Football is a sport best watched at home
By John D. Turner
31 Jan 2014

It’s cold outside. I know it’s winter and all, but it’s really cold outside. In fact, this is now the coldest winter on record this century. All 14 years of it. Not only that, it’s the coldest winter on record this millennium. Yeah, I know. All 14 years of it.

Anyway, most of us can agree that it’s cold. In some parts of the country, it’s colder than others. In New York, where the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played this Sunday, it has been much colder than normal. In fact, the NFL has contingency plans for rescheduling or moving it in the event of potential “life threatening” weather conditions.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were still 18,000 unsold tickets waiting for someone to buy. It is unclear whether this is due to the weather, or because neither of the teams playing are local; there does seem to be a lack of interest amongst some to go since neither the Giants nor the Jets are playing. Nevertheless, the lack of takers has caused ticket prices to fall to $1,500 and they could fall even lower; unusual for a Super Bowl.

This will be the first “Cold Weather” outdoor Super Bowl ever played. Previous to this, the coldest temperature recorded at an outdoor Super Bowl event was in 1972 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, where the mercury only climbed to 43 degrees. The forecast high this Sunday at East Rutherford, NJ, where the game will be held is 42 degrees, so perhaps things won’t be so bad, despite the fact that the high today is only supposed to be 24 and the low tonight a chilly 13. Perhaps.

Still, this begs the question, why an outdoor venue in the North for the Super Bowl in the first place? And an even more basic question could be asked – why even play in a stadium, indoor or outdoor, at all?

The view is much better in heated/air conditioned comfort at home, in your recliner, feet propped up, brewski and munchies at your side, on your 70 inch LED. You can say and do what you like with no offensive fans blocking the view or doing obnoxious things. You can watch in your jammies (or even in the buff if you like); though the jammies part is becoming a fact of life outside the home anyway, so perhaps that isn’t as great a reason anymore.

It’s not like ticket sales are that big a revenue stream anymore; most comes from advertising and merchandizing which can be done anyway stadium or no. And stadiums are expensive; to build and maintain, even if taxpayers end up picking up most or all of the initial construction tab whether they want to or not. Lots of other brick and mortar business models are going out of business or switching to an Internet sales model; why not Football?

All you really need is a field, and that is easy enough to do. Just rent a college or university stadium, or even a high school field to play your game. You could easily make it seem like the crowd was there if you wanted to maintain the “ambiance,” using CGI and sound effects. Heck, they make videogames now that almost look like the real thing, and that get better year after year. (Note: I am not suggesting they eliminate the players and simply go with a computer simulation using CGI; I mean, what would be the point of that?)

We have already taken a game meant to be played outdoors and, in many venues, moved it inside. This is exactly what happened with shopping, in the rise of the shopping mall. The shopping mall model is in decay now – perhaps it is time to put away the football stadium as well. I certainly can’t imagine paying the exorbitant prices they charge for seats, and food, and parking, and all the rest (not to mention the aggravation) just so I can get a seat in the nosebleed section and watch it on TV anyway, when I can lie in bed in my jammies, eat junk food, and watch it on my 60 inch plasma. And play a video game at the same time if I like.

Plus, at least in the case of the Super Bowl, you get to watch those cool Super Bowl commercials.

The same argument could be made of course for other games, like basketball. Football however seems to be the best candidate to try this on, since the stadiums are big and expensive, the teams are quite large, and the number of actual games played is relatively small. Perhaps the NFL might try this out as a test, by accepting a new “virtual” expansion team or two. Any home games for those teams would be under the new model; away games would still be played in the “traditional” format. Give them a few years and see how successful they turn out to be.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this would work. There will always be those die-hard rabid fans that simply have to go to the stadium. And it might be hard for a city to form an attachment to a team that they only see on TV (even though the majority probably would only watch them on TV anyway). Although you might be able to sway them by pointing out that not one red cent of their tax money will be used to support their team.

It’s an idea anyway. And if it’s time hasn’t come yet, who knows what the future holds?