NFL's greed opens door for American pastime

If you thought Jerry Jones and the National Football League were unmatched in their Texas-sized hubris, well, along came the lawyers and plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the Dallas Cowboys owner and the league for Sunday's Super Bowl seating fiasco.

I'll see your greed and raise you a retainer fee.

Gee, who to root for here?

The billionaire owner and multibillion dollar corporation that was so eager to set the all-time Super Bowl attendance record that it tried to stuff fans into every nook, cranny and unsafe location of the massive Cowboys Stadium?

Or ticket holders, some of whom got stuck watching the game on television or in standing room only areas and aren't satisfied with the league's pretty reasonable make-good offer? Then there are others who paid six-figure personal seat licenses to the Cowboys and are upset their bonus Super Bowl seats didn't face the Jumbotron. Together the aggrieved filed a $5 million suit on Tuesday.

It's fairly obvious who the winner will be … the lawyers that will no doubt drag out the billable hours. Welcome to the Super Bowl of "Can We Get Another Continuance, Your Honor?"

"Unfortunately, not all of the ticket holders to Super Bowl XLV got what they bargained for or what was promised them," the lawsuit reads.

That is unfortunate. Just as unfortunate as it becoming a federal lawsuit.

Look, all the initial blame here goes to the NFL and possibly Jones, depending on his role in game operation.

The league is all but printing money right now, a $9 billion per year operation. The Super Bowl attracted a record 162.9 million total viewers. Face-value tickets to the Green Bay Packers' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers were as much as $1,200 – it cost $200 just to watch outside the stadium on television. Concession stands featured hamburgers – albeit huge hamburgers – for $25.

And that still wasn't enough. The league – and no doubt Jones – was interested in setting the Super Bowl attendance record, which has stood since 1980 when 103,985 people jammed into the Rose Bowl. Cowboys Stadium is a wonder of a building. It just doesn't have the capacity of Pasadena.

The NFL tried to make up for that by erecting thousands of temporary seats – high in the end zone and where concourses should be. It still came up about 700 short.

So when some 1,250 of the temporary seats were determined to be unsafe by local officials, well, that was all on the NFL. They were pushing this in the first place. The fact the league knew about it mid-week and didn't say a word because it thought (wrongly) that it could get things in order only made it worse. Although, telling the fans ahead of time wouldn't have eased the disappointment – or staved off the inevitable litigation.

The league was able to place some 850 fans in other seats inside the stadium. Four hundred were left watching the game on television in some of the stadium's private clubs or in standing room sections.

The Steelers and Packers have combined for 13 Super Bowl appearances. There's a good chance at least one of them will earn another berth soon.
(Jason O. Watson/US Presswire)

The NFL has made two retribution offers. Fans could accept a ticket to next year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis plus $2,400 – three times face value of the tickets. Or they could opt for tickets, airfare and hotel accommodations to any future Super Bowl. Another 2,000 ticket holders will be comped because they were delayed getting to their seats, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The NFL screwed up. When it came to damage control though, it did pretty well.

Some of the 400 no doubt purchased tickets on the secondary market for more than face value, but how is that the NFL's problem? And yes, if you were a Packers or Steelers fan, this was a unique opportunity to watch your team play.

It stands to reason, however, that two of the most successful franchises in league history will return to the game.

Really, what does anyone want the NFL to do at this point?

Other than pay for the beach house of some lawyers, of course.

Here's a guess on why the NFL didn't offer five times the face value of the tickets. Or 10 times. Or a flat $5,000. Because they knew it wouldn't matter. They knew nothing was going to be enough because a lawsuit was certain. This was just the first lawsuit. A second – and probably not the last – quickly followed.

After all, about the only thing more American than football is lawyering up. This was the inevitable collision of our two national pastimes. Maybe Nancy Grace can sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the steps of United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. All the words this time, please.

Hey, the fans have the right to sue. And I have the right to stop feeling sympathy for them.

Most – if not all – are well-off, some exceptionally so. We've heard stories of private flights and hotel suites and other hardships endured since they had to watch the game on television.

Then there are the locals who paid six figures for "Founders Club" access at Cowboys games. One of the added benefits was the promise of Super Bowl seats.

According to the lawsuit, many of those turned out to be "obstructed views and temporary metal fold out chairs" … "in addition, almost all of these seats lacked any reasonable view of the stadium's prized 'video board.' "

Fans were disallowed from sitting in this 400 section of seats during Super Bowl XLV.
(Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Yes, rich people have rights too. If this is the worst thing to happen to you though, then you're living a pretty charmed life.

If you're a Cowboys customer at the $100,000-plus "Founder's Club" level, it stands to reason the franchise would listen to your complaint and attempt to work out an understanding. There aren't many of you.

Or you could just file a knee-jerk lawsuit within 48 hours of the game. Your choice.

Class-action suits are particularly beneficial when a large group of people have been cheated a small amount by a giant corporation. Individually no one is going to, say, sue a phone company for $5 in monthly overcharges. Get 10 million customers though and now the company has to react – and change its future behavior.

In this case, there are relatively few aggrieved people. And does anyone think the NFL a) wanted this, b) isn't properly humiliated by the failure, and c) will even consider doing it again?

This is about ego and money and money and ego and it's patently useless. The NFL is to blame. They admitted that and promptly made a reasonable, or close to reasonable, settlement offer.

That should be enough. When it comes to these kinds of lawsuits, nothing ever is enough though. There is no "enough."

Here's hoping both sides lose.