Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Blah, Part II - "Hottest Ticket in Town?"

KG threw me the alley-oop on this topic about a week and a half ago, so allow me to speak from experience about attending the Super Bowl. I had the extreme fortune of going to Super Bowl XL (that's 40 for those not versed in Roman numerals) in Detroit a few years back. Despite pretty sweet seats (lower level, halfway up, on one of the goal lines) and a fairly decent game (Pittsburgh beat Seattle 21-10, Willie Parker broke Marcus Allen's record for longest run in a Super Bowl), I left convinced that being in the building for the Super Bowl is an overrated experience.

Because so many of the tickets go to corporations or are given away to contest winners, about 60% of the people in the stands do not care who wins the game. That alone waters down the game experience, despite how good of a game it turns out to be. My hand is raised; being a Dallas fan, my only rooting interest in the game was to not see Pittsburgh tie the Cowboys and 49ers with a 5th Super Bowl. (Side note: congratulations Pittsburgh, you're one of three teams that would ever leave me in the position of actually rooting for Seattle) And even though I was very much into the game, if it's not your team in the game or you don't have a sizable bet out there, you're very much liable to care more about your next beer than about the big 3rd-and-4 coming up.

That's the major difference between being at the Super Bowl versus being at a World Series game or an earlier round NFL playoff game. Part of the enjoyment of being in the stadium is sitting in a section of people who are all your friends for 3 hours simply because they're rooting for the same uniforms as you are; after a big play being able to high-five and hug the same guy that you're probably going to end up cutting off and beeping at in the parking lot on the way home. That's why tickets cost good money - spending the day at the stadium and seeing the game happen in front of you should add value to experience, otherwise it's wasted money. And with the astronomical cost of Super Bowl tickets, the Super Bowl may be the biggest waste of money out there.

There are reasons for this beyond the "sterile corporate crowd" argument. First, being at an NFL game is less of an upgrade over watching on TV than being at a game of any of the other three major sports. Unless you have seats between the 40 yard lines, you have to roll the dice that a fair amount of the meaningful action will take place on your end of the field, and if not, you won't see any of the big plays too well. Also, at the Super Bowl, you get one replay of each play, usually not from a great angle, and they play it only once on the Jumbotron. Watching the Super Bowl on TV, you get every possible look at all the borderline plays, complete and super slow motion and zooms and anything else you'd want. This may not have been such a big issue 15-20 years ago, but now that instant replay has as much of a hold on the game as it does, being in the stadium leaves you with less of a "grip" on the game than watching from home.

For instance, fast forward to :53 on the video I linked to above, where Ben Roethlisberger scores a very questionable touchdown. I had a direct view of the play from my seat (I was on the side of the field that he rolled toward) and still had to text my friend back home to see if it looked like the play would be overturned. I'll still go to my grave saying Big Ben did not get in, but that's a different story.

And what about those terribly long TV timeouts during the Super Bowl? When watching on TV you can go to the bathroom or try to enjoy the commercials. If you're at the game? Nothing. Don't try going to the bathroom because you'll miss an entire series. And while everyone at home is laughing their ass off at the newest Geico or Miller Lite commercials, those in the seats get to watch all the players stand with their hands on their hips waiting for the whistle to blow again.

In conclusion, if you can go to the Super Bowl by winning a radio contest or a raffle or something, I'd say to absolutely go and have a ball, because at the very least it is a paid 3-4 day vacation in February. But if you're looking to bend over backwards financially or logistically, there are much better returns on investment than the Super Bowl.

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