To paraphrase one of Taylor Swift’s songs back to her: Welcome to Baltimore! It’s been waiting for you!
Well, let me clarify that. Our quirky and culturally and historically vibrant city has been waiting to be discovered by everyone, including the megastar, who will presumably be at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce and his Kansas City Chiefs play the Ravens in the AFC championship game. Already, the internet is alive with hilarious GIFs of her “visiting” everything from lake trout spots to the Banner newsroom.
But it’s important to note that Ravens fans particularly, and Baltimoreans in general, have felt something more ominous waiting for us this year: the 40th anniversary of the departure of the team whose name we dare not speak. Despite winning two Super Bowls since then, it feels like we still can’t get the respect we are due. We’ve been waiting to prove our success is not a fluke, and that our quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is elite, awesome and, indeed, “quarterbacky,” despite what people like Fox Sports Radio’s Monse Bolaños say.
“To me, going to the Super Bowl would be like putting Baltimore on the world stage — our culture and [the] kind of grit we have, how diverse we are, how hard we love and how loyal we are as a fan base,” huge Ravens fan and Owings Mills resident Meredith Davis said. “Those are the things that build and maintain a franchise. We need to focus on Baltimore winning and not someone who’s not even playing the game.”
While I’m all about anyone checking out the city I love — imagine the Instagram shine Swift could give to local businesses in just one day here — this weekend is not about her. She is simply showing up to support her dude. If the cameras want to keep panning to her and people want to keep writing about her (as I am now), there’s nothing she can do about it.
Opinions about whether this is a good thing vary. My friend Teresa Candori, who grew up not far from here in central Pennsylvania, considers herself part of a unique Venn diagram: “people with both Taylor Swift and the Chiefs fandoms.” She’s been a KC fan since she started dating her now-husband about 20 years ago, and their niece is a staunch Swiftie “who’s dragged me to look at Taylor’s apartment, to Taylor Swift trivia, and to Taylor art exhibits and a classical ensemble playing Taylor’s music.”
As someone who has watched every game that Swift has been on camera for, Candori thinks Ravens fans shouldn’t worry about the focus being on the singer too much. “I’m telling you, it’s usually ‘Oh, look, there she is’ and they move on,’” she said.
Calvin Coates, the biggest Ravens fan I know, said Swift’s presence “doesn’t affect the game in any way. In fact, [Kelce’s] played worse with her! He’s older now. The bottom line is that I don’t care about her, but she gives us something to hate. The world is depending on Baltimore to shut this down. The last thing we wanna see is her at the Super Bowl.”
All jokes aside, Coates is excited about the possibilities of Swift’s interactions here, despite the fact we’ll be rooting against her boyfriend. “Think about how many new fans would come to Baltimore just to see if she’s there. Let her come and go to different spots. And, when she’s on her next world tour, who’s to say she won’t come here? I’d love there to be a concert here.”
While Swift has donated to nonprofits in some cities she has toured, journalist, community activist and former mayoral candidate Catalina Byrd told me she’s concerned Swift’s potential presence at Sunday’s game might encourage increased policing in the area in an attempt to clean things up for appearance’s sake and make everything “about tourism and being hypervigilant.” Think how cities have cleared homeless populations out of view when hosting global events such as the Olympics.
“It can’t be about her. Outside of the media coverage, how much camera time is she going to get? We should be more concerned about what’s happening in the community,” said Byrd, who added that she’s a big fan of Kelce’s brother Jason and wife Kylie, who, like Byrd, played field hockey. “I wish [Kylie] could come and do a field hockey camp! Bring me Kylie!”
Despite the opposing feelings Swift has evoked across the region, Davis said she isn’t worried about her purple-wearing compatriots. “There’s really something about sports and community that people underestimate. Ravens games are one of the few places I go where I feel a sense of safety,” she said. “I’m a Baltimorean. We don’t start [stuff], but we’ll finish it. This can only be about [Swift] if we make it about her.”
And we’re not. “This game and this season is all about Lamar,” Coates said. “He’s a real quarterback, and he’s proving everyone wrong up to this point.” That includes Bolaños, who remarked a few weeks ago that Jackson was not a good MVP pick because “I want my quarterbacks to be quarterbacky. And, to me, Lamar Jackson’s just a great athlete.”
Eww. She didn’t say what she meant by “quarterbacky,” but since the beginning of time, Black players have had to fight allegations that they weren’t leaders or smart enough for the position and were rather just genetically good athletes. Bolaños hasn’t clarified her statement and has been pretty scarce on social media since then, but it hasn’t stopped a lot of us Ravens fans from posting every time Jackson does something awesome — and we aren’t going to stop.
The cameras might be looking for Swift, but our eyes are on the prize.
“Of course we hate her for now,” Coates said. “We want to beat her boyfriend’s team.”