The greatest show on Earth

It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner. Vince Lombardi

Tomorrow sees the XLV Super Bowl in Dallas. The Lombardi trophy is being contested by two small town teams in the grand scheme of American affairs. In one corner are the record six times trophy holders Pittsburgh Steelers who are looking to win the title for the third time in past six years, whilst in the other corner is the team of Lombardi himself, the Green Bay Packers.

Much has been made in the past of the “weather effect” of the advantages of teams from the south playing in the Super Bowl final. Virtually every title decider in the past two decades has been played in the warmer southern states such as Florida, California and Arizona, and that has been said to have a detrimental effect on teams from the chilly north. But not this year. For a start both the NFL and AFL champions come from the north, and secondly the snow that has hit Texas this week has made the city look more like Chicago than the hot, dry desert state we all know it as.

There are a number of other subplots being played out during the weekend though off the pitch. Both teams are relatively evenly matched, although we will be rooting for the Packers simply due to the Lombardi factor. Old Vince is a hero of mine in terms of management style, taking his Packers side to an amazing back to back Super Bowls as well as three NFL Championships and forever immortalising himself in the history of the NFL, and thus why the SuperBowl trophy is named after him.

First up is the simple commercial size of the game. It is anticipated that this simple game will generate nearly $250m alone in ticket and merchandise sales. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium opened in 2009 at a cost of $1.2 billion, making it one of the three most expensive stadiums ever build in the world. It holds 95,000 and is so big that the Statue of Liberty could fit in under the roof bar the tip of her flame. However, due to some clever marketing the official attendance will be close to 105,000, eclipsing the record attendance for a SuperBowl final set in the Rose Bowl in Pasenda in 1985 when just under 104,000 were in attendance. How? Well essentially they are building two fan zones, one at either end of the stadium outside the arena itself with huge streets erected on the side of the stadium that technically count because they are within the stadium perimeter. The cost of a ticket in this area? Just $200. Pitance really when you consider the most expensive seat is actually six times this at $1,200, although you do get an arm rest for that price!

There are anticipated to be 30,000 Packers fans and 35,000 Steelers fans in town for the game, each spending on average $550. With the chilly temperatures inside the stadium they anticipate selling 45,000 cups of Mexican Hot Chocolate (with Tequila in) for $5 a piece. The SuperBowl is big business, the greatest show on Earth. Spare a thought for those fans of either team who will have to be travelling during the game. Bummer to be missing the biggest game of the season? Well not if you are flying JetBlue, Frontier or Continental Airlines who will be showing the games live as part of their inflight entertainment due to the technology they have on board.

Not that the hosts the Dallas Cowboys will see much of the quarter of a billion dollars. It is seen as the greatest honour in the game to be asked to host a SuperBowl final and all of the revenue from tickets, merchandise and refreshments go back to the league. The Cowboys will get around 1.25% of this, the same share as the other 31 NFL clubs.

One of the most eagerly anticipated parts of the game is actually the half time entertainment. The show put on always features mega stars, including in the past Bruce Spingsteen, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones. This year it is the turn of the Black Eyed Peas who include Fergie in their line up, who will become the first female to perform during the half time break since Janet Jackson had her wardrobe mishap in 2004 and left Jason Timberlake feeling a right tit (I never tire of that gag). Fergie is actually a minority partner in the Miami Dolphins so knows her NFL quite well.

And then there are the fans themselves. According to market research a Steelers fan is 1.56 times more likely to have enjoyed a Stella Artois in the past year than his Green Bay counterpart, whilst a Packer is 1.34 times more likely to play Fantasy Football and watch Friday Night Lights. Moral of the story? As the partner of a Packers fan you are more likely to have a peaceful Friday night than a Steelers equivalant. It’s not called “wife beater” for nothing right?

So a fitting end to an exciting season it is sure to be. It is hard to choose a winner between the two sides. Green Bay were very impressive in beating Chicago on their home turf in the Championship final whilst the Steelers beat the Jets at home according to form. As usual it will be a battle of the quarterbacks with the Steelers being able to rely on Ben Roethlisberger again after his enforced absence at the start of the season after the NFL Commission imposed a four game ban on him for “sexual misconduct”. If that rule existed in the Premier League most of our players would miss a lot of games!

But this may not be the end of the drama for the season. On March 3rd, just 22 days after the SuperBowl an agreement on revenue split between the clubs and the players runs out. Currently the players get around 59.5% of all revenues earnt per annum, currently running at $9bn in total. However, the 32 club owners feel this cut is too much and have refused to sign the new agreement. They feel that the investments they have made into stadiums such as the Cowboys Stadium or the new Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey (for the Giants and the Jets) merits a bigger contribution. Salaries are limited to $123m per team and this is what the players are arguing against.

They feel this should rise and a cap on the amount paid to rookie or draft players should be implemented. If they cannot come to an agreement then a situation the Americans dramatically call “Lock Out” comes into force that essentially means the teams cannot work within the club framework. So no preseason training camps, no new trades (transfers to you and me in England and no draft). Essentially no American football. With TV revenues now generating close to $4bn per annum it is hard to imagine the situation ever happening but who knows.  Our heart says Green Bay, our head says the Steelers…So for now turn onto Sky Sports tomorrow night, grab a Bud Lite and enjoy the greatest show on earth.

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