- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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PHOENIX -- They said this would not happen. As someone who hated the idea of an outdoor Super Bowl in the Northeast from the moment it came up, I distinctly remember NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying this would not happen. This was back when they announced that the 2014 Super Bowl would be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and one of the many questions (along with, "What the heck are you guys thinking?") was whether other outdoor northern venues would then be candidates for future Super Bowls as well. Goodell said no, that this New York thing was a one-time, special opportunity.
Nevertheless, at the NFL owners meetings on Monday, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he'd push for a Super Bowl in Philadelphia if the New York/New Jersey game is a success.
"I will, yes. I will, if it's a success," Lurie said. "New York will help us."
Lurie offered the NFL party line bit about how cool it is when football's played in the snow, asserting he has great memories from growing up in Boston and watching games played in the snow. And he said he thinks, as long as it's no threat to public safety, it'd be great if next year's game had a little bit of snow.
But again, as was the case when the New York/New Jersey idea came up, this cliched and myopic argument ignores the many, many reasons not to do this. Ever again. Having the game in New Jersey next year is a monumental mistake, and the NFL will be lucky if it goes off without a hitch. The league should absolutely not press its luck by trying to do it again in Philadelphia, Washington, New England, Chicago or any such place where the threat of a weather-related, game-day mess is added to the threat of a weeklong logistical mess akin to what happened when they had a freak ice storm in 2011 in Dallas.
As I write this, according to weather.com, it is 36 degrees in the fine city of Philadelphia. "Areas nearby," the page I'm looking at tells me, "are reporting a mixture of rain and snow." It is also currently 44 days since the Super Bowl was played. That's more than six weeks gone by from Super Bowl Sunday, and the Northeast is still dealing with the very real daily threat of messy weather. Why, I continue to ask, would the NFL want to invite this to its signature event? And before you answer, please consider that the Super Bowl, from the NFL's standpoint, is not simply one game at 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday, but rather a weeklong festival of football to which the whole world comes hoping to have a good time and party. It is important to the NFL that the entire week -- not just Sunday night -- go well. Dallas was an embarrassment, but at least that could be dismissed as a fluke because they don't generally have winter storms in February in Dallas.
They do, generally, and somewhat frequently, have winter storms in northern New Jersey. They have them in Philadelphia. The idea the NFL would want to hold its signature event in a place where this is not only possible but likely -- and then also bring game day into the potentially messy equation by playing the Super Bowl in a cold-weather stadium without a roof -- is senseless and always was. The league is already juggling next year's schedule for Super Bowl week in ways it wouldn't have had to if sense had prevailed. There will be no "NFL Experience," because there's nowhere to put it. Media Day will be in a hockey arena in Newark, N.J. because the NFL doesn't want to risk having it outside in bad weather. The league has reportedly discussed contingency plans for moving the game to Saturday or some other day of the week if there's a big storm. "Super Bowl Friday" just doesn't have the same ring, right? Why invite these problems? And why more than once?
I hold to the belief that the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl was part of the deal with the owners of the Giants and the Jets when they agreed to build their new stadium. The league hasn't come out and said that, but I believe it to be the case. And if it is, fine. They've all made worse backroom deals, I am sure. But this should be where it stops, and if next year's game happens to go off without a hitch, the NFL should not allow that to change its mind about the outdoor northern Super Bowl as a repeatable concept. It's a bad idea and will continue to be a bad idea whether the league gets lucky next year or not. I thought, when this came up the first time, that Goodell had made it clear to other owners that this did not open things up for places like Philadelphia to follow suit. I think the NFL should make that clear again, tell Lurie to stand down, hope next year's Super Bowl goes off without any gigantic problems and then start putting the game back in places like Miami and New Orleans, where it belongs.
1dEric D. Williams
23hEric D. Williams