On February 11th, Swifties and football fans alike will come together for one event and one event only. Each cohort, of course, will be bringing their own jargon and vocabulary to the table, and we find ourselves asking: How does one bridge the gap between these two completely different languages?
Welcome to our two-part crash course where we’ll be walking you through basic Swiftie lore and must-know football facts to get you ready for The Big Game. With the help of Evite's fantasy football league champion, Tim (ably assisted by another one of Evite's sports fanatics, Matt), I’ve put together this Q&A to answer all your burning questions and quell any confusion that might arise as a result of this monumental event.
After reading this, you’ll be ready to approach your February 11th festivities with confidence, tact and a tasteful amount of know-it-all energy. So, without further ado, I present to you: everything you need to know about Taylor Swift, football and how on earth we (as a society) find ourselves at this pivotal moment in time.
Taylor Swift 101 for football fans
Who is Taylor Swift?
There is no such thing as a silly question, I remind myself as I take a deep breath before answering this one.
Taylor Swift is a 14-time Grammy award-winning artist*, international icon and songwriting savant known for her vivid storytelling, poetic lyricism and mastery of melody. Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania on December 13, 1989, she has seismically influenced the music industry in her mere 34 years and boasts an expansive and versatile body of work that has resonated with listeners worldwide.
Her emergence into the music scene dates back to 2006 with the release of her debut single “Tim McGraw”—a track that stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 20 weeks straight. 10 albums, 6 concert tours, 1 feature film and a few genre changes later, she continues to simultaneously embody and influence the current zeitgeist in all that she does.
*After this year's Grammy Awards, Swift now holds the record for most Album of the Year wins. She was previously tied with Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, each of whom received the award thrice.
What’s the deal with Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce?
The year is 2023. The month, July. Swift’s Eras Tour brings her to Kansas City, Missouri where she will be performing two sold-out shows at Arrowhead Stadium.
But, it is the second of her Kansas City shows, played on July 8th, that will forever change the course of history. Well, sort of.
In a crowd* of over 55,000 Swifties stands Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. Enamored by Swift’s zeal and show(wo)manship, he hatches a plan to give her his phone number in the form of a friendship bracelet. Note: See below for more info regarding the relevance of friendship bracelets in relation to Swift.
Later that month, Kelce discusses his courting attempt on the podcast he co-hosts with his brother and fellow NFL football player, Jason.
Fast forward a few weeks and the dating rumors begin to mount.
On September 21, 2023, Kelce somewhat clears the air, explaining he invited Swift to a Chiefs game after seeing her perform at his home stadium.
A few days later, Swift flies into Missouri and appears back at Arrowhead Stadium, this time for one of Kelce’s games. She is spotted watching the game in Kelce’s private box and, once the game ends, is seen leaving the stadium with a white-and-blue-denim-clad Kelce.
Since then, Taylor has attended 11 more Chiefs games, cheering Travis on alongside his friends, her friends and even his mom, Donna Kelce.
In the cover story for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year edition (said “person” was, you guessed it, Taylor Swift), she explains, “By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple. I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game? We would never be psychotic enough to hard launch a first date.”
Now more than six months since the dating rumors first emerged, we find ourselves witnessing one of the world’s great love stories unfurling in real time. Perhaps it’s the couple’s palpable joy jumping through our screens and warming our hearts. Maybe it’s the pop idol-football star combo that fulfills some sort of proverbial American ideal. Regardless, the duo’s dynamism is second to none, and for that, we have no choice but to stan**.
*i.e. in a private box.
**Per Merriam-Webster, to “stan” is to “exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree.”
Why do people keep asking me if I’m “ready for it”?
In addition to the ubiquity of her name, many of Swift’s lyrics have cemented themselves into the greater cultural lexicon. Of such lyrics, “Are you ready for it?” has been one of the most widely apprehended by die-hard fans and casual listeners alike.
