Super Bowl Sickness

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The time for review and mild statements of condemnation is over.

Thank goodness it’s over. The Super Bowl, that is. How to explain it?

Sick is the word that springs to mind. A national sickness. An epidemic that causes its victims to go temporarily insane in the first month of every year.  And so soon after another bout of mass insanity misleadingly called “Christmas” or  “the holidays” even though it’s mostly about shopping and retail sales.

Some say it’s proof that America has lost its way. A grossly overhyped, overpriced, and over-the-top spectacle that makes us look stupid in the eyes of the world.

But let’s not get carried away here. Let’s be fair.

Just the facts, okay?

An estimated 184 million Americans were expected to watch Super Bowl XLIX, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.  Some 43 million people planned to host Super Bowl parties across the U.S.  About 13 million people were expected to watch the game at a local bar.

More facts:

  1.  A “Massively Important Event”

Jerry Weiers, mayor of Glendale, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb, received two free tickets to the Super Bowl by the CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods. Mitchell Modell reportedly made the gesture after hearing Weiers had not been offered seats. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said nobody offered him a ticket, but he denied feeling snubbed. “My job is not to go to a football game,” Stanton said. “My job is to make sure my city does the very best job hosting this massively important event.”  I can’t help but wonder how the good mayor would characterize something like the assassination of President Kennedy, the end of the Cold War, or 9-11…

  1.  Viewership

The Super Bowl is the most-watched American television broadcast of the year. It beats “The Big Bang Theory” by 100 million viewers give or take a few million and makes “American Idol” look utterly anemic. Super Bowl XLV in 2011 became the most-watched American television program in history with an average audience of 111 million viewers (until recently the final episode of M*A*S*H owned that record).

  1.  Players’ Salaries

Relative to other major sports, NFL players are underpaid. That’s right: underpaid.  They’re not exactly treated like Wal-Mart employees, of course, but they rank fourth, not first, among major sports. So maybe we should feel sorry for them?  Maybe not. 

On average NFL football players earn well over $400,000 a year. Many are paid more. A lot more. Take Matt Ryan, the star QB for the Atlanta Falcons, for example. As of June, 2014, Ryan, had earned $43.8 million playing pro football.  His five-year $103.75 million contract before included a $28 million signing bonus and a $12 million option bonus paid last March. Simply put, this 29-year-old earns more in a single year than most Americans will earn in a lifetime.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, high school graduates (many of whom will have watched the game in a rented apartment or double-wide manufactured home), can expect to earn $1.2 million over the course of a lifetime. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you will probably earn a million dollars more – or about one-tenth as much as Matt Ryan makes in a year.

  1.  Ticket prices

The face value of Super Bowl tickets ranges from $800 to $1,900. That’s the good news, believe it or not. The bad news: Good luck trying to get one at face value.  Asking prices immediately after AFC and NFC Championship games were relatively cheap –  around $2,900. From there they rose to an average list price of $6,500, with the “cheap” seats going for a mere $4,200.

As Super Bowl Sunday approached, the prices climbed higher until the least expensive ticket on secondary market sites such as TiqIQ sold for $7,100, “while StubHub alerted the media that the ‘current average list price for the Super Bowl is $9,484.37, which is up 282.43% since last year at this time ($2,480.06).’”

Many sites had no tickets available, full stop.  StubHub had fewer than 300 seats on offer with asking prices ranging as high as $40,000.  The NFL’s official Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster site listed 109 tickets for sale, with individual seats starting at $6,500. Anyone interested in a pair of seats together would have to pay at least $7,800 per ticket.

Why, you ask, can’t a fan get a ticket in the nosebleed seats at the low-low price of $800? Call it monopoly capitalism or corruption. Either way, it sucks and it’s sickening.

Money (the magazine”:

StubHub accused a handful of unnamed large ticket sellers in control of most of the Super Bowl ticket inventory of colluding with each other and manipulating the marketplace. “A consolidation of supply has allowed sellers to manipulate the marketplace and made it near impossible for any last minute fans to attend the game,” StubHub global head of communications Glenn Lehrman said…

But, hey, if you want free tickets, consider getting into politics.

  1.  The Business of America…

…is business. At no time is the tawdry side of corporate capitalism – the money-worshipping manic side of American commercialism – more conspicuously on display than during the Super Bowl. Not only “commercialism” but also commercials. Remember Budweiser’s Bud Bowl and the Clydesdales?  (Me neither.)  Here’s a fact to ruminate on: The average cost of a 30-second ad during Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 was about $4 million or a little over $133,000 per second.

The corporate greed is so rapacious that even greedy corporations are repelled.  General Motors and Dr. Pepper, for example, have dropped Super Bowl advertising entirely. In Super Bowl XLVI, NBC set a record, reportedly selling 58 spots worth $75 million during the game. The highest priced ad sold for a cool $5.84 million.

  1.  Like Davos, Only Different

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week 2,500 plutocrats gathered to talk about the fate of the planet, which they largely own. The Super Bowl is like Davos with a halftime show and commercials. Typically, there are hundreds of private jets landing at the airport in a city hosting the Super Bowl, so many that it creates a traffic jam on the runways after the game when all the billionaires want to get out of town at the same time. I have it on good authority that it’s a major headache for airport workers, air traffic controllers, and pilots. One private-jet pilot told this writer that at the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis he’d had to stay at a Super Eight by the freeway 20 miles from the airport and pay $386 for one night.

What does it say about a society that people are eager to shell out an estimated $14 billion in celebration of a brutal game (brain damage; broken bones) but cannot agree that every man, woman, and child in America deserves affordable health insurance?

It’s enough to make an otherwise healthy person sick.

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