The NFL made an historic decision this week. By granting New York/New Jersey the privilege of hosting Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, this will mark the first time that a northern U.S. city with an open-air stadium will be the site of the league championship.
But judging by the many rounds of voting that took place at the NFL's spring meeting in Dallas this past week, the issue was by no means a no-brainer. Which made it a logical choice for this week's Debate Friday question:
Is it good for the NFL to host the Super Bowl in northern, open-air stadiums?
Read the arguments from the PFW writers, then cast your vote in this week's poll.
Paul Perillo says, "No …"
I hate this decision on so many levels I don't even know where to start. Since one of the most common responses I hear from the people who like the idea of playing football outdoors in the dead of winter is "that's the way the game is meant to be played" I'll start there.
This is one of those clichés that you hear so often that people just assume it's true. It's like "defense wins championships" – except when offense does like it did for New Orleans this past season. Anyway, if football was indeed meant to be played in a blizzard then why did the powers that be decide to have the season take place in the fall?
I'm all for keeping the game outdoors and out of domes, but there's a difference between the elements being part of the game and having them decide games. Playing in heavy winds and snow, which are obviously more possibly in February in the northeast, increases the chances of having the weather impact the game in a negative fashion.
Teams are constructed in many ways in the NFL and some are better suited to deal with the elements than others. Dome and warm-weather teams would be less equipped to play a Super Bowl at the new Meadowlands than those that play in northern climates. That's a huge advantage for a cold-weather club. But playing in the warmth of Miami or Los Angeles (or indoors) does not represent an advantage for the warm-weather teams.
If conditions are ideal, a team can execute whatever game plan it prefers. That's why the tough, physical Patriots of 2001 were able to smack St. Louis' Greatest Show on Turf around inside the Superdome to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Just in the past five years the Steelers (the epitome of northeast football) have defeated two dome teams (Arizona, Seattle) in Tampa and inside Ford Field to win Super Bowls XLIII and XL, respectively.
The Super Bowl is supposed to be a showcase of the sport between the league's two best teams. Isn't it better to have such an important game played in the best possible conditions? Quarterbacks are the league's marquee players. Putting them in the best position to display their abilities should be something the NFL encourages, not the other way around. Anytime the weather prevents a team from playing up to its capabilities that's a bad thing.
I won't even bother discussing the logistical nightmares a significant snowstorm could create come the winter of 2014. I'll just hope this is a one-time shot for New York and not the start of a trend that will see the Super Bowl venture to the tundra of Green Bay, Chicago, Seattle, or, dare we say, Foxborough in the future.
*~ PP *
Erik Scalavino says, "Yes …"
I'm a traditionalist. A purist, even. So, I have no problem with football being played outside, in any weather conditions. Even Super Bowls. Especially Super Bowls (ideally, the outdoor games should be played on grass, not the fake stuff that has been proliferating around the league of late, but that's a separate argument for another day).
There are several arguments to be made in favor of this move.
First, it's only fair. Why shouldn't great American cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle, or even Cleveland be given an opportunity to showcase themselves and represent the NFL during its most sacred week? There's plenty to do and see, from a tourist's perspective, in those places – yes, even in Cleveland! Only an hour's drive south is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. The NFL could easily promote events both in the downtown, lakefront district of Cleveland and at the league's version of Mount Olympus.
Sure, it could be very cold and a little uncomfortable for people to get around in February in those cities. But let's remember that the big game has been held as recently as a few years ago in Detroit and during the 1990s in Minneapolis, both of which get their fair share of snowstorms, and the week-long celebrations that mark the Super Bowl went on without a hitch. I don't believe fans will avoid the Super Bowl just because they'll have to pack a few extra layers of clothing. History proves they will attend, in huge numbers, no matter where the game is held.
From a planning perspective, the concerns about plowing and clearing snow inside the stadiums are legitimate. Last year's rash of freak blizzards along the eastern seaboard clearly brought several metropolitan areas (particularly our nation's capital) to standstills for extended periods of time. But again, cold-weather cities have dealt with these eventualities successfully in years past. I have no reason to believe the planners of the biggest football game of the year won't have all the necessary arrangements made well in advance.
Now, as for the game itself … of course the weather will be an unpredictable factor. Just like it is from Week 1 through Week 17. You never know when there's going to be a torrential rain, or a violent wind, or a scorching heat, or a blanket of snow (remember the Titans, last October, here at Gillette?) to play havoc with the game plan.
But that's the whole point, isn't it? The best football teams are the ones who can perform regardless of the conditions. More precisely, the ones that can adapt to the unexpected the best are the ones who deserve to be called the best overall team. Using Paul's example of Super Bowl XXXVI … had that game been played outside, in a snowstorm, the Patriots would have had a distinct advantage, right? And they probably would still have won. The fact that they did so in pristine, indoor conditions just proves they were the better, overall. Maybe not as talented, individually, but collectively, they were able to adapt better to the Rams' style of play than the Rams would have adapted to New England's.
Football is becoming more and more antiseptic, it seems, from youth leagues to the pros. That's why the league's choice of New York/New Jersey was so refreshing. I'm not saying we should have the Super Bowl every year in a cold place. I'm just saying let's keep them in the mix and give a northern locale the game once every 10 years or so, for variety's sake. It would do the NFL, and its fans, some good to get out of their comfort zone once in a while.
You've read the debate, now it's your turn to be heard. Should the NFL continue to grant the Super Bowl to northern cities with open-air stadiums? Cast your vote now!