During one of the times the cameras showed Taylor Swift, winner of 12 Grammy Awards, at the Sunday night football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets, Zainub Amir, a fan of the singer, smiled.
“It feels like I’m watching ‘The Eras Tour’ on TV, except it’s football,” said Amir, 27, from a bar in downtown New York’s Manhattan, referring to the singer’s successful tour that made the ticket sales sites crash.
Amir arrived at the bar — she had briefly considered buying tickets to the game at nearby MetLife Stadium — armed with a notebook and pen to watch Swift support Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, her new rumored love interest.
The game itself, the weekly highlight broadcast of America’s most powerful sports league, was initially unimportant to Amir. But when Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco scored the first touchdown, Amir screamed with excitement and posted about it on social media.
Due to Swift and Kelce’s rumored relationship, which caused a cultural and economic frenzy last weekend, Amir has joined the ranks of Swift fans who are educating themselves about football.
She spent the last week studying the rules and stars of the sport. The singer’s fan vaguely knew Kelce before; Swift, who frequently writes songs about her relationships, had mostly dated musicians and actors.
When the singer entered the NFL’s realm, her cavalry of dedicated fans came face to face with a product many of them rarely interact with.
“Her fans aren’t just Taylor Swift consumers, they’re also a little Taylor Swift in a way,” said Jordan Pellerito, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri who teaches a course on Swift. “They are a little captivated by her dedication to understanding what she is interested in, which at the moment is football.”
When news broke that Swift would be at the Jets game on Wednesday, ticket sales for the game nearly doubled in a 24-hour period, according to ticket exchange company StubHub.
NFL games accounted for 83 of the 100 most-watched broadcasts last year, according to TV ratings company Nielsen, and the league is enjoying record profits. But Swift’s 94.5 million followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, are nearly triple those of the NFL, and her connection to Kelce is bringing the league a new group of fans.
“It’s kind of a gift from heaven that all of this is happening, but now it’s our job to make sure those fans that are coming in stay,” said Tim Ellis, the NFL’s chief marketing officer.
Amir, who runs a Swift fan account on social media (@SwiftNYC), with 333,000 followers, said she doesn’t care about NFL games other than the Super Bowl, during which she mostly pays attention to commercials and socializes. But Amir, who works in product sales at Bloomberg, has been a fan of Swift since 2008.
She attended six Eras tour concerts this year and remembers playing Swift’s “Welcome to New York” for two hours on the day she signed a lease on an Upper West Side apartment in 2017. When Swift’s relationship With Kelce looking serious, Amir started studying.
“To understand why Taylor Swift might 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 football news articles daily, asking male colleagues for clarification. She filled around six pages of the notebook with explanations about how points are marked, among other things, and also created nicknames to remember certain positions.
The quarterback, of course, is Swift. Those who run or receive the ball, such as running backs and wide receivers, are Swift’s band because “they are part of creating such a beautiful product for the tour and helping Taylor do her best.” She imagines the defense as Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who in 2009 took the stage and interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech in protest at the MTV Video Music Awards.
On Sunday, during a surprisingly competitive game, Amir soon began commentating on the action. She berated Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for throwing the ball too far from a receiver in the end zone (“Oh my God, that’s so bad”). And she experienced a traditional rite of passage — questioning the referees’ ability. (“I’d be mad, too,” she said when Jets coach Robert Saleh reacted angrily to a questionable decision by the officials.)
She also immediately recognized why Swift had a serious facial expression when the game was tied early in 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 NFL if Swift and Kelce ended their relationship, but later commented that the intense nature of the competition left her “involved.”
After the Chiefs got the win, she posted to her followers: “watching and learning football tonight as a fan has been so much fun omg I’m still in a sports bar in New York having fun.”