As the NFL wades through its binder on “Horrific Weather Contingency Plans,” and visions of $20 mittens dance through the heads of Manhattan street vendors, a question occurred to those of us in Atlanta: Huh?
Atlanta has hosted two Super Bowls. The second was presumed to be the last. Why? Because it was cold. The game and lead-up to it coincided with two of the worst ice storms in the city’s history: one the week before (knocking out electricity for several thousand residents) and another the weekend of the game (playing havoc with party plans for the pampered and privileged).
But the general belief that miserable weather is the reason the Super Bowl hasn’t been back to Atlanta is only partly true.
Start with the reason for everything in the NFL: money. City officials, while misguided, see the Super Bowl as being central to some economic windfall. The NFL knows this, and commissioner Roger Goodell has become an expert at exploiting it. He dangles the perceived carrot of hosting a Super Bowl as an impetus for cities to build new stadiums for NFL teams.
Do you think it’s just a coincidence that since the “horrors” of Atlanta, Super Bowls have been hosted by Detroit, the Dallas area and Indianapolis … not exactly tropical paradises, let alone in January?
When Falcons owner Arthur Blank banged the drum for a new stadium, promising it would bring the Super Bowl back to Atlanta, he was correct. Goodell will do that for Blank, just as he did it for the Ford family in Detroit (Ford Field), Jerry Jones in Dallas (AT&T Stadium) and Jim Irsay in Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium).
Sunday’s Super Bowl between Denver and Seattle will be held in snow-prone East Rutherford, N.J. It’s not just because Goodell yearned to have a title game near New York. MetLife Stadium, home to the Giants and Jets, was built for $1.6 billion. With an economic engine of that magnitude, the league will put up with complaints from visitors, celebrities and certainly media about walking through slush.
A new stadium doesn’t mean Atlanta will become part of the regular Super Bowl rotation. That honor will be reserved for the safer winter climates of Miami, Tampa and New Orleans.
But Atlanta will get one. And if another ice storm hits, Goodell will be sitting comfortable somewhere, sheltered from the cold, counting receipts.