May 26, 2010

Roger Goodell's Big Idea: Why I love the outdoor Super Bowl idea for the NFL, and why I'd love to see a Super Bowl at Lambeau

I've read a lot of articles the last couple days from commentators and pundits complaining about the decision by the NFL to put the 2014 Super Bowl in New York, but I gotta say that I actually think it's a great idea and a nice change of pace from the typical Super Bowl venue. I've been saying for years that I'd love to see a cold weather BCS game in college football, so why not the Super Bowl??

I'm generally not a fan of Roger Goodell's work because he's a meddler and inconsistent and doesn't seem to have any appreciation for tradition in the NFL (although I will admit that the new NFL draft setup actually won me over), but I like this move as a way to do something cool and new in a city where the NFL truly matters.

Some thoughts on why I really like the concept of the outdoor Super Bowl.

(1) It puts New York, Boston, and Chicago in the mix (and Lambeau!)

Probably the best thing about the major league baseball postseason is the playoff baseball crowds. Those locked-in crowds that pack the place and stand the whole game and erupt whenever anything good happens. Typically, the best crowds come from three cities:

New York

I'm a small market guy and everything, but I'm not naive. If you watch an Arizona Diamondbacks playoff game and compare that to the crowds at Fenway or Wrigley or Yankee Stadium, it's like watching a UConn home football crowd and then watching an Alabama game right after that. Even though I'm not a Yankees fan, does it really get any better than watching a World Series game at Yankee Stadium and seeing that playoff bunting and the fans shivering and hanging on every pitch?? It is hands-down the best "championship game" atmosphere in any sport.

Compare that to Super Bowl or the Final Four where the games are these half-baked corporate gigs where you never even really notice the crowd (unless you happen to have a team playing close to home...i.e. Butler 2010). When was the last time the Super Bowl had a truly memorable crowd?? Has there ever been one??

I suppose that you could blame all the corporate suits and executives who just show up for the party and the "scene" and don't really care about the game, but isn't there something to be said for the location as well?? If you think about the typical Super Bowl cities, it's not exactly a who's who of big time sports cities. Maybe there are pockets of sports fans in places like Phoenix and Tampa and Miami and San Diego, but come on. If you lived in one of those cities, how could sports possibly mean as much to you as they do to people who live in cold weather cities where sports is literally the only thing going on for 7.5 months a year??

I consider myself to be a huge sports fan, but I'll be honest that I sort of shut it down as a sports fan from about May to September. I might watch some Reds baseball and the PGA tour and maybe Wimbledon/French Open, but that's about it. Sports on tv just isn't as appealing when it's nice outside.

Wouldn't people from from San Diego be like that all year?? Why would you watch sports when you could be out doing things outside?? Wouldn't you just feel guilty if you were inside watching college football on a Saturday when it's 80 degrees outside in the middle of November?? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be nearly as big of a sports fan if I lived in a warm weather climate.

Anyway, I've never been to a Super Bowl, but my guess is that having the game in these warm weather cities every year doesn't exactly lend itself to a big time sports atmosphere. The locals don't care about the game. They just want to make money off the people who show up for the week.

Compare that a sports-crazy city like Chicago. Imagine putting a Super Bowl in Chicago at Soldier Field. Sure it would be cold, but wouldn't the atmosphere in that stadium be electric at kickoff?? Wouldn't that town be buzzing all weekend?? It would just be a giant celebration of all things football with the locals packing the bars all weekend in anticipation of the big event. Instead of a corporate snoozer crowd, you'd have moustached Chicagoans showing up to the game in Bears bullpen jackets because they are the only diehards crazy enough about football to go out in 5 degrees to watch a game. Having it in the north would root out the fairweather "fans."

Which brings me to my next point....

(2) It gives cold weather fans a better opportunity to go to the game

Picture this: You're a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and your team runs through the NFC and goes to the Super Bowl. Let's say you are a season ticketholder and went to all 8 home games and 2 postseason home games. You are the epitome of the diehard "Iggles" fan who has lived and died with the team all year.

Now it's the Super Bowl, and you're sort of musing with the guy you go to games with about going to the Super Bowl. It's a lifetime experience, we might never get back, we've been with the team all year, blah blah blah. Let's do it.

Trouble is that the game is in two weeks in Phoenix. If you start looking into the logistics of planning the trip, you're probably looking at a ridiculously expensive flight, jacked up hotel rates, an impossible scramble for tickets, and a slew of other headaches that come with planning a trip on a whim.

And people wonder why "regular" fans never go to the Super Bowl. How could they??? I consider myself to be somewhat whimsical in terms of being game for random sporting event trips, but I'm not even sure I would want to go to the Super Bowl if the Bengals make it again someday (not that I ever have to worry about this dilemma popping up). In the span of about 24 hours after the AFC Championship game, you'd have to book a flight, hotel, get tickets, and maybe make arrangements to take off work. It's a tough sell for fans. Why not just have a big Super Bowl party at your house instead??

But let's change one thing about that earlier hypo involving an Eagles fan. Change "Phoenix" to "New York" or "Boston." Isn't that a gamechanger?? If you're an Eagles fan, wouldn't you do it if the game was in New York?? That's a 2-3 hour drive. You could show up on Saturday night, soak in all the pomp and circumstances, go to the game on Sunday, and then either haul it back to Philly Sunday night or come home Monday morning.

