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Pick a host city where fans can get their money's worth

About the Author

Hub Arkush

harkush@pfwmedia.com
Publisher and editor

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Posted Feb. 04, 2011 @ 1:57 a.m. ET
By Hub Arkush

DALLAS — It's easy to understand why we're here. Dallas is a really nice city, and the folks of the Super Bowl Host Committee have been outstanding in advancing the game and assisting the media and all their other visitors under some truly unusual and difficult circumstances. And, of course, there's the $1.6 billion stadium Jerry Jones built, which, let's face it, is the only real reason we're here. How else do you explain Indianapolis next year and New York two years after that, both of which I can now say with absolute certainty are really bad ideas?

But let's talk about Super Bowl XLV first. I feel really bad for the folks down here, who, after three years of planning and working tirelessly to arrive at the best way to showcase their city and plan an outstanding Super Bowl, have been forced to deal with a debilitating ice storm and record low temperatures. Everything from history to common sense told us this week on the calendar in Dallas should have yielded temperatures in the 40s and 50s, with a real shot at the 60s, and with some sunshine we should have had perfect football weather and a wonderful opportunity to discover north Texas. Nobody can hang this one on Jerry Jones. Perhaps we should have consulted Al Gore's folks, but really, who'd have thunk this?

Beyond the weather there have been a few other surprising issues here that we had a right to expect more from, not game-changers but things you'd have thought the NFL would have thought twice about before designating Dallas a Super city. I don't know how far apart the media center, the Packers hotel and the Steelers hotel/practice facility are under normal circumstances, but the ice storm has made everything an hour-or-more ride, and the Steelers and Packers are far enough apart that I'm guessing, even without the weather, it was a questionable plan. Several bus rides have been so long it's been impossible to get back to the media center on time for other important events. But nothing major, and on balance I still suspect Dallas will get very nice marks when we put this one in the books.

The biggest surprise of the week to me so far has been my first visit to the new Cowboys Stadium because, quite frankly, I don't get what all the excitement's about. To be clear, I didn't take a tour and I haven't yet seen all the extras — restaurants, party decks, club seat suites, etc. — that I'm told make the place so special. But I don't really care about those things because, if I were a paying customer, I could never afford to partake of them, anyway. I have been on the field, surveyed all the seating and sight lines and, of course, the mega-video board, and my bottom line is it's nice. But when you realize it is the building of these monuments to the team owners — monuments that, in the end, don't really benefit anyone but them — that has brought the game we all love so much so close to the brink of Armageddon — the CBA impasse at its essence comes down to the owners wanting the players to pay for a bigger chunk of their palaces — I expected a lot more than nice. That, though, is another topic for another time.

What troubles me so much about the process of awarding Super Bowls is the reality that, even with better weather but certainly not winter vacation weather, the lack of a central gathering place for the fans and the event — Dallas is really spread out — and the limited number of top tourist attractions that would make Dallas a must-visit destination in February mean that this game would never have been played here if Jones hadn't built his new building. Super Bowls have become bargaining chips in convincing owners and municipalities to pay for new sports palaces that allow the league to sell tickets at $600 to $1,500 a pop for a single game, and little or no thought is being given to what the experience is like for the fans who are spending outrageous amounts of money to participate.

I really like Indianapolis and I love New York — in small doses — but neither is a place any of us want to go out of our way to visit in February unless we live there or have serious business there. Have you seen the pictures of what happened in both cities from Tuesday through Thursday of this Super Bowl week in Dallas? What would those storms do to the playing of a Super Bowl? I shudder to think. Of course, those storms were near-record events.

But what we know for a fact is the best weather we can expect in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI and in New York for XLVIII is pretty much what we've had in Dallas this week. This shouldn't be about the game and certainly not about the owners who profit from it; this has to be about the fans who pay for it. How many of you who are going to spend on average at least $3,000 or $4,000 a person, and in many cases a lot more, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and who live on fixed incomes think it's too much to have the odds on your side that the airports will be open and you might even find a little sunshine and a nice beach when you get to the Super Bowl?

If there is a lesson to be learned from Super Bowl XLV, it is that we are well past the point where potential host cities should be limited to Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles/Pasadena. If it were up to me, New Orleans would become the permanent home of the Super Bowl, but since that's not likely to happen, can't we at least limit it to locations where the fans have a better-than-even chance of enjoying everything about it?

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