One of the strangest events in Super Bowl history occurred in Super Bowl 47's blackout of half of the New Orleans Superdome early in the 3rd quarter. It may have been an anomaly, and Beyonce's Super Bowl Halftime Show didn't seem to consume much more power than previous shows, but initial reports suggest the halftime show played a role.
But it did remind us that every home field in the Super Bowl is different. Even in a dome, the "elements" can affect the game.
Which makes me frightened of the setting of next year's game, the New Jersey Meadowlands, right next to New York City.
The decision to play the game there is about as strange a decision any major league sports league has ever made. Here are four reasons I think it could lead to disaster.
4. New York Doesn't Need It
A few years ago, Chicago made a bid for the 2016 Olympics. It was turned down in favor of Rio de Janeiro.
I congratulated my Chicago friends for this "defeat." They would have lost a lot more by getting the Olympics.
And they didn't need it. The only thing that holds Chicago back is its own politics. Getting awarded the Olympics would have provided the worst of the politics, and no more economic benefits than, say, Athens did. Look where Greece is now.
The same is triple-true of New York. It doesn't need the Olympics, and certainly doesn't need the Super Bowl. Its own hustle and bustle makes it a great place to visit, and it doesn't need additional events to draw tourism.
3. Other Northern Cities May Demand It
The legendary "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field in Green Bay will never host the Super Bowl. Green Bay is simply too small to host. But other northern cities can rightfully ask, if New York, why not us? Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. Cleveland. Cincinnatti. Chicago. Denver. Seattle. Kansas City.
When you think about it, why not Ann Arbor, Michigan? Columbus, Ohio? Even Lincoln, Nebraska, as neutral a site as you can find?
Super Bowls are played where they are for a reason (see next two points). If I had a rotation, I'd have San Diego, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Miami each have it once every five years, with the fifth city having a domed stadium or in a southern region.
2. It's a disservice to fans.
I spent a New Years in New York once. The weather was pretty good -- mid-to-low 30's as I recall. And last year's (2012) winter seemed so warm all over America that, if duplicated again, New York in early February may be in the high 50's.
On the other hand, it could be -2.
Nobody knows. And that's the problem.
Games in extreme cold are frankly just bad for fans. It's not enjoyable to stand in the cold. It just isn't. And many will come ill-prepared. I've lived in the North all my life. People don't know what they may be in for.
At the same time, it's a rip-off for northern fans who can afford game tickets and travel. In the middle of winter, someplace south is a welcome destination, and even if it's in a northern dome, at least the game will be comfortable. The Meadowlands doesn't provide that guarantee. And if you party in Manhattan Saturday night and there's a snowstorm, do you know you'll even get to the game?
(I might say something here about how you can't have an on-site halftime show in a northern city because of unpredictable weather, but to me that would be a benefit. Have the halftime be the same as usual -- 13 minutes, and get the game back on. Indeed, canceling the halftime show may be the best argument FOR a New York Super Bowl.)
1. It's a disservice to the players and the game.
It could be said that football was meant to be played in "the elements." Rain could postpone a baseball game, but not a football game.
It's a romantic yet reasonable premise, but overlooks one important fact: football was also never meant to be played beyond early December. That is, in wintry conditions.
It is a fall sport. In the old days, colleges played about nine games per year: seasons typically started in late September and ended in late November. In northern regions, snow was possible in later games, but by no means inevitable. Bowl games were played in southern regions with warmer climates.
What extended the season beyond that? The pro game, particularly its playoffs. That's to say that if football was "meant" to be played in the elements, it's also true that football was never "meant" to be played in the middle of winter.
The Beyonce Blackout in New Orleans notwithstanding, what a dome or warm-weather setting for the Super Bowl does is remove the artificial factor of cold weather from the contest. In a play-off game a northern team may have a decided home-field advantage over a southern team, but they earned it. The Super Bowl, in contrast, has two champions going toe-to-toe. The purpotedly best officials work the game, so there's less chance of blown calls deciding the outcome.
It's also why the Super Bowl is played in domes or southern climates. The weather isn't supposed to affect the game -- and if it does (such as the rain in Super 41 in Miami) it would affect each team equally. Everyone's played in the rain. But sub-zero temperatures are a different thing.
In the championship of the NFL, a fumble or slip caused by snow, or a bad pass from frozen hands, shouldn't decide the game.
What was the NFL thinking?