As a culture writer at The Ringer, I consume sports in exactly two ways: docuseries about sports and when a sports-related event crosses far enough into pop culture to be featured in Page Six, People magazine, or the Daily Mail (that one’s mostly for Lewis Hamilton news). When Taylor Swift started dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, I was excited that I might finally be able to talk to my Ringer colleagues about sports. But each headline I read in my beloved tabloids only confuses me more about who Travis Kelce is and why he won’t go to the Golden Globes with Taylor Swift and why he celebrated his birthday in his car. So I asked Nora Princiotti—my friend, my esteemed colleague, and the expert reporter on both Taylor Swift and the NFL—to guide me through these headlines and what they really mean.
Nora: Jodi! Thrilled to be here with you. It continues to be weird living in the professional center of this specific Venn diagram, but I’m here to help. I can’t promise to make sense of all of this, but I’m very excited to explore “Travis Kelce as written by the Page Six headline writers” together. Where should we start?
Jodi: Nora, you know that I possess very little knowledge of the NFL. But I have to confess to you before we get started: I know nothing about the NFL. I can—and will—make you dumber through this process. But in turn, you will make me smarter. And what is that if not friendship? What is that if not the potential for a wonderfully confusing Page Six headline down the road? Let’s get started:
“Travis Kelce spends 34th birthday hanging out in his car with friends—not Taylor Swift” —Page Six, October 6
Jodi: It’s been a long time since I thought about just … hanging out in my car. Recently, I did think my car was in park, but—TWIST—it was still in drive, and when I started my obligatory “just a quick scroll” before going inside my house, my car did roll forward and gently caress the neighbor’s car …
… but that’s me. And this is about NFL tight end Travis Kelce—a person with a job I totally know about. And on this day in October, Travis Kelce had chosen—it seems!—to celebrate his 34th birthday inside his car, with his friends, but without his new girlfriend, international superstar Taylor Swift.
Now, I want to be clear that I actually do know a little about Kelce, in that I’ve seen how he dresses, I’ve heard him speak, and I can easily picture his sly smile. So, given his overgrown teenager persona, I actually could imagine him hanging out in a Sonic parking lot; the Route 44 Ocean Water practically fills itself with vodka. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here, because it’s his birthday, and high school birthdays aren’t for Sonic—they’re for Texas Roadhouse. Could Page Six have captured Travis Kelce hanging out in a Texas Roadhouse parking lot, recovering from several rounds of cinnamon butter with his friends? Maybe …
But I simply can’t understand why Taylor Swift wouldn’t be invited to such an occasion. Obviously she is a very wealthy woman who could hang out anywhere she wants, but a fun part of this relationship with Travis Kelce seems to be that she gets to walk on sidewalks again. Might she not want to hang out in a car? My larger question though—and I do mean that literally—isn’t about the Sonic parking lot or Taylor Swift’s whereabouts for her boyfriend’s birthday. It’s that Travis Kelce is a big, giant NFL player, and his friends probably are too: Exactly what kind of car offers them enough space to hang out, let alone blow out birthday candles?
Nora: These are all great questions, and I do think we should spend some time on Travis’s vehicles of choice. In this case, it seems like he and his friends were holding this birthday hang in some giant, nondescript SUV. But when Travis has driven Taylor around Kansas City on other occasions, he’s favored either a classic convertible or his Rolls-Royce Ghost, a massive but very descript SUV that apparently features an LED light-up ceiling that can display the constellations of the night sky. The only car feature that has ever mattered to me is a good seat warmer—cozy!—but I do think these choices signal the possibility that Travis loves to be in the car. Also, I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but he doesn’t strike me as someone likely to be wholly unfamiliar with the concept of hotboxing.
Jodi, enlightened: This actually is hilarious behavior; they really are just big teenagers hanging out in a parking lot, secretly smoking in the middle of football practice! And that car is huge and, more importantly, appears to be wearing an extra little hat to accommodate someone as tall as Kelce. Taylor Swift should not have to hang out in that car, but she should be invited.
