NFL owners voted on Tuesday to hold the 2014 Super Bowl in the new $1.6 billion Meadowlands Stadium that will regularly play host to the New York Giants and Jets. The vote has created a fairly large amount of controversy, as this will be the first time the league’s biggest event will be played in a cold-weather site that does not have a dome.
I’ve read numerous columns taking the side that this is a great idea — that New York (New Jersey, in reality, but we know how that goes) is a special city that will create unprecedented excitement, that football is a sport that shouldn’t be held hostage by the natural elements and that this could spur some of the owners in cold climates to build new stadiums, thus generating more revenue for the league throughout the season and creating the illusion that the Super Bowl could be played anywhere, as long as the owners play ball.
I’ve also read just as many articles bemoaning the vote — arguing that the biggest game in sports should be played in an environment that is completely neutral, with weather tilting the competitive balance to nobody. Those opposed to the idea also cite traffic concerns in New York, and bring up preferential treatment to certain organizations.
The one point I think both sides are missing (or neglecting to mention) is that this is all about the money.
The NFL is a brilliant entity that seemingly prints money. It wouldn’t be hard at all to argue that pro football has easily eclipsed baseball as the most popular sport in America, and there are numerous reasons why — the inherent violence in the game, the once-a-week schedule that stirs up anticipation for fans all week, the cheerleaders, the gambling aspect, the athleticism of the players, the cheerleaders ... I mean, come on. Have you seen them? The innocence of high school and college cheerleaders is replaced in the NFL by a gaggle of dancers that often appear as if they should be swinging around on poles for dollar bills ...
But I digress.
One thing NFL officials never lose sight of is the money. Commissioner Roger Goodel has cracked down hard on player discipline since taking his position, and the reason is simple — perceived thuggery is not attractive in marketing the game. The league has been putting games on the NFL Network in recent years, even though many homes across the nation can’t get that network, simply because they can cash in themselves on the advertising dollars. And the Pro Bowl game was moved this season to the week before the Super Bowl as a way to keep fans interested in an uninteresting game and generate more money in its next television deal.
Am I criticizing them for this? Not in the least. The more money the league makes (and divvies up amongst the teams with revenue sharing), the more competitive the league is, and the better the product the fans get to enjoy. I wish every sports league would learn from the NFL and give their fans more of what they want.
The 2014 game will be played in the New York/New Jersey area because the NFL believes that will make them the most money long-term. Is it exciting for fans? Absolutely. Especially for those who go to New York for that week to take in all that will surely be offered. Does the cold-weather game give a competitive edge to a cold-weather franchise? Not so much.
Look, the Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and New York teams are not filled with players from their respective geographic regions — they come from warm-weather and cold-weather climates, alike. The Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals also have players who come from all climates. The fact of the matter is that cold is cold. Even if you’re from Alaska, you still get cold when it’s cold outside. Besides, couldn’t you also argue that a Super Bowl in a dome favors those teams (like New Orleans and Indianapolis) that stack their rosters with finesse players?
Don’t get caught up in the hype over competitive edges for this game. This is not about the weather and opening new doors to cold-weather cities, this is “all about the Benjamins.”