top of page
Search

In Their Football Era: Common Ground for Collectors and Their Families

Updated: Apr 10

“When are the Chiefs playing? Are the Chiefs playing today? What days are the games on?” Jay (@jay_local_hits) recalls as he reflects on what an exciting time the 2023-24 NFL season was for his household. Rumors had started swirling that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was dating one of the most famous women in the world: singer/songwriter/global icon, Taylor Swift. After launching her first tour since 2018, The Eras Tour became the all-time highest-grossing concert tour and Taylor Swift was having an unprecedented year. When Swift showed up at Arrowhead Stadium on September 24, 2023 for the Chiefs game against the Chicago Bears, millions of her fans flocked to the Fox broadcast and social media to witness the start of a cultural phenomenon.


Jay had been a dedicated Denver Broncos fan for most of his life and had always tried to find ways to get his wife, Morgan, and ten-year-old daughter, Vada, to join him in cheering for the Colorado team with little success. Citing several reasons, such as the mistreatment of players, legal troubles, domestic abuse allegations, and reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement, he started to feel less passionate about the Broncos and, by extension, the NFL over the last several years. 


“[Morgan] has watched dozens of games over the years, and I don’t think she knew there was an end zone and that’s how you scored points,” Jay shared as Vada and Morgan listened on.

“Not only did I not know,” Morgan said, “I definitely did NOT want to talk about it.”


While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had reported in 2020 that approximately 47% of the NFL’s 187.3 million fans were women, many women do not find the league’s objectives, advertising, and marketing to reflect that. Morgan went on to share that she knows many women like football, but that it has very much catered to the male gaze. Taylor’s presence was not just fodder for her fans-it centered the interpersonal relationships and stories that raise the stakes and make the sport more compelling, especially for women. The camaraderie of the male NFL does not always extend to the female fans, but Taylor Swift’s presence allowed women to come together and learn about the sport in social circles where they receive less pushback and are more comfortable asking questions and enjoying the frivolities that are generally patronized by society.  When Morgan and Vada started asking to watch and actively ask questions, Jay knew he had found a way to share his passion for sports with his family. 


“She’s not perfect, but I love what she has done for female community,” Morgan shares. “Taylor’s a ‘girl’s girl,’ and if we can experience football as a girl’s game, there’s a shift there.” 


My niece, Sofia, 11, described how she used to watch football before and had a basic knowledge but did not pay a lot of attention to the NFL, especially outside of watching games. Sofia and her mother, Mary Katharyne, would watch some games together, and her family are historically New York Giants and Carolina Panthers fans. When Taylor arrived on the NFL scene, Sofia began to engage more with the sport and even educated her friends as their interest in football began to blossom.


 “Because of Taylor, I got a new love for football and started looking forward to watching it,” she told me. Sofia shared that she would watch Chiefs games, but she also wanted to and would watch other teams. When I mentioned it was good she had the Chiefs as a back up team due to the abysmal Giants and Panthers records this season, she wanted to clarify: “...the Chiefs are never back ups, the Giants are now.” Mary Katharyne noticed the changes in Sofia’s viewing habits, and while the two are very close, she shared that it was fun to “REALLY be in it together.” When asked if she thought she and Sofia would be watching next season, Mary Katharyne said they definitely would be for Taylor and Travis, but also because they both “legitimately more into [football].”


Similarly to Jay, Morgan, and Vada, for Brian (@bsportscards, @heavy.trading.cards) and his daughter Tessie, 9, the most recent NFL season experience was drastically different from prior seasons in their household. Tessie had never previously had interest in football, and always offered up “...an eye roll when Dad says it’s time to watch football,” Brian says. 


According to her dad, Tessie loves to sing, dance, and perform, and Taylor is an empowering role model that Brian and his wife, Jamie, appreciate for her and their younger daughter, Clementine. Brian, like Jay, is also a lifelong Broncos fan, so while he respects Mahomes, Kelce, Reid, and the Chiefs, he refuses to root for them. What he will root for, however, is his daughter’s enthusiasm for watching games with him. Though Tessie did not seem to care much about the actual game, she loves to be on “Taylor Watch” and looks for #87, Travis’s jersey number, on the field. When asked if she has more appreciation for the sport, she says “maybe 10% more,” but whether her interest can be quantified is irrelevant to Brian: “[We had] good family bonding time. I got football, and they were excited to hang with me…Keeping up with the circus was actually a lot of fun.”


