After years of deploring the serial shakedowns of cities and states that professional sports teams conduct, asking for free stadiums and infrastructure and other subsidies in exchange for the “prestige” and dubious economic benefits of “hosting” their events, I am enchanted by Alex Pareene’s modest proposal to cut the crap and create a permanent “host” for the Super Bowl that meets the owners and advertisers’ specifications:
Here in New York, Broadway from 34th to 47th is shut down for “Super Bowl boulevard,” an outdoor promenade of national brands and officially sanctioned NFL fun. Super Bowl visitors, obviously, are encouraged to go there for their Super Bowl experience, effectively funneling tourists out of permanent New York business and institutions and into this temporary NFL wonderland. The league is deeply invested in its branding (and money), and it is much safer to keep visitors where they will only be exposed to brands and activities that the NFL approves of.
That, in fact, is exactly why it’s stupid to have the Super Bowl in different cities every year. The NFL wants complete control over every aspect of the Super Bowl experience. They will never achieve this in New York or New Orleans — it is difficult even in Indianapolis or St.Louis. So here is my proposal, which will allow the NFL to keep its brand unbesmirched by the eccentricities and unsanctioned amusements of American cities while also relieving those cities of the cost and hassle of hosting this ridiculous spectacle.
We (and by “we” I mean “the NFL”) should build a giant arena somewhere in the desert outside Vegas, or maybe southern California somewhere, and just make it the permanent home of the Super Bowl. The league can build their little Super Bowl village with its NFL Experience stuff, and keep it up all year, a whole little town dedicated to the majesty of football. All of this crap currently clogging Broadway could have a permanent, lucrative home! It would be a football theme park for most of the year, and then for one week it would be a mecca of stupid, bloated NFL excess. The arena would be state-of-the-art, indoors and climate-controlled, with a zillion luxury boxes and maybe a couple normal seats for “regular” “fans.” Every single aspect of the entire experience could be controlled as minutely as Disney’s imagineers control Disneyland. Everyone wins, besides the people attending the game and various players with catastrophic head trauma.
Pareene also thinks the same principle could be applied to the insane competition for Olympic hosting “privileges” (which I saw pretty close up during Atlanta’s successful 1996 bid, which still makes me queasy):
Sochi is already a disaster. The games may go off largely without incident, but beautiful (and supposedly protected) natural areas have been destroyed, critics have been silenced, and people have been uprooted. The IOC never should’ve awarded Sochi the games. All of these problems — the corruption, graft, waste, environmental destruction, repressive government actions, the threat of terrorism and the draconian security response to that threat — all of them could’ve been predicted, when Sochi was selected, by, I don’t know, any actual informed observer of Russia under Vladimir Putin….
Everyone already assumes the Olympics selection process is corrupt. Sometimes the host nations are ruled by tyrants. All the time, the host cities find themselves spending much more money than they thought they would. The inevitably poor residents of whatever “blighted” neighborhood the Olympic venues are to be built in are inevitably uprooted. After the games, most of the permanent structures spend a couple decades slowly collapsing. (Have you been out to Montreal’s Olympic Stadium recently?)
It makes absolutely no sense to build brand-new Olympic sporting venues in completely different places every four years. Let’s just pick two host countries, have them build permanent venues, and let them host all the Olympics. Have the winter games in a county that already has the facilities and infrastructure, like Japan. The summer games could happen in Greece, but Australia might be a safer choice. Permanent Olympic hosts may seem like a proposal that robs poorer countries of the opportunity to host the games, but the Olympics are already biased in favor of rich, northern hemisphere nations in a million ways, and hosting them is more of a burden than a honor.
Pareene’s suggestions make too much sense to have any future. But in sports as in other business lines where footloose money and competition for it create a “race to the bottom,” potential “hosts” should beware of becoming hosts to a economic and cultural incubus.