The phrase comes from the opening song on her sixth studio album, “Reputation,” which was released in the fall of 2017. Note: See below for further info regarding Reputation and recent “Easter eggs.” At the end of the track’s chorus, Swift coyly asks, “Are you ready for it?” before the song pivots into a gritty, dubstep-adjacent bass drop.
What is Taylor’s Version?
In an expert display of legal prowess, Swift began re-releasing her albums in 2021 after a tense dispute with her former record label, Big Machine Records.
In the world of music, the legal ownership of a song can be divided into two parts: composition rights (i.e. ownership of a song’s underlying musical components) and master rights (i.e. ownership of the recording itself).
While Swift owns the composition of her first six albums, Big Machine owns her masters for these albums, and according to the Copyright Act, it is totally fair game for Swift to re-record the songs on those albums.
The world received its first Taylor’s Version album in April 2021 with Swift’s release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” Later that year, she released “Red (Taylor's Version)” before making Swifties wait until 2023 for “Speak Now (Taylor's Version)” and “1989 (Taylor's Version).”
By re-releasing her first six albums, Swift now owns her Taylor’s Version masters and has control over the use of these songs. So, yes, you really should make sure you’re streaming Taylor’s Version when you’re jamming out to her music.
What’s an “Easter egg”?
Taylor loves a cryptic message and has been known to tease upcoming album releases, imply who her songs are about and subtly nod to past lovers through carefully chosen clothing, IG captions, choreography and more. Her fanbase prides itself on spotting and analyzing any and all of these potential “Easter eggs,” and many fans will be on high alert during The Big Game as they look out for any such signs.
Many fans speculate she may drop hints about the release of “Reputation (Taylor’s Version)” during the game. The album, associated with snake imagery and the color black, would chronologically be next in line to be TV-ified* following the release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” this past October. Further, Easter eggs pointing to the release of “Reputation (Taylor’s Version)” have been popping up in recent weeks, starting with Taylor’s choice to wear a glittery, green, snakeskin-esque dress to the Golden Globes and more recently including the suspicious shift to black and white IG profile pictures by her closest friends.
So, when February 11th rolls around, I urge you, dear readers: Keep your eyes peeled. To notice one of Taylor’s Easter eggs is to truly know the world and all the wonder it holds.
*Taylor’s Version is often shortened to the acronym TV.
What’s the deal with the number 13?
As you now know (because you have made it this far), Taylor was born on December 13th, 1989. Ergo, 13 for the day she was born. (1989 is also an important number in the Taylor Swift universe, for equally obvious reasons.)
Taylor’s affinity for the number 13 dates back to her early years as a recording artist and many of her aforementioned Easter eggs often involve the number. From purposeful Easter eggs to eerie coincidences, there are myriad examples of this numerical motif: her debut album went gold in 13 weeks, her first chart-topping single “Our Song” has a 13-second intro, All Too Well (10 Minute Version) clocks in at 10 minutes and 13 seconds, the Eras Tour film debuted on October 13th—need I go on?
In relation to this year’s game, numerous iterations of the number 13 have been noted:
1. This will be Taylor’s 13th appearance at one of Travis’ games
2. This is the 58th Super Bowl and 5+8=13
3. The game will occur on 2/11 and 2+11=13
4. The Chiefs are playing the 49ers and 4+9=13
5. Swift will be taking a non-stop flight from Tokyo to Las Vegas for the game, a journey with a flight time of approximately 13 hours
Why are people wearing friendship bracelets?
Mid-way through “Midnights,” Taylor’s most recent album, comes a nostalgic, narrative track titled “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” a song that has quickly established itself as a favorite among her fans. Towards the end of the song, she encourages:
Make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it
You've got no reason to be afraid
By the time Taylor commenced her Eras Tour (see below), it became clear that fans took these lyrics to heart as beaded friendship bracelets became a crucial component of her sold-out shows. Fans would arrive at arenas with forearms full of bracelets, ready to trade these colorful keepsakes with other concertgoers.