Isn't that a somewhat realistic trip?? I think that would be phenomenal.

Shouldn't cold weather fans have this opportunity at some point in their lives?? I would love to be able to drive to the Super Bowl. I would love to see all the exhibits and parties and celebrities and ex-players. I would love to do it as a 48 hour type trip. If people from Florida and Arizona and California can drive to Super Bowls, why not people from Pennsylvania and Illinois and Ohio and New York??

Going to the Super Bowl is not about the weather. It's about the football. I wouldn't care if it was 70 degrees or 20 degree. I am going to watch the Bengals win a Lombardi Trophy (stop laughing!) and hopefully celebrate before and afterward with other Bengals fans. The Super Bowl should be about the game.

(3) Why is a cold weather football game so terrifying?? It's football!!

Did I miss the memo that football is no longer played in cold weather?? Pretty sure I remember wearing the following articles of clothing to a Bengals-Jets playoff game this past January:

3 fleeces
1 sweatshirt
1 long undershirt
1 long underwear
1 pair of sweatpants
1 pair of jeans
3 pairs of socks

And even with all those layers, I was loading up on hot chocolate and Skyline chili to stay warm. But was it a blast?? Well, the Bengals played horribly, but I still had a great time. I love going to big football games in cold weather. It's memorable. Freezing your butt off is part of the fun. I wouldn't want to do it every week, but once in awhile for a big game when the stakes are high?? Sure, I'm in.

I keep reading these articles from people wondering what the journalists and corporate sponsors will do all week in a cold weather city. Huh?? First, what the heck do I care what a bunch of media members do all week?? Does it really matter if Sal Palantonio and Ed Werder are wearing short sleeves in Miami or if they are wearing parkas in midtown Manhattan at the media day?? I don't even slightly care.

Second, are these sponsor types really living it up on the beach all week?? I mean, I've been to Phoenix and San Diego and Miami in January for various things. It's usually nice out, but we're talking 60s and 70s in terms of weather (and 40s at night). Hardly beach weather. My guess is that the people going to the Super Bowl are drinking at bars and going to a lot of conventions and indoor meetings. How would that be much different from what you'd do in Chicago or New York??

All I know is that a Super Bowl in Lambeau Field would be spectacular and what the game is all about. That Packers-Giants game from a few years ago in Lambeau when it was like -30 outside and Tom Coughlin's face was turning blue was one of the more memorable games I've ever seen. I don't want that every year in the Super Bowl. You can still play 8-9 out of every 10 Super Bowls in domes and warm weather climates, but once in awhile in the north?? I think it would be great.

Plus, I'm just tired of dome football and pass-happy QB-oriented teams. If you want to be good in 2010, the ideal situation is to be a dome team with a loud crowd that throws on 3 out of every 4 downs and plays good pass defense because of a couple good corners and good pass rushers who don't have to worry about losing their footing in cold weather. If you're a team like the Colts or Vikes or Saints that plays 10-12 games a year in a dome, you can build your entire identity around winning in that environment.

(On that note, put your life savings on the Falcons over this year. Mark it down in blood. I'll be legitimately shocked if they aren't like 12-4 this year. Dome team with a lighter schedule, a QB about to make the leap, tons of injuries last year, and hungry. You're welcome.)

Even in the Super Bowl, a dome team is not in any real jeopardy since the game is almost always going to be in a warm weather climate where it's easier to throw the ball and not as sloppy. But imagine if that game is in Lambeau or Soldier Field one year. That completely changes the game. A team like Pittsburgh or Baltimore or the Jets that has built their identity around tough, physical football might have more of an edge in a game like that. I'd love to see it.

Anyway, I'm excited about the New York Super Bowl. I think the New York fans will embrace it, it won't feel as corporate, it gives a northern fanbase an opportunity to drive in, and we might be treated to one of those super cold games where the weather is a legitimate story all week. I think it will be phenomenal.


Matt said...

I'm on the fence about the outdoor bad weather Super Bowl. While I agree that as a fan of a Northeast team, it would be easier to make a trip to NY or Boston or Chicago, part of the allure of making a Super Bowl trip (or BCS) is that you get a mini vacation out of it. Think of the times that we have gone to the Fiesta Bowl - it's 80 degrees out, we're outside the whole time, and meanwhile its snowing and 20 degrees back home. I imagine our experience would have been totally different if we had gone to Milwaukee or Chicago for a bowl game. Maybe not worse, probably not better...just different.

Also, the Lambeau Field super bowl would be tough to pull off logistically. Not enough hotel rooms I presume and not enough to do to keep people occupied for a week. There's only so much beer, cheese and sausage that one person can consume until they want something different...

Anonymous said...

I don't mind it being in NYC. It would be really funny/interesting if there was REALLY bad weather though.

Could you imagine (and it takes a lot of imagination) if Detroit and Buffalo were in the Super Bowl that year and it was snowing so much that you literally couldn't see a thing?!?! We'd have two tortured franchises waiting to see if they finally bring home a championship, and then the game gets ridiculous because of the weather.

But anyway, the chances of bad weather are about least bad enough where it would clearly affect the game. Cold temperatures and even a little snow wouldn't be bad, especially with the Meadowlands' field turf.