- Ashley Fox
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Super Bowl XLVIII very well could be an unmitigated disaster. It could be the biggest logistical nightmare in modern sports history, and that's if the weather cooperates, which is unlikely given typical conditions in New York and New Jersey in late January and early February.
Traffic is going to be a nightmare regardless. Moving from New York City into North Jersey and vice versa is hard enough at 1 p.m. on a normal Thursday. With hundreds of thousands of people descending on the city from the other boroughs and beyond to experience the first Super Bowl in the area as well as the accompanying weeklong party, commuting will be exasperating. Subways and sidewalks will be even more jammed than usual. It will be frustrating for locals and off-putting for visitors.
And if it snows during the week or, God forbid, during the actual game on Feb. 2, look out. There will be more carping and complaining than there was during the 34-minute power outage during Super Bowl XLVII that altered the course of the game between San Francisco and Baltimore.
All of that we know. This we need to remember: There's nothing we can do about it. No amount of whining is going to change the fact that this country's premier sporting event is going to be played in this country's premier market in an open-air stadium that isn't going to suddenly be covered by a $400 million retractable roof.
The NFL made the decision several years ago that it wanted to host a Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium even though it had never scheduled a Super Bowl at a venue where inclement weather could impact the game. The league opted to reward Jets owner Woody Johnson and Giants co-owner Steve Tisch for building a new 80,000-seat stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., even though it didn't reward New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft for building Gillette Stadium, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen for building Sports Authority Field at Mile High or Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for building Lincoln Financial Field.
It doesn't make much sense. It is undoubtedly going to be a massive headache for the two teams playing in the game. Each will stay in North Jersey, with the NFC representative practicing at the Giants' relatively new training facility, the Timex Performance Center, in East Rutherford, and the AFC representative practicing at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. For the first time ever, media day will be at a venue (the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.) other than where the game will be played.
For fans, there will be a "Super Bowl Boulevard" down Broadway in Manhattan that will stretch from the middle of Times Square to 34th Street. There will be concerts and clinics, the Lombardi trophy on display and television production sets, plus something special that the league is teasing will be as cool as the zip line in Indianapolis was two years ago. Cross streets will be open but Broadway will be closed, which will also help jack up traffic in a city that doesn't need much reason for there to be crosstown gridlock.
But the one potentially saving grace is that the league doesn't want this event to fail. Quite the contrary. Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't oblivious to the fact that his popularity is lying with the rats in a Manhattan gutter. He isn't popular with players, who think he is heavy-handed with his discipline and that his tweaking of the rules unfairly benefits players on offense. After Goodell's handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, he has lost credibility with many fans. Holding one Super Bowl in two states -- New York and New Jersey -- is counterintuitive to how the league has operated in the past, which is why the league will be highly motivated to make it work.
If Super Bowl XLVIII is a disaster -- and there is nothing the league or anyone else can do about Mother Nature, other than try to avoid her by playing in a warmer climate -- Goodell's reputation will be permanently scarred. It has already taken a beating. Adding "disastrous Super Bowl in the name of appeasing two high-profile team owners" to "lockout" and "concussion lawsuits" and "bounties" and "replacement referees" would be enough to make the argument that a change atop this $7 billion industry would be warranted.
Neither Goodell nor the league nor its owners want that.
That's why, with the game still almost a full year away, someone in the league has already floated contingency plans in the event there is a significant snowfall. Organizers are planning, but they're also worried about the weather enough to admit that maybe they will have to move the game to Saturday, which would have the head coaches howling, or push it back a day or two, which would cause fans significant travel-related headaches and costs.
What will they do for halftime entertainment? What about the pregame? If they simulcast a halftime show from another -- read: warmer -- venue, how will the fans in the stadium pass the time? These are logistics that still must be resolved.
Super Bowl XLVIII is destined to be an imperfect event, but New Orleans, for all of its many pluses -- the restaurants, the plethora of hotel rooms, the walkability of the city -- wasn't perfect either.
The Super Bowl is headed to New York/New Jersey. That isn't going to change, so there's no point in complaining about it.
3dEric D. Williams
2dMel Kiper Jr.