What’s an era?
Taylor’s career as a recording artist now spans nearly two decades. Her music has evolved through the years, much like her loyal listeners who have grown up alongside her. From her early days as a country artist to her switch to synth-pop in “1989” to her recent dabblings with indie folk in “folklore” and “evermore,” the throughline in Taylor’s career is a willingness to experiment musically. As such, each of her albums constitutes a distinct phase, or “era.”
Due to COVID-19, four of Taylor’s albums were never taken on tour. Plus, with the commencement of her Taylor’s Version project in 2021, her earlier songs were seeing a major resurgence in popularity (not that they ever stopped being popular).
In comes the idea for the Eras Tour, an opportunity to play songs from the four un-toured albums and her re-releases. When announcing the tour in November of 2022, she referred to it as a “journey through the musical eras of my career (past & present!).”
Embracing the spirit of the tour, fans came to the shows dressed as their favorite Taylor era: fringe dresses for “Fearless,” sunglasses and bomber jackets for “1989,” earth tones and plaid for “evermore,” etc.
In typical Taylor fashion, her tour had (and continues to have) a massive influence on pop culture, giving rise to multiple social media trends, redefining concert fashion and broadening the definition of what a concert can be. Notably, per a little source known as the Federal Reserve, it also boosted the economy.
So, if you’re still with me, I have one final question: Are you in your Swiftie era yet?
Football 101 for Taylor Swift fans
Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to watching football (you'll find out why right below), and if you've made it this far in this article, congrats—you most definitely have it! I haven't exactly mastered the rules and lingo of American football, so I turned to someone who has (Thanks, Tim!) for answers. Here's what you need to know in order to fearlessly tackle watching the biggest game of the year.
Why are football games so long? How long are they supposed to be played for?
Football games are scheduled for 1 hour. There are 4 quarters in a football game, and each quarter is 15 minutes long. HOWEVER, the clock stops for penalties, incomplete passes and timeouts, or when a player runs out of bounds with the ball. Each team has 3 timeouts per half (which are indicated by the notches directly under the team name—each time a timeout is used a notch gets removed). Timeouts are used for lots of different reasons, but they ultimately allow the coach to stop the game and talk to their players on the field about strategy on the next play. Or if their players are tired, they don't think they have the right play called or someone is injured.
So yeah, that's why football games are so long. Just embrace it and make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand!
Besides Travis Kelce, who else is on the field and what do they do?
These would be the offensive and defensive players. Each team typically has 11 players on the field (so totaling 22 players) with 11 on Offense and 11 on Defense.
Offense tries to score a touchdown (or field goal), and here are the positions that make that up:
1. Quarterback (also called the QB): They throw the ball.
2. Offensive Lineman: They prevent (block) the defense from tackling/sacking the Quarterback.
3. Running Back (also called Halfback or Fullback): They get handed the ball and run (can also catch or help block).
4. Wide Receiver: They catch passes from the Quarterback.
5. Tight End: They're part Wide Receiver and Part Offensive Lineman. They catch passes from the Quarterback and also help prevent (block) the defense from tackling/sacking the Quarterback. If you're a good Swiftie, you know this is what Travis Kelce is!
Defense tries to prevent the Offense from scoring a touchdown (or field goal), and here are the positions that make that up:
1. Defensive Lineman: They line up across from the offensive lineman and attempt to tackle/sack the Quarterback.
2. Linebackers: They line up behind the Defensive line and in front of the safeties to either defend against a potential pass to a Wide Receiver, tackle a Running Back who’s running with the ball or tackle/sack the Quarterback.
3. Cornerbacks (also called DBs, or Defensive Backs): They line up across from the Wide Receivers and try to prevent the Wide Receivers on Offense from catching the ball
4. Safeties: They line up the furthest away from the quarterback. They are the last line of defense in preventing the Offense from scoring.