Nora: Taylor Swift should always be invited. I do think one of the primary impressions one would get of Travis from these headlines is that he is always either with Taylor Swift or not with Taylor Swift. That binary is the defining feature of any activity he does these days, which unfortunately makes half of what he does seem kind of lame, regardless of what it is. I wouldn’t want that applied to my life. Nora Princiotti enjoys a day at the beach … WITHOUT TAYLOR SWIFT. Nora Princiotti rescues a stray kitten … BUT TAYLOR SWIFT IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Don’t rub it in, Page Six!
For the record, I do believe Taylor visited Travis in Kansas City around his birthday to celebrate. And the fact that this car hang took place in the Chiefs parking lot makes me think it was after practice, in which case, of course she wasn’t there! I’m tempted to say that Travis and friends were basically just coming and going here, though the story does note that they spent an hour inside the car. I can’t imagine anything I want to do less on my birthday than sit inside a car for an hour, but I also won’t pretend I understand the relationship between some men and their motor vehicles.
“Eli Manning defends Travis Kelce visiting Taylor Swift in Argentina on his bye week” —Page Six, November 9
Jodi: Nora, I won’t make you explain what a bye week is, I’ll Google it, but please don’t tell our bosses I didn’t know!!!
Ah yes, it’s a classic bye week in Kansas City, and Travis Kelce is off duty. He’s got NFL PTO, and he knows just how to use it: He’s going to visit his girlfriend in Argentina, where she is performing more than a decade’s worth of music in front of 85,000 people. I can only assume that Eli Manning—former NFL quarterback, nailed it—is forced to defend Travis Kelce because … people think … Kelce should be … resting? (I don’t know this for sure, but I assume traveling on a private plane is just about the most luxurious experience possible, equaled only by hotboxing a Rolls-Royce with your nearest, dearest, and sweatiest pals.)
Presumably, Eli Manning is all, “Don’t worry, everyone who’s never played a day of professional football in their life; I took several vacations while being an NFL quarterback for 16 years, and I was still totally good at football afterward.” (Seems like a good guy, this guy I’ve made up in my head!) Is that it? Do fans think Travis Kelce shouldn’t be traveling? I mean, it’s a bye week—as in, goodbye Kansas City, hello Argentina! It’s my understanding that Travis Kelce is very good at football. He’s not gonna get un-good at football if he takes his off week … off. Right? Right, Nora?!
Nora: He is not. That said, the thing you should understand is that, in football culture, there are a lot of trapdoors hidden under the dates on the NFL calendar when an athlete is, at least in theory, not required to be doing football things. Eli Manning definitely knows this. He was the quarterback of the 2016 New York Giants team whose wide receivers caused an uproar by going to Miami—and posting photos taken on a boat with none other than Trey Songz, among others—ahead of their wild-card playoff game against the Packers, which they wound up losing by multiple touchdowns. This was enough of a scandal to warrant a nickname—something I know you, Jodi, can appreciate—and it brings me joy to inform you that this one was christened “Boatghazi.” So maybe Eli is giving quotes to People (which Page Six aggregated) because he wants to help Travis avoid a similar fate. (Page Six is aggregating Eli Manning quotes because, in New York, there is always a local angle.)
“Why Travis Kelce isn’t traveling to NYC to be with Taylor Swift on her birthday” —Page Six, December 13
Jodi: Wow, so what I’ve learned is that Travis Kelce was risking not just jet lag, but reputational ruin (and potentially a kick-ass portmanteau, which I actually consider an even trade) in order to visit his girlfriend in Argentina. It really seems like he likes spending time with Taylor. But Page Six has made it abundantly clear to me that he is almost never spending holidays with Taylor, so I’m swimming in questions once more! (I sure hope Trey Songz somehow enters this chat again as a result.)
For this headline, in Travis’s defense, I’ll say this: Almost all of my loved ones’ birthdays, including my own, occur within the same two-month period, and it can be a little challenging to manage. What, I’m supposed to travel to Georgia three times in a month to celebrate a bunch of non-landmark birthdays? And if I don’t, PAGE SIX IS GOING TO SAY I DON’T LOVE MY MOM???
