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Ignore the haters and conspiracy theorists, Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift – you’re Posh and Becks x100. OLIVER HOLT on how the Super Bowl hit the jackpot ahead of NFL’s biggest game

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Sport’s greatest cabaret will take place in Las Vegas this weekend
Kansas City Chiefs will look to defend their crown against San Francisco 49ers
All eyes will be on Travis Kelce and his pop star girlfriend Taylor Swift

Gridiron’s grand caravan rumbled away from the neon of the Strip this week and headed 20 miles east, through the splurge of colonies that they have been building in the desert here since the 1940s, up into the hills to the strange and opulent oasis where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are staying in the build-up to the Super Bowl.

It is called Lake Las Vegas, this gilded 3000-acre development, with its ersatz suburbs and its retirement homes and its gated communities and its haughty mansions and its luxury hotels and its quaint Italian street names and its reservoir and its golf course that runs like a broad brush stroke of violent green through an arid land.

One day, a local news outlet carried a story that an unnamed player had been attacked by one of the family of coyotes that has been coming down out of the mountains to scavenge for food outside the new delicatessen on the waterfront. A resident said the coyotes had since been ‘euthanised’.

Every day, the NFL’s caravan made the journey out to the oasis in the desert, that monument to the idea that big is beautiful, and brash is beautiful, and it felt like a statement that not even the wild can stand in the way of Vegas and its hosting of the greatest occasion in American sport.

And every day, the players stood at lecterns in their hotels and talked about their hopes and dreams, and television crews fought for space to point their cameras at them, and reporters shouted questions to Travis Kelce about his romance with Taylor Swift, and listened to 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, a committed Christian besieged in Sin City, recite lines from Psalm 23 and speak of his quest for solitude amid this frenzy of attention.

Taylor Swift’s romance with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce has driven up interest in this weekend’s Super Bowl

Fans have been attending matches just to catch a glimpse of the global pop star

All eyes will be on Las Vegas’ spectacular Allegiant Stadium for sport’s greatest cabaret on Sunday

And every day, Patrick Mahomes, who is bidding to become only the fifth quarterback to win three Super Bowls, was asked whether he could overhaul Tom Brady, who won seven. And every day, Kyle Shanahan, the quiet, cerebral 49ers coach, spoke about his OCD and his mania for planning. And no one mentioned the coyotes again.

The Super Bowl is sport’s greatest cabaret and so it feels like the strangest thing that there have been 57 of them, 57 festivals of excess, 57 paeans to consumerism, 57 entertainment extravaganzas, 57 juggernaut collisions of the best of the USA’s sporting youth and 57 celebrations of Americana, and not one of them has been in Las Vegas, the neon temple of the American dream. Not until now.

If the Super Bowl were a city, it would be Vegas. And now that it is here, now that the Chiefs and the 49ers are set to contest Super Bowl LVIII in front of 65,000 spectators in the Allegiant Stadium on Sunday in the shadow of the gleaming gold windows of the towers of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, blessed by the presence of Swift and watched by an anticipated record television audience, it feels as if the Super Bowl has come home.

Actually, it is more than that. The Super Bowl has not just come home. It has attained nirvana. American team sports recoiled, until recently, from playing in a city so closely associated with the gambling industry, so the union between the game and Sin City is sport’s most exaggerated example of delayed gratification.

All the years of waiting cannot disguise the fact that Las Vegas and the Super Bowl were made for each other. The Super Bowl has found its soul mate. Glitz, meet glitz. Profit, meet profit. Excess, meet excess. Drama, meet drama. Icon, meet icon. Travis Kelce, meet Taylor Swift.

In the romance between Kelce, the Chiefs’ brilliant, rugged, charismatic tight end, one of the best and most decorated players in NFL history, and Swift, the queen of modern culture, the star of this month’s Grammy Awards and the most successful and adored music artist on the planet, the Las Vegas Super Bowl hit the jackpot.

Travis and Taylor are known as TNT for a reason other than the initials of their first names. Their relationship also happens to be commercial dynamite for the NFL. This is the closest thing American Football has ever had to Posh and Becks. But this is Posh and Becks to the power of a hundred.

Swift and Kelce’s relationship is the closest thing American Football has had to Posh and Becks

Swift, who won Album of the Year at the Grammys for a record fourth time, first attended a Chiefs game on September 24th last year when she watched Kelce and his teammates rout the Chicago Bears at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. In the days that followed, sales of Kelce’s number 87 jersey rose by 400%.

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