The Super Bowl, America’s unofficial holiday, is annually the most substantial sporting event.
The game has been played since 1967 when the NFL Commissioner was extremely intelligent, an innovator and a forward thinker.
His name, Pete Rozelle.
Rozelle brought the NFL and AFL together and created the Super Bowl as a title game that would crown the World Champion of football. And, while he was right in thinking it would benefit the world of football, even he couldn’t see all the coming changes to a league that blew up into a billion dollar business.
The Super Bowl always had a halftime show, although it was more silly antics than the spectacle it’s become in the last 15 years. 1993 and Michael Jackson marked the point where the game became a “mega-event” with other famous and infamous performances including U2 in 2002 and “boobgate” with Janet Jackson in 2004.
Now, the big bowl has been moved back to two weeks after the respective championship games in order to hype it up as much as possible. In fact, the pregame/postgame coverage is now nearly twice as long as the actual game—something even a TV pioneer like Rozelle couldn’t have imagined.
In the 1960s, Rozelle decided it would be best for the game to be played at a neutral site with “neutral” weather conditions. And while it seems like a good idea to have weather that won’t affect games, it effectively shut out 50 percent of the league’s stadiums as possible host venues. In fact, only 12 cities have hosted the game with Miami (10), New Orleans (9) and LA (7) as the big three, hosting more than half.
Plus, guessing the weather four years away is an imperfect science that doesn’t always work out.
In a perfect world, every night in South Beach is 70 degrees and calm, but on Super Bowl Sunday 2007, it poured rain for hours.
In 1985, the game time temperature was 49 degrees, the coldest ever for an outdoor Super Bowl, and there were four games (1980, 1984, 1989, 2007) that had high wind gusts.
But, the real point is multidimensional, yet seemingly simple to solve.
Firstly, one of the things that make American football so great is that it can be played in almost any weather, besides lightning or your random tornado or earthquake.
Baseball can’t be played in weather; they delay or postpone the game. Basketball and hockey are played indoors unless it’s a special occasion (which is a hit for the NHL, especially when it snows).
But football is meant to be played in the elements—the autumn wind and winter snow, the heat and humidity or shine of muddy puddles.
Some of the most exciting, awe-inspiring, memorable and legendary games have taken place in terrible weather; it’s a huge facet of football.
The 1967 NFL Championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers was played in game-time temperatures of -13 degrees with a -36 degree wind chill and is widely known as one of the greatest games ever—The Ice Bowl.
1982’s AFC Championship game was played at -9 degrees, but due to the astonishingly cold wind chill -59 degrees, it is the coldest game in NFL history.
And who can forget 1984’s Broncos “Blizzard Game” played in Mile High Stadium?
The game was destined for history from the outset, as Monday Night Football’s 200th national broadcast, which pitted the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers against one another.
Sure, the temperature was a balmy 29 degrees at kickoff, but the nearly whiteout conditions that shut down I-25 from Denver to Colorado Springs made for a very interesting game to be sure. And for the 63,000 fans that made it to the stadium that day, there wasn’t much waiting for excitement.
The Broncos kicked off, and the Packers attempted to run the ball on the first play from scrimmage, fumbled the ball and it was taken to the house for six points by Steve Foley. But what was even more remarkable was Green Bay’s second play from scrimmage was yet another fumble. This time, Louis Wright grabbed the ball and took it for another touchdown.
The Broncos found themselves up 14-0 without having the ball on the offensive end once, which made NFL history. It was the first and only time in the storied league where a team’s defense scored on the first two plays from scrimmage.
The most remarkable part about it was that the Packers and Broncos both battled tough through the elements and Green Bay tied the game at 14 before Denver kicker Rich Karlis booted home the winning field goal in the final moments.
The point is, whether or not the weather is bad doesn’t make a difference—the product on the field can still be good or even great from a fan’s perspective.
Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said on the 2014 Super Bowl being played in New Jersey, “Hey, if we’re in the Super Bowl, nobody is going to be complaining about what the weather is like or what the temperature is.”
Next, the same old venues, namely Sun Life in Miami and the Superdome in New Orleans, are boring and aging.
Miami’s Sun Life Stadium may have been a treasure in the late 80s when it was constructed, but it is plain ugly now. The basic octagonal design of the stands is dull, with its silly looking curly cue ramps and two small video screens at the top of the ends of the venue.
Likewise, the Superdome looks like an ancient spaceship that landed in the bayou or some old statuesque remnant from the technological age of the 1960s. Sure, it’s positive for the ailing New Orleans area to host the Super Bowl once again in 2013, the first time since Hurricane Katrina, but that should be the city’s last for the foreseeable future.
The NFL is full of newer, nicer, more accommodating stadiums that it could show off, but it doesn’t—unless, of course, they have a dome or retractable dome.
New England’s Gillette Stadium is a gem that was built in 2002, with an interesting statue on its somewhat open end next to one huge screen. In 2007, Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft added a New England Patriot’s Hall of Fame on that end as well.