So I get it; it could be tough in a new relationship to have both birthdays only two months apart during the busy season and while being constantly monitored by the headline-reading masses. Plus, Travis definitely seems like a birthday-month person, and it’s my understanding that Taylor Swift is sort of a birthday-life person (no. 13). So why wouldn’t Travis travel to see Taylor on her birthday in NYC? I mean, he traveled to Argentina for her not-birthday ON A BYE WEEK! Kansas City to New York is just under three hours on a plane—is that not the kind of thing you can do between football games? Is Page Six right? Did Travis Kelce deliberately miss Taylor Swift’s 34th birthday? Is it because she wanted to celebrate it outside of a car? Is there not a Texas Roadhouse in New York City?
Nora: Can I just say first that I love that Page Six tagged this article under “music”?
Again, football culture comes with a lot of unwritten rules. Would Travis have been expressly forbidden from quickly hopping on the PJ to visit Taylor in New York for a night? No, but I bet it would have backfired, definitely in the press and maybe also with his teammates. If the BYE WEEK is risky, traveling in between days of practices definitely is. (I do think if the invite had been to Texas Roadhouse and not to Zero Bond—the members-only club where Taylor Swift hangs out and where Lauren Sánchez’s son works while remotely attending the University of Colorado, Boulder—Travis would have at least asked Andy Reid about it.)
Jodi: This story is tagged under music?! And here I thought I was finally breaking into sports journalism. But I’m learning so much, that’s surely just around the corner. (First lesson: Don’t skip football practice for lamb sliders at Zero Bond.)
“Jason Kelce calls out Taylor Swift’s dad for wearing Chiefs sweater despite being Eagles fan: ‘Wrong team’” —Page Six, December 20
Jodi: Nora, wait. … I’m so embarrassed to be asking you this on several different levels, but … didn’t Taylor Swift grow up in Pennsylvania? Is she, like her father (according to her boyfriend’s brother, according to this headline in Page Six), a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles?! I guess everyone is probably past it now, but this all had the potential to go very Capulets and Montagues, huh?
See, this is what I experience reading these headlines—knowing so much about all of these people and yet so very little. From your previous explanations, I assume there’s an entire unwritten rule book about football attire (costumes? uniforms? gear? fashions? I’m so sorry). But from what I know about Jason Kelce—which is honestly kind of a lot via my TikTok algorithm—he’s a flip-flop-wearing, podcast-having, gruff little sweetheart. So, it is my assumption that he called out Taylor Swift’s dad all in good fun. And yet, Page Six has presented it as though Jason Kelce is ready to square up with a 71-year-old man. Is that true? Is everyone getting along in these two very famous, deeply Americana families? Has Scott Swift sacrificed all of his principles, traditions, and allegiances to Philadelphia in order to support his daughter’s boyfriend? (Because I personally think that’s sweet, but I don’t own any football costumes, so, as usual, what do I know?)
Nora: Oh, to be called out in the headlines of Page Six. This is another tabloid thing, yes? Everyone always seems to be getting called out—or worse, put on blast. I’m glad the algo has brought you Jason Kelce content, though, and I believe your instincts are correct here: This is all in good fun. Yes, Taylor Swift grew up an Eagles fan, and, yes, that is where Scott Swift’s fandom previously lay. But I think we’re all #TeamTravis now, and I think Jason probably understands that deep down. The thing you need to know about Scott Swift is that he’s a former college football player turned stockbroker who started a family with his then-wife, Andrea, on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania before they all moved to Nashville for Taylor’s career. Taylor’s last couple of boyfriends have been somewhat esoteric British artists. I’m willing to bet he’d root for the Cowboys (the Eagles’ hated divisional rival) just to be talking ball at the dinner table.
“Travis Kelce sets pulses racing with resurfaced video of him wearing nothing but a towel: ‘Taylor [we] get it’” —Page Six, December 21
Jodi: I want you to close your eyes and imagine the, honestly, embarrassing smile that was plastered across my face as you described this Christmas-tree-loving man getting the all-American son-in-law he’d always dreamed of. I was welling up like I’d given my own father the son-in-law that he would design in a lab, someone to drink a Scotch with at Christmastime while they talk about how wonderful I am (funnily enough, an esoteric Brit would do just fine in that situation).
