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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Chiefs 25, Niners 22 – The Media Superstorm from Missouri captures Super Bowl LVIII

Dartmouth students weigh in on one of the most socially significant (and most watched!) football games ever played.

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Design by Elaine Pu

 On Sunday, Feb. 11, Super Bowl LVIII crowned the Kansas City Chiefs as the champions of the 2023-24 NFL season. Besting the San Francisco 49ers 25–22 in overtime, the Chiefs summited the American Football pyramid for the second year in a row, and for the third time in the past 5 years. In recent memory, the Chiefs, led by superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, have been the team to beat. They have made the AFC Conference championship every year since 2018 and have made the Super Bowl in four of the past five years. Despite this precedent, the 49ers were the odds’ favorite going into the game. 

The Chiefs came into the occasion with plenty of baggage. The defending Super Bowl champions were accused of setting up the 49ers at a substandard practice field. On Saturday, Mahomes’s father was charged with a DUI in Texas. Then, of course the story of this NFL season, the relationship between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. 

To begin the game, the odds certainly looked to favor the 49ers. After a scoreless first quarter, 49ers kicker Jake Moody scored a 55-yard field goal to put San Francisco up 3-0; with this kick, Moody also set a (short-lived) record for longest field goal in a Super Bowl. 

The second score of the game also came from the 49ers. San Francisco’s QB, Brock Purdy, threw a screen pass to Jauan Jennings, who then caught it and threw it back to star running back Christian McCaffrey, who ran unimpeded into the endzone to extend the 49ers’ lead over the Chiefs to 10. To end the half, the Chiefs finally broke their scoring drought with a Harrison Butker field goal. The teams went into their locker rooms separated by just 7.

In the second half, the back-and-forth struggle continued. Midway through the fourth quarter, after a 47-yard drive by the Chiefs, Butker drilled a 57-yard field goal to put the game at 10-6. With this try, Butker broke Moody’s record for the longest field goal in Super Bowl history that Moody had set just one quarter before. Later, accidental contact with Darrell Luter Jr.’s leg gave Kansas City the ball on the 49ers’ 25. Quickly after, Mahomes converted on a touchdown pass to Marquez Valdez-Scantling. A touchdown from Jennings and a few field goals meant that the scoreboard showed 19-19 as the two teams headed for extra football — only the second such occasion, and the first since Super Bowl LI, in which the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28. 

After an opening drive field goal from San Francisco, the new playoff overtime rules allowed Kansas City a chance to tie or win the game. Ever calm, Mahomes led his team toward the far endzone. He converted a 4th and 1. He escaped pressure. And with three seconds remaining in the first overtime period, Mahomes found wideout Mecole Hardman with a three-yard touchdown toss to secure the Chiefs’ Kingdom its third championship in five years.

Students had plenty to say about one of the most exciting Super Bowls of the 21st century, but most of the postgame attention was focused on the Swift-Kelce story. 

Issac Lawrence ’27, a die-hard Baltimore Ravens fan, had a particular distaste for the portrayal of Swift in the CBS broadcast. 

“Now, it [ticked] me off,” Lawrence said.Like, the fact that they kept showing her during the game [ticked] me off. Because I think it’s taking away from the football. And I also am not a big fan of Travis Kelce.”

Whether or not the average fan sharedLawrence’s thoughts, the simulcast of Super Bowl LVIII clocked in with an estimated 123.7 viewers, the most in television history. 

“It was highly viewed for the wrong reasons,” Lawrence said in response. 

Madeline Baldwin ’27, a self-described Taylor Swift fan, said that Swift’s presence wasn’t the leading factor for her viewership.

“Some of [my friends] actually wanted to watch the football, but the rest just watched it because it’s the Super Bowl,” she said.

When asked about who benefited more from the relationship, Baldwin also said that both Kelce’s and Swift’s brands have expanded from what she considers a mutually beneficial relationship.

“I think it makes people more excited,” Baldwin said. “I think people will be more interested in listening to [Swift’s] stuff.”

Some Dartmouth students had less to say about the social drama, and more to harp on the actual game. 

Jessna Brar ’24, a coxswain for the men’s heavyweight rowing team, said the Super Bowl generates significant camaraderie on campus, particularly within club and varsity teams. 

Brar mentioned that because she is from India, the Super Bowl was never a part of her childhood. However, she has grown to embrace the big game, particularly this year. When asked about the Taylor Swift effect, Brar mentioned that she felt it was simply a footnote to an already existing crescendo. 

“Was I influenced?” Brar said. “Not at all. I was going to watch it anyway.”

But the NFL and CBS don’t just want eyeballs, they want viewers to care. They want viewers to come back time and time again, and to make the big game a tradition in their household. 

“I would say I was like 75% invested,” Brar said. “I was genuinely upset when the 49ers lost.” 

As were millions of 49ers fans. In the end, Super Bowl LVIII came to represent all that the American public cherishes about sports. The forces of good colliding with the big, bad superpower. The All-American success story in Purdy colliding with a media thunderstorm from Missouri.

On Sunday, as Kelce hollered, “VIVA LAS VEGAS!” while hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy, it was clear that the big, bad superpower isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. As for Swift, it seems like she and her indelible presence on NFL football aren’t going away either.