Eleven days. May 20. A seemingly innocuous date on the NFL calendar, more than a week removed from all the draft hubbub going on in New York City. For fans of most NFL cities, it will merely be another Tuesday, one where you pretend to pay attention in work meetings while reading up on your team's undrafted free-agent crop.
In Indianapolis, Minneapolis and New Orleans, it will be the culmination of a long-running bid to earn the right to host Super Bowl LII. The sport's 32 team owners will vote on a host city at a meeting in less than two weeks, with each city formally presenting their bids in recent days. It's one of the greatest honors for an NFL city—one that the people running their city's gambit take very, very seriously.
"It's a very competitive process," Indy bid chairwoman Allison Melangton told Steve Karnowski and Michael Marot of The Associated Press (via ABC News). "We've got 13 days to go and we want to take every competitive advantage we've got."
At this point, no one knows which (if any) city has an advantage. There is some level of transparency about paring down the possible contenders and obvious reasons why the NFL might want to hit up all three cities in the coming seasons.
There are also plenty of good reasons Roger Goodell might push away from the respective contenders. What makes the process so nerve-wracking is not knowing the deciding factor. With that in mind, let's do a quick check in on all three cities and go over some of their biggest pros and cons.
Pros: Domed Stadium, Temperate Climate, Past Success Hosting Super Bowls, Fun and Unique City, Possible 300th Anniversary Tie-In
Cons: Old Stadium, Most Recent Host Among Candidates, Remember What Happened the Last Time?
Any time New Orleans is in the Super Bowl hosting discussion, it deserves a long look. The city is arguably the most trustworthy venue in history. New Orleans has hosted the year's biggest television event 10 times, tied with Miami for the most in NFL history.
This is the case for myriad reasons. New Orleans has a rich, welcoming culture that's used to bringing in swarths of tourists. The buttoned-up executives and players are nothing compared to the twentysomething college students who flock to Bourbon Street every year for Mardi Gras.
It is also a large, encompassing city in which the NFL will have almost unlimited room to operate. Goodell is nothing if not a capitalist, and bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans undoubtedly gives the NFL more options. There won't be any worry of a snowstorm or frigid weather ruining the beaucoup outdoor activities during Super Bowl week.
That said, the NFL is also well aware of the pressure it puts on cities and franchises to build new, state-of-the-art facilities. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was built in 1975. The building underwent massive reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but is still decidedly behind the times in almost every way. There are only six older stadiums still operated by NFL teams—and not a one has a shot in hell of hosting the Super Bowl anytime soon. Also, don't think it's a coincidence that Miami has been shut out of late, either.
Goodell cannot in good conscious push for new facilities while not rewarding the taxpayers. Lucas Oil Stadium and Vikings Stadium are new and in non-traditional host cities where Goodell could tout the Super Bowl's willingness to buck the past.
I'm unsure whether the blackout fiasco of 2013 will hurt or help New Orleans. On one side, it could be seen as a sign the Superdome is not capable of handling the spectacle of a modern-day Super Bowl. On the other, the NFL could want to wash the bad taste away from a traditionally excellent host city. Plus, New Orleans is really, really fun.
Pros: State-of-the-Art Stadium, Non-Terrible Climate, Did a Fantastic Job of Hosting in 2012, Friendly and Hospitable Local Population, A "Small Town" Big City
Cons: Just Hosted in 2012, Still Pretty Cold in February, Was the Success in 2012 a One-Time Fluke?, Not Exactly a Celebrity Draw
There really aren't many flaws here. I have to admit I was stretching a bit when it came to the "flaws" category. Wondering if a smallish big city can host the Super Bowl on a regular basis is obviously speculation—there is no proof Indy would not knock it out of the park like it did a few years ago.
Yet there was worry about Indianapolis' ability to build a proper infrastructure then, as I suspect there will be again this time around. Which is kind of funny considering Indianapolis' population dwarfs that of both New Orleans and Minneapolis—but, hey, we're speaking in narratives here.
The fact that Indianapolis was a great host in its first opportunity is the best evidence we have that residents will be once again fun and accommodating while putting in the necessary work.
The issue here is that Indianapolis also has no big leg up on the competition. It's a non-traditional city that just got its pat on the head for building a new stadium in 2012. Unless the NFL plans on putting Indy in its regular rotation, there is no obvious reason to award the city a second Super Bowl in six years. Minneapolis has the brand-new stadium coming in 2016 and hasn't hosted the mecca since 1992. New Orleans is New Orleans.
Indianapolis has one well-done Super Bowl under its belt, a good stadium and a nice community. It's a very good choice. Something tells me the lack of obvious pull will make Indy the second-place winner in the room—a city everyone kind of likes but not enough to back when it comes voting time.
Pros: Brand-New Stadium in 2016, Stadium is Domed, Goodell Seems to Love Idea of Pushing Cold-Weather Super Bowls, Football-Crazy Population, Has Not Hosted Since 1992
Cons: It Is Really Cold in February, Has Only Hosted the One Super Bowl, Will the Near-Fiasco in New York City Last Season Work Against Them?
The NFL's decision to host a Super Bowl in the New York/New Jersey area worked out, so almost everyone has forgotten about the hand-wringing that happened in the week prior. League officials talked openly about pushing the game back if there was inclement weather, as snarky fans prepared to bask in schadenfreude.
The game's success has caused cold-weather owners to push for more in the future. It's possible the majority will oblige. It's also possible Goodell realizes the week-long headache that came with checking the weather report by the hour was just not worth it.
Minneapolis' Super Bowl bid should be a pretty clear sign of where the league stands. On paper, the city is everything Goodell has pushed for. The Vikings will open a state-of-the art facility in 2016 after a protracted negotiations process. That citizens stepped up with their taxpayer dollars is something that should be rewarded—not half-heartedly thanked and then moved on from when a warmer city comes rolling along.
If the NFL is serious about non-traditional and cold-weather markets landing Super Bowls, this is a no-brainer decision. Minneapolis is the choice.
There are very legitimate questions the league has to raise about the feasibility of risking their biggest event for what amounts to a post-payment thank you. The Vikings' new stadium will have a roof, so there is no possibility that the actual venues will be tarnished by inclement weather. But football is a spectator sport. The NFL is one blizzard away from roads being shut down or far too dangerous to drive on, giving them the choice between a half-empty stadium or a push back.
That's a potential nightmare. Nevertheless, I'd give Minnesota a slight leg up at this point. The NFL won't react to a disaster until one happens, meaning that cold-weather cities are probably in the running until we wind up with our first Super Bowl Monday.
Then? It's New Orleans and Miami forever and ever, amen.
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