Now imagine my face when I went from that glowing image of familial synchronicity to this Page Six headline. “Resurfaced” sounds incredibly seedy, especially when you consider that the resurfaced video captured Travis Kelce in a towel. I imagine this headline is referencing the same video I saw touted in a similar headline at People: “Throwback Travis Kelce Spa Video Goes Viral—and Heats Up the Internet: ‘I Love Bubbles.’” And I honestly can’t tell if the People headline makes it all seem less tawdry or more. There’s a big, giant man saying, “I love bubbles,” sure—but then there’s also calling it a spa video.
What is this spa video?! Who, exactly, is Page Six quoting as telling Taylor they “get it”? And whose pulses were racing? Not my pulse. I’ll have to check my calendar, but I’m pretty sure I was with Scott Swift on the couch, having a couple of brewskies and watching the big game on the day his future son-in-law was “heating up the internet.” Nora, were you on the internet on this day? Why was Travis Kelce wearing only a towel?
Nora: If the sluttiest thing a man can do is wear a sweater, is the second-sluttiest thing participating in an ESPN video feature on your wellness routine? Here’s the thing—it’s definitely a choice on the part of these publications to lean into the spa video of it all … but that is really what this is! Travis Kelce did a SportsCenter feature in 2017 where he went to a spa and got a massage and wore what appears to be some kind of clay mask. At one point, Travis, while lying on a massage table, told his spa tech, “I just feel like I’m a fish sitting on a skillet right now, just getting, like, seasoned.” I’d love to tsk-tsk Page Six and People for making something innocuous into something tawdry, as you said, but the question I can’t answer is: Why did ESPN do this? Why did Travis? And how is this man seasoning his fish?
One thing I can appreciate is the tried-and-true tabloid tradition of taking a tweet liked by 147 people and presenting it as a bona fide internet phenomenon. I was apparently logged off the day this all went down—I’m pretty tapped into this particular beat, but I don’t remember paying attention to this story. My pulse was decidedly languid.
“Tony Romo accidentally calls Taylor Swift Travis Kelce’s ‘wife’ for second time” —Page Six, December 26
Jodi: This is a hilarious mistake to make twice. I’m obsessed. Because I’m pretty sure Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce have been dating for only six-ish months. So did Tony Romo just immediately conceptualize Taylor as Travis’s wife? Does he consider this to be a Jacob-Renesmee imprinting situation? Is he a hopeless romantic or just hopelessly forgetful? Plus, I feel like Taylor Swift has been to six Chiefs games total … has Tony Romo called her Travis Kelce’s wife at a third of them? And what will he call her if they actually do get married? “Ah yes, and there’s Travis’s common-law life partner in the stands cheering him on. You simply love to see it, Jim! My pulse is racing.”
Nora: First of all, did you pull “Jim” out of thin air, or are you intimately familiar with CBS’s NFL broadcast pairings? In either case, well done. I’m feeling generous, so I’ll assume that Tony Romo can imagine a woman in various roles beyond just “wife” and that that’s not the underlying issue here. Romo did make this flub twice. I like the idea that the first one was just a slip of the tongue, and the second was a sort of pink elephant situation where Romo, both having been reminded by his producers that Taylor and Travis are not married and fearing the repercussions of offending any Swifties, spent an entire week thinking only that he needed to avoid a repeat mistake until the intrusive thoughts became words yet again. Oh, Tony, what you’ve been through.
Jodi: Thin air! I almost went “Don” and then pivoted to “Jim.” Classic broadcaster name.
Nora: Someday, then, we’ll have a conversation about Jim Nantz. But today is not that day.
“Travis Kelce won’t be on the Golden Globes red carpet with Taylor Swift” —Page Six, January 3
Jodi: Damn, can this guy go anywhere? It’s like he’s constantly grounded! “Travis can’t come out to play; he didn’t finish his tackles before dinner.” “But Mr. Reeeeid, tonight’s the Golden Globes.” “Sorry, Haim sisters, he knows the rules—you can tell Taylor to take it up with him tomorrow at the Emmys.”
I now know enough to have imagined that very realistic conversation—you’re teaching me so much, Nora! (Is this the most secondhand embarrassment you’ve ever experienced? Be honest.) But for real, I do now know that if Travis took time between practices to visit his girlfriend, that might make his teammates mad … and taking time to travel internationally during a bye week might cause a scandal … and I can only imagine the same goes for traveling to L.A. to attend a bunch of Hollywood parties on a Sunday night. Sure, that handsome young man might seem like a party animal, but it takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice to be that—OK, wow, this is making me realize that playing for the NFL has most of the same social parameters as high school. Outside pressures! Social expectations! Scandal! Hot but tortured jocks!