Pittsburgh’s Heinz Stadium is beautifully modern in its architecture, fully built with steel, just as the city was a century and a half ago. According to stadiumjourney.com , Heinz was voted by ESPN and Sports Illustrated as the second best stadium in recent years, only behind Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Included is Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High, which also opened in 2002, and is a wonderful place to take in a game. New Mile High may not be quite as loud as the old one, but it is state-of-the-art through and through in a state that enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year.
Which brings us to the next dimension, one that is as American as apple pie or the game itself—pure capitalistic interests by the host city.
According to Craig A. Depken and Dennis P. Wilson II of the Texas Workforce Commission, host cities can see an economic impact that ranges in the $300-400 million range. Although, they also mention that due to many variables, a host city may only bring in some “$21 million to $32 million” in net impacts.
Still, that’s a gargantuan amount of greenbacks that gets thrown around during the Super Bowl.
So, how is it fair that only a few cities get to prosper from the economic benefits of the Super Bowl?
The NFL is basically showing those select cities they favor them and are helping a select few prosper while others are left to scramble in a harsh economic climate.
So what should the NFL do to resolve this problem of exclusivity?
There are a number of solutions abound, so let’s ponder their probability.
How about the NFL allows cities that paid for their stadium with taxpayer money to host a bowl? The people of the Denver Metro area spent $289 million to help finance the cost of “New” Mile High Stadium, why shouldn’t they reap the benefits of hosting the NFL’s biggest game?
One idea is a complete rotation, something that the NBA, MLB and NHL do with their All-Star games. Every city gets a Super Bowl, one after the other. Of course, there are places that are legendary, like Lambeau, and bland, like Buffalo.
How about a rule that says teams that have been around for 50 years get to host a big bowl?
Not just that though, the team has to have been in the same city for 50 years without moving.
Then the team earns a “hometown hero” or “founding fathers” exemption. Look at New England, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Denver—four of the original AFL teams to remain in their same city for 50 years as of 2009.
Included in that could be a rule that says if a team has been around and in the same city for 25 years, they get to bid once every five years.
Or, every five years the NFL could just choose from a pool of cold-weather, outdoor stadiums to host the Super Bowl. Then, 80 percent of the games would still be at a “neutral” venue, with one of five having the chance of being cold, snowy, windy, or all three.
Of course, included in every one of those scenarios is Denver, capital of the beautiful Centennial State, Colorado.
Denver has more days that are clear or partly cloudy in February (17) than cloudy (11), the average temperature is 33.4 degrees , but that includes an average high of 47.2. In comparison, New Jersey, where the game will be played in 2014, averages between 24-40 degrees.
Many want to rule out Colorado as a host because it boasts the best skiing in the world, but it only snows .5 of an inch in the month of the Super Bowl.
So, odds are good that the sun would be shining, during kickoff at least. It would be cold, but not bitterly so, and there wouldn’t be snow or it would be light—if Denver were to host a Super Bowl.
The Denver Post ’s Patrick Saunders wrote on the topic a few weeks ago saying it will never happen , although he did ponder that a Super Bowl in Denver would be better than the one in Jacksonville five years ago.
Saunders asked Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen about his thoughts on the topic at the time and Bowlen petitioned for a Bowl as he has for years.
“I have come out publicly on this with the league and I've told them we should host a Super Bowl," Bowlen told Saunders. "With our new stadium, the vibrant economy and all of the rest of the exciting stuff that goes on here in this city and the Rocky Mountains, Denver would make a terrific site for a Super Bowl.
"I am quickly reminded that it often snows in January and February, even though I tell them it really doesn't snow much during those months. But what we have is a notion out there that people think of Colorado like it's Montana or something; a wilderness buried under 3 feet of snow all of the time. They don't realize that we have good weather.
"We have everything right there, right downtown," Bowlen continued. "And for people who want recreation, we have an hour's drive up the road to the greatest ski areas in the world. There really is a lot of sex appeal, for lack of a better term, for Denver."
Not to mention that Denver has one of the best bases for football fans in the entire NFL. Denverites have sold out Mile High and “New” Mile High 293 consecutive times. If tourists don’t want to go to a cold game, homers will without a doubt.
So there you have it, NFL owners.
You gave the game to New Jersey in 2014; you better bring the game to Denver in the near future.
Let’s face it; a Super Bowl would be bigger than the Pope visiting Mile High Stadium in 1994, bigger than Pike “discovering” his peak.
It would be the greatest thing to happen to Denver in its history.
And after 50 loyal years of paying for tickets, jerseys, other memorabilia and beers to cry into, the NFL owes it to Denver.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University alumnus and a freelance sports journalist. Along with being the Denver Broncos Featured Columnist on NFLTouchdown.com, Kurtzman is the Denver Nuggets FC for bleacherreport.com, the CSU Rams Examiner for examiner.com and the Colorado/Utah Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com .
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