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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Super Mess Looms

The National Football League’s (NFL) team owners voted last year to have the February 2014 Super Bowl played at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, marking the first time ever a Super Bowl will be played at an open-air, cold weather site. It was, and is, a terrible idea.

Perhaps the Atlantic seaboard blizzard of December 2010 might get the NFL’s owners to change their collective mind, especially since the strength of last week’s storm peaked on a Sunday afternoon and prompted the NFL’s postponement of the Sunday, Dec. 26 night game in Philadelphia, PA. The Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Vikings contest was instead played on Tuesday evening, Dec. 28. The Super Bowl is always held on a Sunday and, in a nod to the extraordinary size of its television audience, begins in late afternoon so the game concludes in prime time.

The next three years will add to the NFL’s false sense of complacency as the 2011 Super Bowl is played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, which has a retractable roof. The 2012 and 2013 Super Bowls are being held in indoor facilities (Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN and then the Superdome in New Orleans, LA).

New Yorkers were given a preview late last month of the mayhem potentially awaiting the 2014 Super Bowl attendees. Let’s work on the assumption that most of the 2014 Super Bowl ticket holders will be out-of-state residents who will stay in mid-town Manhattan hotels. Having been given the false impression by NFL broadcasts that the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center are situated alongside the New Meadowlands Stadium, many will be surprised to learn the Super Bowl is actually being held in a godforsaken marshland eight miles west of those New York City landmarks.

Now, let’s add relentless snowfall and heavy winds to the mix. This would sideline all of the limousines and town cars hired to transport most of the ticket holders to northern New Jersey. Do you think that New Jersey Transit would have either trains or buses available, allowing these tourists to get to East Rutherford, NJ from Manhattan? I say this knowing full well the NFL can hold even its biggest game without a live television studio audience, otherwise known as the fans.

And staying in nice hotels and hitting the Manhattan party circuit in the days leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl is sure to be lots of fun. But even a deep-pocketed visitor might be concerned about having a long weekend turn into an open-ended journey.

Should Super Bowl 2014 be played in blizzard conditions, with half of the ticket-holders having watched the game at New York City sports bars, the media’s focus would then turn to the region’s airports as thousands of disappointed fans headed home. Yet last week’s events also laid bare the fragility of the U.S. commercial aviation system’s schedule. One day of cancellations can have a ripple effect that extends for up to a week. Does the NFL have a game plan for any of these scenarios? I doubt it.

 

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net