Which, for a girlie like Taylor, who didn’t get to have an entirely normal high school experience, might be kind of nice. Even if it means she never gets to see her hot jock boyfriend (according to Page Six).
Nora: What’s funniest about this is that the Chiefs were playing in Los Angeles the afternoon of the Golden Globes. You’re picking up on something very real about players being effectively grounded during the season. Some teams stay in hotels the nights before home games because they’re not trusted to stay out of trouble or navigate traffic on their own and get to the stadium on time. This is a sport in which there’s often outrage when players get excused absences (literally high school) to attend the births of their children. So part of me finds it kind of delicious that the gossip rags don’t treat it as a fait accompli that the world revolves around the football calendar. But let’s be real, it definitely doesn’t revolve around the Golden Globes, either.
Jodi: Travis Kelce should host the Golden Globes next year … if he can get a doctor’s note.
“Taylor Swift’s cat Olivia Benson has a higher net worth than Travis Kelce” —Page Six, January 7
Jodi: I’m sorry, does Taylor Swift’s cat have a job? Other than being Taylor Swift’s cat? (And investigating especially heinous crimes as part of an elite criminal justice squad known as the Special Victims Unit.)
Actually, let me back it up on that incredulity real quick: In college, I manned the desk of a sort of student lounge that consisted of exactly two pool tables that I believe were added to our campus as an alternative to binge drinking …
A cat definitely could have done that job. But they would not have made a better salary than Travis Kelce, who I assume makes tens of millions of dollars, plus commission for steamy ESPN videos.
Nora: Despite having once been referred to by none other than John Cleese as “the weirdest cat I’ve ever seen in my life,” Olivia Benson has, in fact, received compensation for professional work. She’s done commercials, you see. Brands like DirecTV and Diet Coke are clamoring for that coveted O.B. endorsement.
According to Cats.com’s “Ultimate Pet Rich List,” Benson is the world’s third-richest domestic animal, coming in behind only German shepherd Gunther VI, who recently added to his $500 million net worth by selling “a mansion formerly owned by Madonna” (???), and cat influencer Nala, who has $100 million to her name. Olivia Benson is just behind at $97 million, which does eclipse Kelce’s $77 million career earnings from football. I assume she has invested well.
Jodi: OK, props to Olivia Benson—she may be a nepo baby, but she is not resting on her furry little laurels.
“Travis Kelce Explains Why He Sat Out the Chiefs’ Last Game: ‘It Didn’t Feel Right in My Gut’” —People, January 10
Jodi: Listen, I know I’m getting this one wrong. I know it. Because I can actually hear Travis Kelce saying these words—“It didn’t feel right in my gut”—and he’s using that really sincere voice he uses on his podcast with his brother sometimes (but it still sounds like he’s smiling, because he is Lance from The Other Two). So I know he’s referring to an instinct “in his gut” that told him not to play in this game. And yet …
… this People headline is distinctly making it sound like Travis Kelce has been suffering from gastrointestinal distress. Something did not feel right in his gut, and that thing was one too many Chicken Critters at Texas Roadhouse. But even once I move past my first (certainly incorrect) assumption about what this headline means, it still kiiind of sounds like Travis Kelce … had a premonition something bad would happen if he played in his next Chiefs game?
Is Travis Kelce a witch? Is Travis Kelce so successful because he’s just been That’s So Raven–ing his way through the NFL? And if Travis Kelce can see the future … did he always know that he would eventually date Taylor Swift? That’s heavy, man. (Also, I didn’t know you could just sit out an NFL game if you wanted to. Of all the rules we’ve discussed, both written and unwritten, “playing in the games” kind of feels like a biggie?)
