Last Sunday, when the Super Bowl was about to be played at the new high-tech Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, there was a complication. Even worse, it was a complication that never should have happened.
1,250 fans were left without seats thanks to temporary seating sections not being completed in time for the big game.
Now considering the situation, the Dallas Cowboys organization handled everything fairly well. Of the displaced fans, 850 were redirected to other seats, but the remaining 400 were not so lucky. They were either placed in standing-room only sections or shuttled off to an area where they could watch the game on a monitor.
The NFL was highly apologetic for the mix-up, offering these fans $2,400 (three times face value of a ticket) so that they may attend next year. Another option offered was that these fans could attend any future Super Bowl.
Needless to say, these fans were and still are livid.
Today, 1,000 of them filed a lawsuit in federal court against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones. The lawsuit claims breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices. In total, $5 million in damages is being sought.
Now, I just have one question about this saga that is sure to be dragged out for way too long: If Cowboys Stadium wasn't prepared to seat all of the fans, why didn't the Cowboys organization let the NFL know earlier than Super Bowl Sunday?
The fact is, Jerry Jones is running a business. In providing his stadium for the Super Bowl, he essentially had a contract with the NFL and all football fans. The terms of this contract were simple: Let my stadium host the Super Bowl, and I'll make sure everything is ready by kickoff so the fans can have the ultimate experience.
Needless to say, these displaced fans did not get that experience. Some complained of being forced to sit on metal folding chairs instead of regular stadium seats, all for the sake of setting an attendance record. Others complained of having a poor view of the field and sidelines. In a sense, these 1,250 fans did not get what they paid for.
In fact, just how much work was being done on this "temporary seating" installation? In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, construction workers should have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure it was done. Understandably, progress was almost definitely hampered by the heavy snow and ice storm that swept through Texas. Still, efforts should have been doubled before and after that occurred.
Now let's take a look at the options the NFL presented to the fans. The first one seems fair. Each ticket holder gets money that can be used towards Super Bowl XLVI.
The second option seems even better. Fans can choose to attend any future Super Bowl. Honestly, this option seems better because it allows one to pick the game based on the teams matched up. In the first case, they wouldn't have that option.
Should Jerry Jones, the Cowboys, and the NFL pay the fans?
Still, the displaced fans should not take either of these offers. Why? Because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the NFL.
After the Super Bowl ended this year, fans immediately wondered what would happen in 2011. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in March, and little progress has been made on a new labor deal. With a lockout seemingly imminent, the displaced fans have every right to pursue this lawsuit with the NFL.
The fact is, there might not be an NFL season in 2011. Unless the owners decide to use replacement players, pro football enthusiasts should not count on an exciting season happening at this point. Even if replacement players are used, it won't bring the same thrill as watching the likes of Peyton Manning or Tony Romo.
That all being said, it seems only right that Jerry Jones offer some form of compensation to the 1,000 fans who filed the lawsuit. Unfortunately for him, it basically is an open and shut case.
"The NFL and Jerry Jones sold something to fans they weren't able to deliver," said Michael Avenatti of Eagen Avenatti, the law firm representing the fans. "And they knew they weren't able to deliver it."
One can only hope that the courts feel the same way.