Yardbarker NFL writers Michael Tunison and Chris Mueller address some of the hottest issues in the league. This week's topic: ideal host cities for future Super Bowls.
Tunison: Super Bowl hosting rights are often used as a way to entice markets to fork over immense amounts of public money to finance new stadia around the NFL. In two years, the game will take place at the new joint Rams-Chargers stadium in Los Angeles. Last Friday, Roger Goodell said Las Vegas has everything necessary to be a Super Bowl city. With states legalizing sports bets, coverage of gambling has become more and more a part of the game-day experience. Super Bowl hosting duties have been assigned through 2024 (Tampa, LA, Glendale, Arizona; New Orleans). It would be hard to imagine that Vegas won't get one of the next few available slots.
Tying Super Bowl hosting to new stadiums might be a convincing way for the league to get elected officials to cough up funds, but it also means occasionally the Super Bowl has to be in places like Minnesota. With apologies to our Twin Cities readers, but the Super Bowl should never be there again. The game should always be in warm and pleasant climes, in settings with abundant nightlife and raucous parties. It all adds to the mystique and the spectacle of the Super Bowl.
For that reason, New Orleans should always be in the mix, and a host at least once every three years. Sure, it hosted the college football national championship game this year, so one could claim the Super Bowl might be overkill, but I doubt anyone who attended would think so. Miami is a fine host, and all the beat writers making their way from Kansas City are doubtlessly thrilled for the mid-winter trip to Florida. That doesn't mean they, and the fans accompanying them, wouldn't have a better time in New Orleans.
Mueller: Like most everything else connected with the NFL, there is at least a partial shakedown element to the proceedings. It’s hard for me to say that the rotation of cities should be limited to New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles, with Tampa Bay, Phoenix (sorry, Glendale) and San Francisco (sorry, Santa Clara) thrown in every so often for good measure.
If the taxpayers in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Indianapolis and Detroit are going to get fleeced so that billionaires can build new playgrounds, at least throw them a bone every now and then and give them a little economic shot in the arm, particularly to help recoup stadium costs. Maybe the media will bellyache, but fans will still flock, and still find things to do, even if they must be indoors.
Las Vegas seems like a natural fit, but the southern Nevada desert in early February, while sun-drenched, isn’t exactly pool weather. The average high temperature for the month is just 63 degrees. Pleasant, but not summer-like.
Vegas’ biggest advantage is the new stadium and permanent infrastructure, in the form of hotels, restaurants and entertainment, that does not need to be fabricated to host the game. That said, I’d like to see the NFL just lean in on its hypocrisy and put the Super Bowl in Vegas every three years or so and figure it out from there.
The same league that wouldn’t let Tony Romo hold a fantasy football convention in Sin City is now all-in (I’m sorry, I’m sorry) on gambling, and they should own that fact rather than run from it. Here’s another thought, too: Have the Super Bowl on foreign soil. Sure, American fans will be mad, and the travel will be expensive, but the NFL likes to throw its weight around and be the big sports bully on the block.
What better way to do that than take the show on the road to, say, London or Mexico City, and make the game an international event. As a bonus, the league can see if its skill at holding cities hostage travels well, like a good running game and defense.
Tunison: Vegas is absolutely going to be a fixture of the Super Bowl rotation for the exact reason you figured. True, it's not balmy, but as long as it isn't full-on cold, the type of wealthy casual fans who attend the Super Bowl can deal with mild. Gambling is only becoming a larger focus of NFL coverage. It used to be that mainstream outlets barely paid any notice to betting considerations, which is why it was so outre when Al Michaels would occasionally make a winking reference to a garbage time touchdown that meant some team either covered or didn't cover the spread.
But now every pregame or hype show has a dedicated segment where some schlubby guy breaks down various aspects of the betting action. SportsCenter now has a branded segment on big moments that swing wagers. Hell, I'm sure half the reason the NFL wanted a franchise in Vegas is just for the Super Bowl.
We're undoubtedly getting a London Super Bowl before the decade is out. I think the league is holding out to see if it can get a franchise based there first, or else it likely would have already happened. It would be a helpful carrot to get the Brits to go long with whatever concessions the NFL would like to offset various expenses.
I once heard someone joke that the NFL should purchase a smallish tropical island and hold the Super Bowl there every year. Unrealistic, sure, but hypothetically it would make sense. It would be in a warm climate, and the result would be some sort of libertarian bacchanalia where all the debauchery we like to associate with the event would be allowed to go on unconstrained. Sure, it would be a playground of the wealthy and mega-wealthy, but that's been the Super Bowl for decades now anyway.
If you're going to go international, I think you would have to consider Toronto as well. The NFL has already tried to integrate the city into Buffalo's fan base by having the Bills play a regular-season game there from 2008-2013. Interest flagged after a bit, but I would peg that more to the Bills not being particularly interesting in that era. Buffalo is unlikely to build a new stadium soon, and the city is probably not large enough to support a Super Bowl surge in visitors, so the league might as well put it two hours away and call it the joint Buffalo-Toronto Super Bowl.
Beyond Mexico City, China has been a huge focus for NFL owners to expand for obvious reasons. They tried to schedule a preseason game there about a decade ago. It eventually derailed but it hasn't stopped owners from raising the idea every now and again. The NFL would need to schedule a few preseason and regular-season games there first before going all-in with a Super Bowl, but surely that's a market they're desirous to break into.
Mueller: What a jolt it was for me to flip channels on one of the televisions at my day job and see on ESPNews the betting lines for every game that day taking up roughly 60 percent of the screen real estate. It was, of course, very cool, and exactly what that channel should be doing. Yes, I’ll miss Michaels with his winking nods, and of course Brent Musberger’s more obvious references, but if the trade-off is that we can all act like adults about sports betting and have more readily available access to information, I’m all for it.
One of the major hurdles I’d imagine most people have with a Super Bowl on foreign soil -– besides the grousing that football is an American creation and should be played in the U.S. -– is the idea that hosting the event across the ocean would price out the average fan. As you said, though, this is an event for wealthy and ultra-wealthy private citizens, corporations, and television viewers. It’s as much spectacle as it is football game, equal parts entertainment and sports, and perpetually a chance for the NFL to flex its might to the widest possible audience. Putting in a handful of major cities across the globe seems like the next logical step, not some bridge too far.
Toronto and London are both candidates -– the former can just bill itself as “New York City, but friendlier and cleaner,” and the latter “New York City, but everyone drives on the wrong side of the road.” The league already knows how to execute a game in each city, putting on a Super Bowl is merely a doing that on an exponentially bigger scale.
China is a tempting possibility, for the reasons you mentioned, but what about Japan? Existing infrastructure would be a question, but New National Stadium seats over 80,000, and could hold the game, albeit without perhaps the luxury box capacity you’d normally see.
Still, the idea of the biggest single sporting event in the world taking place in Tokyo would probably make up for it. One Super Bowl outside the U.S. every 10 years, I say. If it works better, make it two out of every 10. Rotate the rest through the usual suspects stateside, and maybe throw in a complete wild card once every 20 years, done by a lottery drawing of all the cities that usually never have one. After all, how else is Cleveland going to experience a Super Bowl?
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