I watched Travis Kelce’s 2016 reality dating show so that you don’t have to. Here’s what I learned

Like many other Swifties, I’m excited about the public spectacle that is Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce courting Taylor Swift. Unlike anyone else on the face of the planet, I am also excited because this budding union gives me an opportunity to talk about a show that has haunted me since 2016. That show is Kelce’s reality dating competition series “Catching Kelce.” As both a football fan and dating show connoisseur, I dutifully watched all seven episodes when they aired and Kelce has occupied a section of my brain ever since. Since I’m a Swiftie first and football fan second, I thought it was important to share what I learned from rewatching the series.

Kelce’s first public attempt to find love aired on E! in October 2016 when he wasn’t quite the name he is today. In the years following “Catching Kelce,” the tight end would go on to win two Super Bowls with the Chiefs, hold the record for the most consecutive 1,000+ yards seasons for his position and be selected for eight consecutive Pro Bowls. At that time, he was just another football player, desperate enough to say yes to an E! dating show, but interesting enough to warrant one. Meanwhile, Swift had just gotten into a relationship with actor Joe Alwyn, whom she recently broke up with. She was about to disappear completely from the public eye for a year, fall madly in love and begin her “reputation” era.

At that time, he was just another football player, desperate enough to say yes to an E! dating show, but interesting enough to warrant one.

Travis was in his “Lover” era though, trying his luck with reality TV dating. E! flew out 50 women — one from each state — to line the gridiron of the Coliseum with pom poms in hand to meet their potential future boyfriend. After being given literally 60 seconds with the women, Kelce swiftly cut the pool down to just 20. It was the most brutal cut I have ever seen in any dating show and I need to know why producers didn’t go with less women from the start. (Why not 32, one for each NFL team, for example?) The random association with the 50 states also resulted in Kelce mostly referring to the women by their states instead of their names. There was a lot of “You surprised me, New Jersey,” and “I could really see something with Missouri.” He also sent women home by saying, “I’m gonna have to ask you to go back to [their state].” 

This vaguely patriotic distraction aside, “Catching Kelce” had all the staples of your standard reality dating show: a born-again virgin who at one point refers to herself as a “severe Christian,” women who are there looking for their “best friend” and a delusional girl from Connecticut. There was a surprise country performance by an artist that all the contestants swear they love but there’s no way they’ve ever heard a single one of their songs, an appearance from uncle-nephew duo LMFAO and an obligatory conversation about how taking care of your athlete husband is the most important job in the world with a woman who is lucky enough to have landed one herself. At one point, Kelce and a contestant spontaneously dive into a fountain while walking home from a date. He slept with at least one of the women, but potentially three of them. 

Despite the occasional gesture toward romance or unconvincing reference to finding the one, it was clear no one was there looking for love, especially not Kelce, who slips in and out of a blaccent, by the way. He describes two different women as the kind of people he could see himself introducing to his family and settling down with and then picks neither of those women as the winner. Pretty much immediately, any illusion of true love that shows like “The Bachelor” work so hard to maintain disappeared and we’re left with an (at the time) no-name tight end and a gaggle of women who mostly seemed like they felt “meh” towards him.

“Catching Kelce” stuck with me not only because until now I felt like it was a show I had hallucinated, but because it was a dating show where literally no one even cared about dating. While Swifties are investing in Kelce’s jersey, I’m here to save you the $12.99 it costs to watch this show on Prime. Below you can find everything a Swiftie deems worthy to know about the show.

Maya Benberry, or “Kentucky,” was technically the winner of “Catching Kelce.” Unlike “The Bachelor,” there was no diamond ring or even a profession of love, and unlike “Love Island,” there was no cash prize. After leaving the Los Angeles mansion where the show was filmed, Kelce and Benberry dated for a few months before ending their relationship.

On Tuesday, following Swift’s very public attendance of a Chiefs game that weekend, the former contestant told the Daily Mail that Kelce cheated on her. His team then told TMZ that’s not true. Anyway, I told you this show wasn’t about love. Plus, Taylor Swift is famously in support of cheating for the right reasons.

Benberry was not well-liked in the house. When she was given the chance to pick two women to bring on a group date with her and Kelce, she announced that she made her selection based on who she thought wasn’t a threat, calling them “basic.” Her roommate and early ally Lexie/Georgia also moved out of their room after a disagreement. Still, Kelce didn’t seem to mind the drama surrounding Benberry and stuck with his girl. In a world that has many opinions on Taylor Swift, it’s nice to know that he’s able to stand by his own.

On the night that Swift showed up to Kelce’s game, he wore a white denim matching set that featured abstract drawings of naked women and was somehow “1989”-themed. Kelce is known for taking fashion risks to varying degrees of success, but on “Catching Kelce,” there were a lot more misses than hits. His outfits include: a bright red suit, a plaid suit, a neon Hawaiian shirt paired with white cutoff shorts and a backwards snapback, a short-sleeved sweatshirt, a bright blue suit layered over a bright salmon-colored tribal print tank, neon yellow shoes, a shirt with a studded collar, some very long tops and . . . a cardigan. 

Travis is very close to his older brother and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, so it’s not a surprise that Jason joined Travis on his journey to find not-love on E!, offering advice and serving as a coach in a two-hand touch football match. “I think Travis is ready,” he lied to the cameras about his brother signing onto a dating show. Their mother, Donna Kelce, did not make an appearance on “Catching Kelce,” but she did keep Swift company during the Chiefs-Bears game this past weekend, and Travis is very close to her too. Today, the brothers host the “New Heights” podcast, and Jason is the subject of a documentary called “Kelce.” (It’s actually very endearing.)

Any dating show leading man is going to develop his own thing that he overdoes, like when Clayton from “The Bachelor” kept licking his lips. For Kelce, it was saying “sweetie,” “sweetheart,” or putting “miss” in front of a contestant’s name or home state. Swift already calls herself “Miss Americana,” so maybe this will work?

Multiple women did. On multiple occasions. On national television. 

In my rewatching of “Catching Kelce,” I was most excited to see how he handled having tough conversations or dealing with conflict. I figured these would be valuable notes to share with the Swiftie community (and Swift herself, if you’re reading this). However, neither of these things really happened. When there was an outright fight happening between two women in front of Kelce on one episode, he mostly pretended he didn’t hear it. 

One of the first contestants Kelce sent home was a pageant queen who he felt gave too perfect and polished answers. He also quickly sent home one of the “most attractive” women because he felt like she was too used to having men chase her. Overall, he wasn’t very into women who play hard to get, which is good because Swift flew to Kansas City to spend four hours sitting with his mom, cleaning up in their private suite and cheering for Kelce when he scored a touchdown.

On one of the last dates on the show, he bragged to Veronica/New Jersey on a trolley ride around Kansas City that he has size 14 feet, which is “two inches longer than a foot,” he stressed. 

While 2016 Kelce as an NFL star on the rise wasn’t quite looking for love, he didn’t come off looking like a jerk. He was able to roll with the craziness of reality TV dating well and was happiest being the center of attention. He seemed excited when the women had passions and talked about their own careers. In Swiftie-speak, I think Kelce would let Taylor bejeweled. 

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