Do you really think the Kansas City Chiefs won’t win the Super Bowl? Indeed, their offense has struggled this season and a wild-card entry into the playoffs forced them to overtime and the San Francisco 49ers a first-round bye. Indeed, the Chiefs are also technically Super Bowl underdogs, with oddsmakers generally favoring the 49ers. Yes, the Chiefs trailed for much of the game, trailing by seven at halftime. Every time they start to look alive, their momentum is thwarted. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a 52-yard pass to wide receiver Mecole Hardman, but it was immediately negated by a fumble on the next play and the 49ers resumed play. Won the ball back. At the beginning of the second half, when the Chiefs were preparing to counterattack, they fumbled the ball again, but this time they successfully recovered the ball, but lost 12 yards. “What a brutal start to the second half for Kansas City!” one announcer said. After two possessions, the game ended with Mahomes intercepting the ball.
Yet the Chiefs’ victory felt inevitable, just like their appearance in the Super Bowl was inevitable. As sports analyst (and former Chiefs tight end) Tony Gonzalez reminded us at the start of Sunday night’s game, “Four Super Bowls in five years.” (In 2021, the Chiefs lost Super Bowl LV, but they’ve won every other game, including the 2023 game when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles by three points.) Gonzalez continued, “This is a dynasty in the making.”
The NFL loves a good dynasty, even if no one else does. The central narrative of this year’s Super Bowl is that the Chiefs are replacing the legacy of the New England Patriots — the only team other than the Buffalo Bills to make four Super Bowls in five years. (The Bills have famously lost four games in a row, which is why the Patriots are a more appropriate comparison.) The announcers made the idea of the Chiefs being the Patriots sound like a good thing, seemingly forgetting about the Patriots , despite their tenacity, are one of the most hated teams in sports, along with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees. So the real Super Bowl this year is Patrick Mahomes versus Tom Brady, and Mahomes is to LeBron James what Brady is to Michael Jordan. Interestingly, we’ve already seen Mahomes and Brady go head-to-head: the Chiefs lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2021 Super Bowl. Brady and the Buccaneers won handily; the final score was 31-9. Mahomes did not score a touchdown.
This year, it would be easy to get the impression that the world is rooting for the Chiefs. The relationship between Chiefs tight ends Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift provides some relief from Kansas City’s ‘dynasty-in-the-making’ worries, says Taylor Swift Swift herself also liked to sing the praises of America’s great dynasties. The pairing was considered one of the best things to happen to the NFL in years; a sentimental Cetaphil commercial depicted a young girl suddenly able to connect with her father through football. During the game, the camera cuts to Super Bowl parties overseas, which coincide with stops on the Eras Tour: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; and in Munich, Germany, where the international crowd can be seen doing the Chiefs’ signature “Tomahawk Chop” rather jarringly. “gesture. But once the game began, when the Chiefs ran onto the field for the first time, they were booed by people in the stands. It was a 49ers crowd, although you’d never know it by watching TV – both teams were dressed in red and yellow. (Nine wore gold because, you know: the gold rush.)
One thing you can easily tell from the TV is that there are a lot of celebrities in attendance. It doesn’t hurt that this game is taking place at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. Las Vegas didn’t have any major league teams until 2017, in part because of the city’s ties to sports betting, but it now has the NFL, hockey and women’s basketball teams, and reportedly a baseball team — the A’s Team – method. (Given the glut of Super Bowl ads promoting online gambling apps over the past few years, we’re also apparently no longer pretending to worry about the risks of gambling.) There are shots of the Bellagio fountains, a scale replica of half the city’s Eiffel Tower, and The orb, which looks like a giant American flag-themed dog ball, featured Reba McEntire singing the national anthem. During breaks in the game (and there were several), the camera lingered on the star-studded stands: Lady Gaga in a 49ers jacket. Wearing more androgynous attire (the latter wearing a varsity jacket), Beyoncé and Jay-Z sat next to Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who wore the same goofy shirt he wore to last year’s Super Bowl Bitcoin shirt. The Chiefs seemed to have the most celebrities, and Swift watched the game from a private box with Kelce’s family and her friends: a rotating cast that included Blake Lively, Paul McCartney and Ace Pais. The moment Swift introduced Ice Spice to Jason Kelce had viewers mesmerized.Images of the encounter quickly became a meme, in which one refer to Jason, Ice Spice and Swift are called “Gimli, Frodo and Legolas” respectively. Why do people care about an Eagles player meeting the rapper responsible for such gems as “Think U the Shit”? Part of its appeal was the randomness: It was a crossover that no one could have predicted at the beginning of the season. However, it’s also indicative of the current climate in the NFL, which has increasingly become a show about everything but football. To me, the most shocking part of this year’s Super Bowl was the five seconds the broadcast showed Lana Del Rey, the bard of our tragic times, wearing a Kansas City jacket.
