A Super Debacle

December 11, 2013 by Don Banks
Is this the scene at Super Bowl 44? No, but it might not be far off. (Mike Roemer/AP)
Is this the scene at Super Bowl 48? No, but it might not be far off. (Mike Roemer/AP)

While we still were all happily replaying the snowy and zany events of Week 14 in our heads, the 11th commandment was handed down from on high early this week, and at first glance, it sounds just as iron-clad and restrictive as the original 10, and possibly more consequential if violated:

“Thou shalt not tailgate at this year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey—not even a little bit. Thus saith the Super Bowl XLVIII host committee.”

And just to prove they really mean it when they say absolutely no wieners on the grill or space-eating games of cornhole at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, here’s the money quote from the committee’s CEO Al Kelly, who apparently issued the following comments with a straight face:

“You will be allowed to have food in your car and have drink in your car. And provided you’re in the boundaries of a single parking space, you’ll be able to eat or drink right next to your car. However, you’re not going to be able take out a lounge chair, you’re not going to be able to take out a grill, and you’re not going to be able to take up more than one parking space. And it’ll all be watched very carefully.”

In other words, a lot more carefully than referee Jeff Triplette watched that replay review of the BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown in Cincinnati last week. Consider yourself warned.

Call me crazy, but when you tell football fans that they can tailgate as long as they don’t use a grill or lounge chairs, and agree to keep at least one body part in contact with their car, truck or igloo-on-wheels at all times, you’ve kind of gutted the essence of the whole tailgating experience.

You must stay within the boundaries of a single parking space with your food and drink? For a league that has its hands full just keeping Mike Tomlin off the field during a game, this sounds like someone is biting off more than they can chew. Or police. Will there really be parking-space monitors patrolling the MetLife lots? Lord help us if there are Eagles or Raiders fans on the premises. I know from personal experience you don’t really want to tangle with those people when they get their tailgating groove on. Your car may be the one to suffer.

Look, I get that space will be limited on Super Bowl Sunday in the Meadowlands. But just when you thought this game couldn’t take itself more seriously than it already did—see the continued use of Roman numerals, even though everything past Super Bowl V has been way too confusing—we get the anti-tailgating edict, relayed as if there will be hell to pay if a Hibachi gets smuggled onto the holy parking grounds of MetLife.

I’m not even sure why anyone would really want to stand outside longer than they have to on game day of this year’s first cold-weather, in-the-elements Super Bowl, unless it’s a frost-bite contest for charity they signed up for. But I’m pretty sure tailgating is one of our protected constitutional rights, alongside free speech and being able to cut off your fellow drivers in traffic. And you just don’t take that away lightly and expect no uprising. Don’t be surprised if a new grassroots political movement—the Brat Party?—comes forth out of this.

(Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
(Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

And it’s not just the rule against tailgating that threatens to make this the most restrictive Super Bowl ever. The Super Bowl host committee outlined the game-day transportation options, and it’s not going to be easy to even get to the game. Even if you’re one of the beautiful people who are famous enough to land tickets and rent a limo as your ride, you’re not going to be allowed to just roll up to MetLife and be escorted to the luxury box elevator.

Because of the large security perimeter needed for the game, there will be no taxi, limo or black car service drop-off points. You will have to possess one of the fewer than 13,000 parking passes in order to enter the lots, and with more than 80,000 fans expected to attend, that means the real scalping market will be for those coveted parking spots. Forget the game tickets. How do I score two passes in the M lot?

This is going to render a lot of VIPs quite SOL. The host committee is pushing either the area’s established mass transit to the game, or telling fans they can pay $51 to ride buses called the Fan Express, which will pick up and drop off at nine different metro locations. But I don’t really see Justin Timberlake going that route.

In New York City, where the black-car service is a staple of the local economy, this is the horror of all horror stories. What good is wealth and status if you can’t flaunt it at the Super Bowl?

“Nobody’s going to be dropped off by black car,” Kelly said, back into Grinch mode. “You can have a black car, a green car, a white car, a red car as long as you have parking, and the car needs to stay on the premises the entire time.”

Umm, the league does want fans at the Super Bowl, right? That’s part of the stadium effect for TV purposes—butts in the seats. But what if they held the game and nobody came? I’m thinking even if the NFL gets the balmy early February weather of its dreams, attending this year’s festivities may not be worth the trouble. Is the league determined to turn the first wintry Super Bowl into a logistical nightmare of an event to navigate? I mean, no brats, no beer, no town cars? What else could the NFL possibly restrict?

Oh, there is one more thing to remember on Super Sunday: Don’t forget, no over-sized bags allowed in the stadium. You can bring your personal items in, but they have to be in a clear, see-through bag or a small hand-held purse that’s roughly big enough to fit a sandwich. But you’re really better off just eating that in the car.