Nora: I don’t mean to be gross here, but I have a pet theory that way more player absences are due to, um, gastrointestinal distress than we realize. These are big dudes: They eat a lot, and then they run around. Sometimes an “abdomen” pops up on an injury report and, well, we’re all human. ANYWAY, thank you for reminding me about the supernatural central plot of That’s So Raven. For someone who spends a nonzero amount of present-day time thinking about That’s So Raven, I think I’d forgotten that That’s So Raven was really about anything other than Raven-Symoné making faces that would one day become memes.
The thing to know here is that the game in question was the Chiefs’ last game of the regular season. By that point, they had won enough games to be sure they were making the playoffs. Winning one more didn’t matter. When that’s the case, important players often sit out so they don’t risk getting hurt. Travis was 16 receiving yards away from getting to 1,000 on the season, a milestone that he has reached for the past seven years and is a fairly big deal, but given that he has had injuries this season and he’s important to the team, it would honestly have been more surprising if he had played. Basically, Travis sat out the Chiefs game because it didn’t feel right in his ankle.
Jodi: I have a pet theory that Olivia Benson should buy me a car. But yours about NFL players having tummy aches all the time definitely sounds right, and it sounds like Trav made the right choice. (Of course he did, he’s literally a witch.)
“Travis Kelce is ‘too famous’ and busy with Taylor Swift to text me back, ex-Chiefs player Tyreek Hill says” —Page Six, January 12
Jodi: This is no offense to Tyreek Hill, and what I’m sure are his perfectly valid friendship feelings, but … I can barely text people back, and I’m not famous at all. It takes every ounce of strength in me to post an Instagram Story. Sometimes doing things is just hard! (Although I’ve seen Travis Kelce’s tweets—he may not be overthinking his social media activity to the degree that I am.)
I mean, can you imagine how much your life would change once you started dating Taylor Swift? The logistics that go into eating dinner at a restaurant or traveling to Argentina or getting a meeting about branding opportunities with her cat? Let’s give the man some time to settle into love a little bit, make it through this football season with his stomach lining intact, and—probably most central to Tyreek’s texting goals—recover his phone from wherever Tree Paine hid it after those old tweets came out. (Alternatively, one idea for Tyreek is that if he just pulls up to any parking lot in Kansas City in an extra-large Escalade, Travis Kelce might just show up.)
Nora: Texting is the actual pits. I’m so with you there. Also, Tyreek Hill is a full-on boob with a history of causing problems for his friends and colleagues by oversharing on his podcast—and much worse. Sorry not sorry you got left on read!
Jodi: Travis Kelce, if you’re reading this, do not approach an Escalade XL in the Kansas City Target parking lot—Tyreek Hill is in there waiting to spill your secrets!
“TMZ Sources Say Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce Are Entering a ‘Very Challenging Stage of Their Relationship’” —Delish, January 16
Jodi: OK, I definitely do not want to sound rude to journalists, but …
… the biggest challenges to Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship are these tabloid headlines. Which, as you astutely pointed out at the top of this grand inquisition, Nora, create an unnecessary binary out of documenting every time that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are or are not together. It seems like Travis Kelce didn’t go to the Golden Globes because he’s dedicated to his job. Which, given everything I know about Taylor Swift, I have to assume she likes about him.
Of course, that is an assumption. Because this exercise with you has taught me a lot about the social politics of the NFL, and even more about cat finances, but interrogating these headlines has taught me absolutely nothing about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s actual relationship, which I have about as much access to as Tyreek Hill has to Travis Kelce’s iMessages. Which is to say: none! Short of a That’s So Raven moment, there’s literally no way for me to confirm whether this celebrity relationship is entering “a very challenging stage.” But I can approach these celebrity site headlines with a slightly more nuanced take on reality (and football schedules) thanks to the one and only Nora Princiotti, featured here … WITHOUT TAYLOR SWIFT!
What about you, Nora? Where do you land after explaining football to a woman in her 30s because two other people in their 30s make headlines every time they don’t do something together?
Nora: For starters, I’ve learned a lot about the various culinary offerings of Texas Roadhouse. Beyond that, we’re in agreement that the Taylor and the Travis depicted in these headlines and articles are interesting and somewhat bizarre characters, but they don’t seem to have a ton in common with the real-life Traylor. That said, without relying on TMZ or any inside information of my own, I do feel that I can confirm that Taylor and Travis are approaching a challenging stretch: They’re going to Buffalo together this weekend.