Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it: New York, New York.
The allure of the big city is evident at even a cursory glance, from the pinnacle of American prosperity to the gleaming man-made towers that challenge the sky. It is an introspective backdrop for the handful of rookies who now find themselves on football’s greatest stage. Nearly every Seahawk — Ricardo Lockette is the lone exception — is experiencing the pageantry of the Super Bowl for the first time.
Never before have the circumstances for an epic title game aligned like this. The matchup that nearly every pundit predicted was the one that landed on our doorstep. The league’s best producer on offense will face off against one of the fiercest defenses in recent memory. A legendary quarterback looks to secure his legacy while his young challenger seeks to launch his own. From a legally deaf running back to a fifteen-year veteran finally living his dream, there are several storylines with the chance to enrapture the millions of fans looking to the city that never sleeps.
Unfortunately, two themes have stolen the spotlight: the epic postgame reaction of Richard Sherman and a projection of wintry chaos on Sunday.
The first story has run its course as cooler heads prevailed. Following the cornerback’s original statement on January 19 and the media circus that ensued, both sides have come to an understanding of sorts. Sherman hasn’t allayed every critic, but the conversation has gradually shifted from his mouth to the upcoming on-field matchup with Demaryius Thomas.
That brings the story to weather. Cold weather should not be an earth-shattering news story in the middle of winter. The weekend forecasts aren’t calling for extreme temperatures, either. But is this narrative alone reason enough to ditch Northeast playoff prospects? Climate aside, I certainly hope that the NFL isn’t in a New York state of mind when the time comes to plot Super Bowl LIII.
For starters, the Super Bowl isn’t really in New York City. The honor of host city goes to Rutherford, New Jersey, home to a $1.6 billion monolith of a stadium. Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of spectators squeezing into the most crowded metropolitan area in America. New York doesn’t depend on a professional championship game to stimulate the economy every few years. To a larger degree in the past twenty years, the city has tried to impress an aura of self-reliance; New York doesn’t need anyone or anything to prove they’re the best. But that very attitude is the first limitation preventing future market success. The big boys in the Empire State are stealing the thunder of the actual hosts in Jersey, and the league’s attempt at a cohesive image is far from a marketing success.
You can pencil in weather as the next-biggest concern, even if the snow isn’t a visible threat at the moment. This debacle will linger through Sunday and beyond as the NFL considers the feasibility of more open-air events. For the time being, the weather won’t be a concern at kickoff. Conditions will be uncomfortable but hardly unbearable, with the National Weather Service calling for typical February temperatures. The lead-up to this less-than-thrilling conclusion has still stoked plenty of fear. What if a storm rumbled through? What would happen if pregame conditions hampered traffic to MetLife Stadium? Freezing temperatures aren’t an exception in New York, they’re the rule.
The unpredictable cold-weather setting can certainly result in inspired football, as Forbes’ Monte Burke writes. But a Murphy’s law Super Bowl doesn’t level the playing field, it flips it end over end. One physics professor and master of sports science anticipates a significant increase in air drag and a frigid field, both of which favor a stronger ground game. Forget the fans who won’t have a heated locker room to protect them, try asking one of the game’s most mobile quarterbacks to make cuts and scramble across the icy surface.
I’m not expecting an apocalypse. In fact, the reality of the situation makes thirty-two degrees seem like a profound disappointment. Maybe that’s just the end result when we use the guide written by Benjamin Franklin way back when as the authoritative source on weather. To be fair, the Farmers’ Almanac wasn’t just taking a guess when they predicted a storm system sixteen months in advance. Their confidential scientific methods have been stunningly accurate — about a B-minus on the school scale — but certainly shouldn’t have been taken as gospel in the way they were.
We haven’t even started talking about the craziness of the commute. The usual pitfalls of life in New York, as amplified by a few Seattle players this week, will be ten times worse this weekend. Good luck driving anywhere south of the Bronx on Sunday afternoon. Maybe you won’t lose money on a cab to the stadium — the league has banned it along with foot traffic — but the hotels will drain your account in their place. Add in the travel for non-residents (your money, your miles, or your life) and a four-day vacation up north becomes a money pit.
The only plus side on this front is the price tag for your ticket. In fact, ticket prices have cratered on the open market. Access that usually comes with a 300% markup is much cheaper for area businesses, and there’s no easy answer as to why. USA Today chalks it up to a pair of teams that just aren’t “sexy” enough. Maybe the fans would rather pack a cozy bar instead of fighting the chill winter winds.
This Super Bowl is a testing ground for the league, and Sunday night’s performance will make or break another open-air venue’s chances. What do owners have to gain when they pencil in an open-air northern stadium for the Super Bowl? They’re the ones making the decision, after all, and roughly half of the electorate hails from below the Mason-Dixon line. Even if the NFL won’t say it out loud, it really boils down to cold hard cash. If you build it, they will come. Money talks in this dog-eat-dog megalomanic industry, and the fans are the last factor in the planning process. The powers that be turned to their top market with a long leash, knowing that New York would put on the biggest bang for their valuable bucks.
So what if some schlub from Seattle or dolt from Denver forks over thousands of dollars? I hate to say it, but their money is hardly the most important. The 2015 forecast may call for fire with a chance of brimstone, and companies will still stand in line to be the official fill-in-the-blank of Super Bowl XLIX. It’s all the same to the companies shelling out $4 million for a thirty-second advertisement like it’s pocket change. YouTube viewers are replaceable means to an end, all of which goes to the bottom line.
Taken point by point, each individual critique can be explained or merely overlooked. However, the sum of the parts outweighs the overall argument in that one misstep launches a domino effect. Roger Goodell is certainly counting his blessings after filing his contingency plan away. A Saturday or Monday start time would have killed New York’s chances before a single snap. But with the details more or less set in stone, the host committee needs to prove that the open-air model is sustainable in cold weather and profitable for the long haul. The state of the Super Bowl hangs in the balance.
It’s up to you, New York.