Tessie not only admires Travis Kelce for his romantic choices, but also for being a spokesperson for the COVID-19 vaccine. As a severe asthmatic, with the worst triggers being viruses and colds, seeing Travis positively promoting the vaccine was something she found comfort and admiration in.


“COVID was tough. Kelce standing up and being outspoken in that way is very important,” Brian emphasized. “[Tessie] has seen that Travis Kelce endorses Pfizer and between that connection and Taylor’s outspoken politics, we’ve talked about how those are public people that we believe are doing good.”


Jay, like Brian, also had to reconcile his love for the Broncos with his family’s desire to root for the Chiefs. When discussing the new love for football in their family, Morgan prompted Jay: we don’t have to be a Chiefs family, but can you be a fan for women and girls and their interests? He knew the answer before the question was even asked.


“I asked myself, ‘Do you want to be the guy sticking your nose up at this fun awesome thing we get to experience together?’ Of course not!” Jay says. “If Morgan and Vada are in, it’s so much more fun.” They are all aware, however, that not all men have this realization.


Brian shared that he and his wife were very open with Tessie when she asked how people were upset over Taylor and Travis’s romance and her presence at his games. They had conversations together about how “powerful women make some very insecure men very nervous.”


“[It was a] hard but important lesson for my girls to not allow people to knock them down,” Brian said.

“Make it interesting to women, and women will watch. There may be some men that don’t want it to be interesting to women…some men fight hard against change, but the NFL goes where the dollar goes,” Morgan shared. “They’re not in it for the men, they’re in it for the money.”


Front Office Sports reported on the immediate impact Swift’s presence at the Chiefs-Bears game: Fox saw a 8.1% increase in viewership from females aged 12-17; data from Roku showed a 63% viewership increase in females aged 18-49; Travis Kelce gained 250,000 Instagram followers overnight and 2.6 million followers by the end of 2023; Travis Kelce jersey sales were reported by Fanatics to have jumped 400% in the days after the game. The instant growth of interest in the NFL, Chiefs, and Kelce was prosperous financially and socially with even small businesses seeing immediate bumps in attention and sales. By January 22, 2024, it was estimated that Taylor Swift had “generated an equivalent brand value of $331.5 million” for the Chief as well as the NFL. While the relationship has helped to bolster numbers for the sport, the football community has also shown they support Taylor Swift: Grammy viewership was up 86% in Kansas City this year over last year.


While there were many factors that went into the record breaking broadcast of Super Bowl LVII in 2024, the 7.4% boost from 2023 included all three of the families I spoke to. 


“The Super Bowl party was off the chain because everybody cared,” Jay said as they reflected on the party they all attended on February 11th. Not many of Jay’s friends are Chiefs or San Francisco 49ers fans, and he pointed out that the women and kids at the party had no incentive to care, but Taylor and Travis’s relationship enrapturing the women and girls in his social circle was something that brought him back to the sport as a viewer and introduced them to the experience of being invested in a major sporting event. 

All of the girls and women I spoke with confirmed they dressed up for the occasion, wearing football-and-Taylor/Travis-themed shirts ordered as soon as the Chiefs clinched the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens. Tessie planned to wear a custom “Swift 87” shirt for the big game, but had a costume change midway through to her custom homemade Lover album outfit from when she, her mom, and their social group went to see Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour together in the theater. This newfound passion instilled in some of these women and girls translated to cards as well.


While Jay has been able to share his collecting with Vada through mostly non-sports cards (going so far as to pass his 1989 binder down to her for her own collection), Morgan has never been interested in cards. Jay has been making card art for several years and while Vada would sometimes join him at his work table, Morgan had never shown any personal interest in having Jay make her a custom card. He was surprised and excited for the opportunity to further connect with his wife through his passion for card collecting.


“I love his art, I love a collectible,” Morgan shared. “He added details that meant something to me.” The card is now on display on a bookshelf alongside Morgan’s cherished book collection in her reading nook.

Brian, a collector as well as a card artist, shared that Tessie loves to make card art with him when he is constructing cards. She mostly collects Pokemon, but for her birthday in December he purchased a custom card from Diamond Cutz Cards of Taylor Swift. When I asked how he felt about the possibility of Tessie showing a greater interest in sports cards as she gets older and if he was worried it being a male dominated space may deter her, he was optimistic.


 “I’ve been a collector for over thirty years, so even though it’s male dominated, I’d say it’s far more inclusive now than ever. I wouldn’t want her to deal with [toxicity] over it, but that’s like anything else in the world…if she’s into it then she can go for it.”


Comments


bottom of page