Strudler: Weather And Transportation Showing Blitz On Super Bowl

Dec 11, 2013

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Today sports commentator Keith Strudler discusses problems fans might face heading to this year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey.

So you think getting tickets to the Super Bowl is tough. Try actually getting to the game. And this is assuming there’s no blizzard or ice storm or any of those winter inconveniences that can happen in New York in February.  Even if it’s clear and balmy, and you’ve got tickets in hand, the NFL and Super Bowl CEO Al Kelly have announced there’s only three ways you can show up at Jersey’s Metlife Stadium. You can take NJ Transit at a premium fare. You can buy a $51 dollar shuttle bus ticket that picks up around the area and drops you at the stadium. Or you can hold one of the 13,000 parking passes, which is the only way you’re getting near the event by car.

Here’s what you can’t do. You can’t take a taxi to the game. You can’t get dropped off at the game. You can’t walk to the game, not that you would. And if you do find a parking pass, you cannot tailgate in the parking lot. Apparently, you are allowed to sit in your car and eat and drink, which sounds about as appealing as swimming in the East River, but no grills and lounge chairs. Given the likely sub-zero temperatures, perhaps they’re simply saving people from a hospital visit, or at least saving that until the game itself.

The policies hope to accomplish a couple of things. First, it makes sure only ticket holders head out to the game. It probably reduces the inevitability of drunk driving, a regular pastime of too many NFL afternoons. It should somewhat reduce the traffic around the game, which could feel a bit like Times Square on New Year’s. And of course, it filters additional funds towards the event organizers, since fans will put their transportation dollars towards vastly overcharged bus rides and food and drink consumed in the stadium, not outside it.

From a PR perspective, the release reminded everyone of the authoritarian beast that is the NFL. A league that’s well known for controlling and monetizing the entire game experience is taking that ethos to the streets – literally to the streets and how they’ll lead overcharged corporate fans to the refrigerator of a game. It’s not that most of these regulations don’t make sense, minus the exorbitant price tag, but any headline that reads “fans prohibited from walking to the game” feels oddly draconian, as if the league only wishes it could choose our clothes that day. It’s why the No Fun League sticks as a moniker.

Maybe more obvious than the overreach on transportation revenues is a simple existential questions of the game itself, at least in reference its location. This will be the first ever outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl, a move made to leverage the fiscal potential of the New York market. In every statement by the league and event organizers this week, all made reference to the clear possibility of snow, ice, and everything short of the ten plagues. That rhetoric dovetailed nicely with the Northeast’s first winter storm, where teams in Philadelphia played in only a taste of what could happen much worse two months from now. If you think paying $51 to ride a bus to a football game sounds bad, imagine doing that in a blizzard. Especially when you actually have to get off at the end of the route. Tailgaters will be the least of the league’s problems. As the NFL and game organizers create a transportation mandate, it’s clearly driven not only by their thirst for every last dollar, but also by the impeding fear of holding an outdoor sporting event in a place and time it simply doesn’t belong. There should no more be a Super Bowl in New York than a Summer Olympics in Miami or a World Cup in Qatar, which sadly is happening as well. And all these plans to accommodate a winter situation, like controlling all traffic flow, is lipstick on a pig. All of which could have been avoided if the game were held in, say, New Orleans, or San Diego, or one of the dozen of American cities where people actually want to be in February. Then folks could walk, drive, swim, whatever to the game without fear of frostbite.

But that’s not the case this year. So instead, the league will pray for the best and plan for the worst, which includes making getting to the game more difficult than a moon landing. That is, assuming you can find tickets to the game in the first place.

Keith Strudler is Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and Associate Professor of Communication.