Many of these celebrities also appear in Super Bowl commercials, making the game feel like an extended live commercial. (First you’ll see Ice Spice in the game, then you’ll see her “grah” in a commercial for Starry, PepsiCo’s lemon-lime soda.) Over the past few years, Super Bowl ads have been It’s celebrity cameos; gone are the days of fun and entertaining commercials. This isn’t to say that celebrity advertising can’t be great; I still rewatch the Pepsi commercials that Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Pink did two decades ago, and would happily have their rendition of “We Will Rock You” played at my funeral. But this year’s ads feel particularly soulless, with stars tactlessly endorsing different brands — some niche, some legacy — like undecided voters at the Iowa caucuses. Quinta Brunson of TurboTax. Kris Jenner endorses Oreo. Arnold Schwarzenegger photographed for State Farm. Occasionally, in advertising, you see the fight for America’s soul: there are two ads for Jesus, one for the Church of Scientology, a haunting RFK, Jr. ad (Dynasty!), and The ad, which takes a stand against anti-Semitism and racism, stars a Martin Luther King Jr. speechwriter and is sponsored by a foundation owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Tom Brady has also appeared in ads for Dunkin’ and BetMGM, seemingly desperate to prove to us that the Super Bowl is still his. (He has seven rings to Mahomes’ three, but CBS announcers will be the first to remind you that Mahomes is only twenty-eight.)
Super Bowl ads are ostensibly for all of America, but I really feel bad for those who aren’t watching these ads on TikTok. The brilliance of the CeraVe commercial starring Michael Cera will only be fully apparent to those who saw the original social media video a few weeks ago, in which Cera signed copies of CeraVe products as a guerrilla at a Brooklyn pharmacy. Part of a marketing gimmick. My mother-in-law seemed genuinely confused by a five-second ad for language-learning app Duolingo, in which the app’s trademark bird suddenly grows a huge butt. It’s completely incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t seen the Duolingo TikTok posted just hours before the game, in which the bird underwent a Brazilian butt lift. (Though, now that I think about it, the original TikTok didn’t make any sense either.) Overall, the ads feel crude and written for people with limited attention spans. It’s hard to imagine how a crowd requiring this kind of excitement could watch an entire football match, let alone one destined to go into overtime.
This game was an ugly defensive struggle. There were injuries on both sides; a devastating disaster soon followed as 49ers’ Dre Greenlaw was jumping up and down on the sideline with what appeared to be a torn Achilles tendon while jogging back onto the field. . There were no points scored in the first quarter. The players themselves seemed tired of the lackluster play, but no one was fed up more than Travis Kelce, who essentially gave his poor coach Andy Reid a physical check in the second quarter, seemingly. Complaining that he wasn’t getting enough playing time. (Kells had just one catch for one yard in the first half.) This lack of restraint was alarming, and it cast a pall over Kelce’s late-game performance against the Chiefs. The final victory is crucial. Not only was his outburst disrespectful, it also smacked of privilege — the privilege that comes with being part of a dynasty. Kelce seemed to fully expect the Chiefs to win, as did everyone else. (Like he thinks he’s Taylor Swift’s boyfriend or something.)