May 25, 2010
Ladies and gentlemen, the first virtually guaranteed cold-weather Super Bowl is now a certainty. In the highlight of the NFL Spring Owners Meeting, the NFL teams voted to bring Super Bowl XLVIII to the New Meadowlands.
The bid committees began their 15-minute pitches at 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and each committee got a five-minute follow-up pitch. The New York/New Jersey crew got the first go on the longer pitch by random draw, followed by Tampa and South Florida. For the shorter pitches, reverse order was the rule. However, it was not the lock for Gotham that everyone expected. There was no winner on the first three ballots (75 percent majority was required), so the lowest vote-getter (South Florida) dropped out, and it was then between New York/New Jersey and Tampa. At that point, a third ballot required the same 75 percent, and the fourth and final vote just required 17 of 32 — a majority rule. The fourth vote took the day.
What you're supposed to need to host a Super Bowl, among other things, is to have the stadium in a city with a average temperature of 50 degrees in early February, or a stadium with a dome or retractable roof. The new Meadowlands has all the other requirements (70,000-plus seats and luxury boxes, 10,000 quality hotel rooms nearby, ample convention-center space, and an international airport), but the area in question averages 40 degrees in early February. The league allowed New York/New Jersey a one-time waiver, resulting from the new $1.6 billion stadium to be shared by the Giants and Jets.
In addition, Jets owner Woody Johnson and Giants co-owner John Mara came together to present their bid as a history-making contest, despite potential catastrophic elements that could greatly affect Super Bowl XLVIII on and off the field. We all know that the Super Bowl itself is at least as much about the hoopla as the game itself, and there's a serious question as to whether all those bigwigs filling the seats would find shopping in Manhattan to be an acceptable substitute for warm-weather play.
To offset weather concerns, the New York group discussed provisions for in-stadium fan comfort, including hand warmers, concourse heaters, heated seat cushions, parking lot fire pits, and "NFL-branded, weather-specific merchandise". (In other words, if you're freezing your tail off and would like to pay $300 for a $50 jacket on site, the NFL will be there for you). Contingency plans are in place for preparing the field. Trucking people into East Rutherford from the big city is something else the league will have to help coordinate,
One thing we haven't really heard at this point, and it might be the most interesting take on the story — what do the players think? What if you, as a member of the Tennessee Titans, who play at least half their games in warm weather and have division opponents in Jacksonville (warm), Houston (warm) and Indianapolis (dome), are facing the Philadelphia Eagles in that Super Bowl? Cold-weather non-dome teams are ostensibly built for their elements, and will generally have far more experience in those elements. Part of the idea of a neutral site is to eliminate the specter of a one-team advantage. Maybe it'll all work out — hey, maybe it'll be the Jets versus the Giants in Super Bowl XLVIII, and both teams will have home-field advantage! But if it's a Texans-Packers game, and the Pack walk in wearing short-sleeve jerseys and laughing at the cold while the Texans shiver in looking like they're on another planet, the league will have some explaining to do.
On the other hand, the precedent of a cold-city Super Bowl was a major factor in the favorable vote. If you own the Washington Redskins or Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos, you now have one foot in the door to a dream never able to be realized in previous years — a Super Bowl in your city. That, in the end, probably won out over the experience held by the other committees.
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