It doesn’t matter whether you’re a football fan or not, Super Bowl Sunday brings Americans together for a game that isn’t just about sports. The excitement of the half-time show and funny commercials draw hundreds of thousands to the TV screen; surrounded by chips and dip. People from all over the country have traveled to East Rutherford, NJ – home of the MetLife stadium and nearby New York to support their respective teams: Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos. The Super Bowl is the ultimate economy booster, especially for the host city. From the weather to ticket sales and team injuries, this particular football Sunday is unique from the rest.
Super Bowl XLVIII is specifically a special event and experiment of sorts for the NFL. It’s no surprise that for an event of this scale, the league chose New York (the nation’s top media market). It is the first time in the post-merger era that the game will be held outdoors in a cold weather city, but it looks like there won’t be an issue tomorrow. The “Polar Vortex” is no longer a cause for concern for both fans and league officials with meteorologists predicting temperatures in the mid-40s.
The NFL likes to say that the Super Bowl is an economic juggernaut for the host city, but a recent study from Lake Forest College reports that the league inflates its numbers drastically. Sports Management Research Institute suggested the big game would bring nearly $600-million into the local economies, but according to the Lake Forest study, that number should be closer to $60-million. That is not a drop in the bucket by any measure, but it is about half-a-billion dollars shy of the initial estimates. While it is clear that the Super Bowl will generate revenue for both the league and the location, it is much more difficult to nail that number down. While early estimates have this game costing about $70-million with a good portion of that expense being passed on to the taxpayers of New York and New Jersey, it becomes much harder to justify if the two cities don’t break even after the game. That is a conversation state and city officials will need to have once all the receipts are tabulated, not just for New York and New Jersey but for every potential host city in the future.
The advertising wars are part of the fun Super Bowl weekend. The average cost of a 30-second ad is in the $4-million range (about the same as last year), meaning companies like Audi will shell out about $8-million for their minute long ad in the third quarter. I wouldn’t say the advertisers are getting a good deal, but the price for each 30-second spot will continue to go up each year, according to reports. Although television ratings have dropped slightly for the Super Bowl over the last three-years, 100-million viewers is nothing to scoff at. The NFL just missed out on having two top-10 media market teams in the big game with San Francisco and New England losing, but Denver and Seattle are both in the top-25. It is just significantly harder for fans of either team to commit to following their team to East Rutherford. I’m sure the outrageous ticket prices don’t help with that problem either. The average cost of a Super Bowl ticket has been dropping more steeply as the game approaches. Prices dropped nearly $5,000 but the average ticket price is still in the neighborhood of $7,500, according to USA today (far too expensive for the average fan and even a die-hard fan would find it tough to come up with that kind of money for one game). For those lucky enough to go to the game, there should be plenty of drama and storylines to go around.
On a game note, Peyton Manning’s legacy is on the line whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. At 37-years old his time as an elite player in the National Football League is unquestionably winding down. However, his numbers this season were better than ever. Even with a record setting regular season in both yards and touchdowns, he was the beneficiary of an immensely talented offense (let’s not forget, the much maligned, Tim Tebow quarterbacked this Denver team to a first round playoff victory just two years ago). Manning is clearly on a different level but making it to the Super Bowl takes more than individual greatness, it takes a great team. From carry-overs like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to the addition of ex-New England Patriot (and Super Bowl veteran) Wes Welker, the Broncos are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Make no mistake, Manning has a great team and that can be seen in Denver’s touchdown distribution. Five different Broncos players had more than 10 this season (first time in NFL history) which leads me to believe it’s his supporting cast that has brought him back to the big show, not the other way around. Manning is a smart player which translates both on and off the field, so his legacy must be in the back of his mind somewhere. It’s surely on the minds of NFL executives who made Manning their unofficial golden boy before he ever won a championship (a second generation quarterback with a tremendous work ethic and a good sense of humor goes a long way when it comes to growing a fan base).
Seattle, on the other hand, is all about their vaunted defense. Cornerback Richard Sherman has obviously had his ‘15-minutes’ and will continue to be under scrutiny for his past discretions. Look for Manning to test Sherman early and often to see if his game backs up his mouth. Seattle did a great job shutting down Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, but New Orleans proved to be much more one-dimensional than Denver. Watching Seattle on defense is going to be the game-within-the-game and watching Sherman’s defensive assignments will be a huge part of that. Manning is known for changing the play at the line of scrimmage and the Seattle defense is known for confusing opposing quarterbacks, so no matter how the game goes, it will be interesting to watch the individual match-ups unfold.
While much of the pre-Super Bowl talk has been on Manning and Sherman, Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson has the chance to establish his own legacy. Starting in only his second year, Wilson has guided his team past their exit in last year’s Divisional Playoffs versus the Atlanta Falcons and all the way to the Super Bowl. In numerous ways it’s the tale of two quarterbacks. Wilson is young, fast, athletic and incredibly skilled at making something out of nothing, pretty much the exact opposite of Manning. If Denver’s pass defense can’t create pressure, Wilson is going to have a field day. He is the young gun trying to become the first ‘next-generation’ quarterback to win a Super Bowl while Manning is the quintessential quarterback of his era attempting to etch his legacy in stone with a second championship.
One of the most interesting stories will be the return of Seahawks’ receiver Percy Harvin. He is one of the most dynamic players at his position and can line up all over the field, causing headaches for the defense. He has not played for the majority of the season after recovering from off-season hip surgery, but did make an appearance in the Divisional Playoffs. It turned out to be a very short appearance as the New Orleans Saints targeted Harvin with vicious hits to the head and knocked him out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Now Seattle is forced with an interesting decision. On the one hand Harvin is a versatile threat who can make a game changing play any time he touches the ball. On the other hand Seattle made it to the big show without his services all year and the biggest game of the year is not exactly the time or place to start changing a working formula. Fellow Seahawks’ receivers Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have stepped up and filled the void nicely. Football is a game of chemistry and trying to develop comfortable timing in such a small window of time isn’t impossible but highly unlikely. Seattle’s coach Pete Carroll might get pressured into playing Harvin because he does have a substantial dollar amount attached to him. After being traded to Seattle from the Minnesota Vikings in the off-season Harvin signed a six-year deal worth nearly $70-million, so he is clearly part of the Seahawks’ long term plan whether or not they win the Super Bowl. With that kind of money invested in just one player, it is a bit easier to see the scope of the NFL’s money making prowess.
The simple truth is the Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Sunday Feb. 2 at 3:30PM PT/ 6:30PM ET to determine who gets to hoist the National Football League’s greatest prize…the Lombardi Trophy. For the players, the coaches and the fans of each team there is only one objective and that is winning. For the rest of the country Super Bowl weekend is essentially an unofficial holiday bloated with consumption, advertising and gambling. The betting odds in Las Vegas have grown increasingly for Denver even though they are still only favored by two-and-half points. It is very tough to pick a favorite in this game. It is only the second time the two number-one seeds from their respective conferences will play each other, so it’s pretty much a coin toss. In a game where the line is that close Seattle would be where I put my money. If the spread goes to Denver by more than three-points there should be a lot of late money on Seattle.
Rest assured, even if you are not a football fan, there will be plenty of reasons to watch the biggest spectacle of the year.