How does the scoring work?
There are 3 main ways to score in football:
1. Touchdowns: Worth 6 points, scored when a player carries the ball across the opponent's goal line or catches a pass in the end zone.
2. Field goals: Worth 3 points, scored by kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts.
3. Extra-point attempts: After a touchdown, the scoring team can attempt an extra point (or 2) by kicking it for 1 point or running/passing the ball for 2 points into the end zone again.
Fun fact: Defense can score as well. If they intercept a pass or recover a fumble, they can run it back for a touchdown.
What are some common strategies and plays used in football?
A good game plan is essential in football (as it is in most things), and there are some plays that you should acquaint yourself with before the big game because you will be seeing these.
Types of offensive plays:
1. Pass: The Quarterback throws to a Wide Receiver, Tight End or Running Back.
2. Run: The Quarterback hands the ball to a Running Back.
3. RPO (Run Pass Option): The Quarterback has the option to run, pass or hand the ball off to a teammate.
Types of defensive plays:
1. Man to Man: This is when Linebackers, Cornerbacks and Safeties pick someone on the offensive team to guard for that play.
2. Zone: This is when Linebackers, Cornerbacks and Safeties pick an area on the field to defend.
3. Blitz: This is when either a Linebacker, Cornerback and/or Safety decides to try to sack the Quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
Fun fact: There's something called the QB sneak where the entire offense blocks for the QB and the QB immediately dives forward to try to get 1 or 2 yards for a first down. Travis Kelce's brother, Jason Kelce, and his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, made this pretty popular recently. It’s been dubbed the "Brotherly Shove.”
What are downs in football?
Downs are what folks in football call "attempts." Each team has four downs to advance the ball 10 yards. If successful, they get another set of four downs. If they fail, possession of the ball goes to the other team. Definitely an important term to know!
What are yards in football (besides being 3 ft in length)?
"Football is a game of inches" may be the famous quote, but yards are really what you'll hear about. Yardage is the number of yards that a team or player manages to move the ball forward toward their opponent's end zone on the field. Yards are marked in increments of 10 (which, as noted above, are very important to reach), and the Offense aims to reach the opponent's end zone for a touchdown.
Anything interesting I should know about the field?
Depends on what you find interesting, but there are some facts and phrases to be aware of when watching the game.
1. A football field is 100 yards split into two 50-yard halves, with both ends having an "end zone."
2. An end zone is where teams are trying to get to in order to score a touchdown.
3. The area between the end zone and the 20-yard line is called the red zone.
a. Red zone for Defense: It means they’re in the danger zone of being scored on.
b. Red zone for Offense: They’re in striking distance and in a great position to score points (whether by touchdown or field goal).
I know what hashtags are, but what are hash marks?
Hash marks outline where a play can start. The ball is placed within the hash marks depending on where the previous play ended:
1. If the play ends within the hash marks, the ball is placed there for the next play.
2. If the play ends outside of the hash marks, the ball is placed ON the hash marks closest to where the previous play ended.
3. On extra-point attempts or kickoffs, the team on Offense gets to pick where to place the ball within the hash marks.
(TL;DR—don't worry too much about this. As long as the person who places the ball knows what's going on, that's all that matters.)
Why is Las Vegas hosting the Super Bowl? They aren't even playing!
Super Bowl locations are picked 3–6 years in advance of the big game, so they're generally a neutral site for the two teams that eventually end up making it to that game. It's possible for someone to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, but it doesn’t happen often.
Fun fact: It happened in 2022 between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, and in 2021 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs. The home team won in both games!
Last question—what does Travis' shirtless brother do?
Travis' shirtless brother, better known to football fans as Jason Kelce, is the center for the Philadelphia Eagles. They actually played against each other in last year's Super Bowl, and it was a big deal because it was the first time two brothers had played against each other in the Super Bowl. So yeah, he's not just some guy who took off his shirt and became an internet sensation!