Super Bad

What a blizzard in the city looks likeI saw the other day that there is a consideration to have the halftime activities at the next Super Bowl held offsite due to the potential of bad weather at MetLife Stadium in February. If there was ever a hint to the league that a cold weather Super Bowl might not be such a hot idea (pun intended), then maybe that should have been it.

For fans, it is likely to be a rough experience. Trust me that I speak from personal experience that there are easier ways to spend an afternoon than sitting out in the cold in the dead of winter. Pittsburgh will likely never be in contention for a Super Bowl for several reasons, prime among them that the venue is simply too small, but in terms of winter weather, my experience so far is that it is fairly mild around here, yet, even still, the last two games of the season were hard to sit through even though we were there to cheer on the home team, which many Super Bowl attendees are not. They are there for the spectacle of it all. They won tickets, their company got seats, or someone is entertaining a high value client. Granted some fans shell out the exorbitant price to see their team play in the biggest game of them all, but it is still meant to be a party atmosphere. Imagine shelling out that amount of money for a cold, hard seat to literally freeze for four solid hours, probably more. Hard core fans will do it, but will the big money attendees who aren’t really there for the football? For anyone who has not gone to a game and sat for hours on end, you may not take into account the fact that part of what makes it hard is just that: you’re sitting. You may watch from home and see the players with bare arms and think if they can do it, so can I. It’s completely different just sitting stationary in the stands. Not to take away from what the players go through, which I’ll get to here in a bit, but the cold and the damp seeps in after a while, and no amount of layering or collective body heat can help that. Which is why I am so in awe of Buffalo fans, who show up consistently in brutal weather I can only just imagine to watch a team struggle. Buffalo Bills fans, this hot chocolate is for you!

Now consider that the Super Bowl is traditionally a neutral site in all ways. The chance that the “home” team could prevail to play for a championship in their own stadium is always there, but it is unlikely. However, the location should not, in my opinion, be the 12th Man. We, as fans, want a fairly even contest to keep it interesting. Now imagine a team from New England, Buffalo, Pittsburgh or any other outdoor northern region up against New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta, etc. The odds must certainly tilt toward the team more accustomed to those conditions. Not convinced of that? Then consider this from a 2010 article in coldhardfootballfacts.com, “Dome teams simply do not deal well with the wintry elements when they go outdoors. This is a fairly widely held opinion. And the data, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, certainly support this opinion. The Vikings, Colts and Saints are a combined 8-21 (.276) in road playoff games since they moved their home games indoors; and just 7-19 (.269) in road playoff games outdoors. In each case, they perform worse than the typical road team in the playoffs.”

I recognize that the ultimate argument for a cold weather Super Bowl is to spread the wealth and exposure a city gets for hosting one of the largest single sporting events on the planet. However, I read a great article on NextCity.org that pointed out that most individuals coming in are staying at hotel chains, so the revenue is being returned to corporate headquarters, not the city itself. The staff makes the same as they would normally working on an NFL weekend. Additionally, the article pointed out that the Super Bowl detracts from other activities that citizens would normally participate in on a weekend, such as visiting a museum. The author went on to concede that there is likely some short term benefit for temporary workers brought in to handle the events, but I know my sister-in-law, who lives in Arlington, was a volunteer at the Super Bowl held there. She got a cool jacket and the ability to say she participated in the Super Bowl (well almost: when the severe weather hit the area, the events she was helping with were canceled), but no salary. The main premise was focusing on the cost of the Indianapolis stadium at taxpayer expense, and that the revenue from the Super Bowl does not make up for that capital expense. I’m not sure I buy that argument because the investment is not just for a single event, but for the revenue a team brings long-term. However, I do think it is interesting to consider that, if you consider the expense of extra police, city services, wear and tear on the city infrastructure, and so on, it may not be the revenue boon all of us cold weather fans think it would be. And then you always run the risk of something going wrong that casts the city in a negative light as well. Or, should I say, maybe casts the city into darkness – right, New Orleans?

Would I like to feature my city to the world if Pittsburgh was in the running to host a Super Bowl? Absolutely. I love this town. But, objectively, I am not convinced on any level that a cold weather Super Bowl is a sound business decision.

photo by: sidewalk flying

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