves about football.

She spent the past week studying its rules and star players. She vaguely knew of Kelce beforehand; Swift, who often writes songs about her relationships, had mainly dated musicians and actors.

When Swift entered the N.F.L. domain, her cavalry of devoted fans crashed into a product many of them rarely interact with.

“Her fans aren’t just consumers of Taylor Swift, they kind of also are Taylor Swift in a way,” Jordan Pellerito, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri who teaches a course on Swift, said. “They’re kind of endeared by the dedication to understanding what she’s interested in, which right now is football.”

When news of Swift’s planned attendance at the Jets game broke on Wednesday, ticket sales for the contest nearly doubled within a 24-hour span, according to the ticket exchange company StubHub.

N.F.L. games accounted for 83 of the most 100 viewed telecasts last year, according to the TV ratings firm Nielsen, and the league is enjoying record profits. But Swift’s 94.5 million followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, nearly triples that of the N.F.L.’s, and her connection with Kelce is netting the league a new cohort of fans.

“It’s sort of a gift from the heavens for this all to happen, but it’s our job now to ensure that these fans coming in will stay,” said Tim Ellis, the N.F.L.’s chief marketing officer.

Amir, who manages a Swift social media fan account — @SwiftNYC — with 333,000 followers, said she did not care about N.F.L. games other than the Super Bowl, where she mainly paid attention to the commercials and socialized. But Amir, who works in product sales at Bloomberg, had been a Swift fan since 2008.

She attended six of her Eras Tour concerts this year and remembers blasting Swift’s “Welcome to New York” for two hours the day she signed the lease to an Upper West Side apartment in 2017. When Swift’s relationship with Kelce appeared serious, Amir began studying.

“To understand why Taylor Swift may appreciate Travis Kelce as a person or appreciate the sport, I need to understand what she’s reacting to, and part of that is understanding football as a sport,” Amir said. “If I have no idea what’s going on, I’m not sure why she might be cheering.”

Amir watched videos on YouTube and TikTok and read news articles about football daily, asking male colleagues for clarification. She filled about six notebook pages with explainers on how points are scored, among other things, and also created nicknames to remember certain positions.

The quarterback, of course, is Swift. Ball carriers like running backs and wide receivers are Swift’s band because “they’re part of creating such a beautiful product for the tour and helping Taylor do her best.” She envisions the defense as Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who in 2009 ran onstage and interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech in protest at the MTV Video Music Awards.

On Sunday, during a surprisingly competitive game, Amir soon began commenting on the action. She chastised Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for overthrowing a receiver in the end zone (“Oh my God, that is so bad”). And she experienced a traditional rite of passage — questioning the ability of the officials. (“I would be mad, too,” she said when Jets Coach Robert Saleh angrily reacted to a questionable penalty call.)

She also immediately recognized why Swift had a solemn facial expression when the game was tied at the start of the fourth quarter.

“It’s good that I understand football now because she looks so serious,” Amir said.

Amir had said before the game that she might not continue following the N.F.L. if Swift and Kelce broke up, but later remarked that the intense nature of the contest got her “invested.”

After the Chiefs held on for the win, she posted to her followers: “watching and learning football tonight as a fandom has been so fun omg I’m still at a nyc sports bar having a time.”


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