After his team’s Super Bowl win, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid made light of his star tight end’s atrocious behavior, saying that Travis Kelce merely bumped into him when screaming like an unhinged 2-year-old that he wanted back into the game.
“They’re passionate players, and I love that,” Reid said, showing grace and dignity befitting someone of his stature. If only Kelce and some of his colleagues in the National Football League were able to do the same.
Like Tom Brady breaking tablets and cursing at referees, Kelce’s meltdown was excused by Reid and others as sort of an understandable byproduct of a gladiatorial game. That violence on the field necessarily translates to the sidelines, even though even in the heat of a game, we’ve all seen players from opposing teams patting each other on the back and helping each other up.
Kelce initially seemed surprised that anyone would even have noticed, saying, “You guys saw that?” when later asked about what he had said. “I was just telling him how much I loved him,” he tried to joke.
But it was no joking matter, even though the image of a furious Kelce yelling at Reid had quickly become a meme. And that photo did more damage to Kelce’s reputation than breaking the heart of America’s sweetheart, Taylor Swift, would.
The ugliness of that exchange — Kelce losing control while Reid stood there stoically — shocked the internet, and made many people who had come to the Super Bowl without a dog in the fight — myself included — suddenly become a fan of the San Francisco 49ers.
More than one person noted on X that Tom Brady had managed to win seven Super Bowls without having a physical altercation with his coach.
While Kelce later seemed to grasp the seriousness of what had transpired — speaking earnestly about the love he has for Reid and saying the coach helped him manage his emotions — his response left much to be desired, including an apology.
Whatever currency Kelce had as a role model is now essentially worthless. His behavior was all the more reprehensible given the attention paid to him by children and teens because of his relationship with Swift.
“Passion” never absolves a person of acting like a bully or a brat. At 34, Kelce is a fully grown man who should have had better control of his emotions at this stage of his life, particularly knowing that the eyes of the world, more than at any other time in his career, were upon him.
Nor can his behavior be explained as a one-off; just a few months ago, he had a similar meltdown (sans coach) during the Las Vegas Raiders game. Then, one headline said that Swift had “comforted” him, which is to be expected; in the throes of early love, many red flags go unnoticed.
Whether fans of the team or not, we can all hope that what we saw Sunday night was wildly out of character for Kelce, and that the couple go on to have a happy life together. But it’s not surprising that many Swifties are suddenly concerned about the relationship.
To whom much is given, much is required, and Americans are right to require more of their heroes than we were shown Sunday night.