Sunday night’s NFL matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets turned out to be a much more exciting game than expected — and not for the reason sports media want you to believe.
After leading 17-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Chiefs found themselves locked in a bitter fight to stay above .500. Over the next half-hour of play, the Jets came storming back, tying the game (20-20) by the end of the third quarter, putting the Chiefs on their heels. With New York’s defense firing on all cylinders and Kansas City’s offense struggling to move the ball, there remained a real possibility heading into the fourth quarter that the defending Super Bowl champs could lose to the struggling New York franchise and its second-string quarterback.
While the Chiefs ultimately prevailed (23-20), the down-to-the-wire matchup proved to be one of the most thrilling games of the NFL season thus far. But you wouldn’t know it if you were listening to the game’s television announcers.
Instead of solely focusing on the game in front of them — which is what any real football fan tuning in actually cares about — “Sunday Night Football” hosts Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth could not stop talking about pop singer Taylor Swift. Despite having zero impact on the game, Swift — who attended the matchup to support her new boo, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — became a major topic of conversation for Tirico and Collinsworth, who gossiped about the Swift-Kelce romance like teenage girls.
Even an NBC cameraman couldn’t help but pan to Swift after Kansas City running back Isiah Pacheco ran in a touchdown to give the Chiefs a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Because, as we all know, Pacheco would never have made it into the endzone without the “Love Story” singer’s looming (and annoying) presence.
But NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is hardly the only media entity obsessed with Swift. Every major sports “news” outlet, from CBS Sports to ESPN, has joined in on covering the most worthless story in the country. To put the cherry on top, the NFL even changed its X (formerly known as Twitter) banner to a photo collage of Swift.
Time for Sports Media to Get Back to Basics
As annoying as the coverage and commentary may be, sports media’s compulsive desire to make Kelce and Swift’s fall fling the number one story in the nation is just a symptom of the cancer infecting the industry for years.
What was once a fairly respectable enterprise has devolved into the sports version of TMZ or People Magazine. The primary focus has shifted away from reporting and analyzing real news that impacts sports to whatever trivial nonsense is happening off the field or has no bearing on gameplay whatsoever.
Take, for instance, sports hosts’ fanaticism with racial politics in recent years. Whether it was the Colin Kaepernick debacle or the resurgence of Black Lives Matter following the death of George Floyd, the industry couldn’t help but embrace the very subjects Americans were tuning in to get away from. And, unsurprisingly, most of this analysis came from a leftist perspective while denigrating viewers who were likely conservative.
Sports media’s clownish fixation with Swift is just the latest example of this trend in which substance is sacrificed in favor of sensationalism. The vast majority of the enterprise’s primary audience doesn’t give a rip about who Travis Kelce or any other athlete is dating. The only ones who do are the cultish Swifties, who became football fans five minutes ago and will burn Kelce’s jersey the minute he and Swift break up and the latter writes a song about it.
Instead of creating “Bad Blood” with its core fanbase to appease its new temporary one, the industry should revert back to focusing on the issue that its primary audience cares about. Otherwise, it should expect to die a slow and painful death.