The Chiefs Are The NFL’s Traveling Circus
8:59 AM EST on January 22, 2024
The right thing happened Sunday, Kansas City beating Buffalo, because without the Chiefs and their carny show, we couldn't manufacture the next step in this story:
Or track the developments in this romance-meets-family triangle:
Yes, the Chiefs in all their weird three-ring magnificence have advanced to the penultimate step in their campaign, "How To Make The Most Histrionical Super Bowl Ever." All they have to do is beat the Baltimore Ravens this coming Sunday to wed the people who obsess over Taylor Swift and her allegedly witchy tendencies, for good and ill, with the people who agree that Jason Kelce is the NFL's newest and nudest spokesman for everything the Super Bowl in Las Vegas could, should, and would be.
Oh, there are plenty of other narratives to drag into the Conference Championship Week (Super Duper prefix pending), but they all stink by comparison. The Detroit Lions, who have never been to one and haven't played for any kind of championship since Eisenhower was president, can corner the long-suffering fan market, but that's already a little thin in the tread. The Ravens have the best team, if that's what you think is fun, and there's a chance that Sunday's game could be played in the rain, which is always a ratings-getter if you can't have snow. The San Francisco 49ers get to play the tortured powerhouse who are now mired in doubt and uncertainty because they nearly lost to the Green Bay Packers, who aren't as good as the Lions.
But nobody has bundled-up Taylor Swift evidently invoking timely wind gusts, and nobody has Jason Kelce shotgunning cans of beer like the quality-control elf at the brewery, barging about the suite while dressed in Western New York formalwear: no shirt, pants looped below his waist like Saturn's saddest ring, and scaring his kids. Not even Jim Harbaugh dressed as a gorilla on the sidelines giving Connor Stalions piggyback rides during the national anthem would beat what the Chiefs will be bringing. CBS even had trouble keeping its Taylor highlights straight, not showing her after Travis Kelce's second touchdown but showing her after Isiah Pacheco's, as though she was there to suss out Kansas City's running game. The network is clearly losing its keen eye on America's taste for pandering.
But what about the Lions and the lovely story of their long wait to take center stage, you ask. Why can't they be America's Team? Please. You haven't spent enough time in the new post-COVID America if you think a good football story is enough. And that goes for the Ravens and 49ers as well. The three of them just play football, and that's not the kind of thing America needs in an election year, especially this one.
No, a Chiefs Super Bowl would be contested for the part of America's soul that hasn't already been hedge-funded to Satan because it pits all the louts in the He-Man Woman Haters Club who resent Swift—because even if she isn't a necromancer with captivating vocal range she still brings girls and all their cooties to the games and ruin the boys' furniture-breaking adolescent fun—against everything that yesterday's performance by Kelce The Elder provides. He is the unintended antidote to the Swifties without even trying, just standing on the front railing of the suite three seats away powerbombing Genesees after every first down. The cultural bloodbaths in living rooms across the nation will serve as a fitting warmup act for the meteor or asteroid we will all pray for come November.
And frankly, however Taylor and the Fun Kelce want to crush the week is all good with us. The Super Bowl, long a trade show with a football game tied to the end of it for tax purposes, has become a staid, predictable, events-by-the-numbers, money-on-the-hoof showcase. The halftime show is the same trumped-up extravaganza of last year’s pop stars waiting for their turn on Celebrity Jeopardy. The pre- and postgame shows are still where helium goes to die. Every overproduced ad is either for gambling, cars that drive themselves into trees, or medicines for diseases only yaks get, all with the soundtrack of a 1970s pop song you have to ask your parents about. ("Yeah, that's Harry Nilsson, he did a song called 'You're Breakin’ My Heart'; your mother and I danced to it at prom.")
And that's just the stuff you like.
In other words, this is a fight not for the game or even the day, but the entire week. Las Vegas is the only place this can possibly work and even at that it may be more than the town can handle, so it is not just happy coincidence that this is the year when it all can come together. The Swiftmaster General, the Kelce Family Circus, Vegas just being Vegas—it can all make the football industry itself pale in significance at a time when it really needs a humble pie with roofing-nail crust catapulted into its face. Hey, it's that or three more weeks of back-up quarterback legacy talk, and that's the reason why you stopped listening to sports talk shows when you got a job, isn't it?