Waiting on the subway platform for the uptown N train to arrive at Canal Street last week, I spotted a teenager wearing a custom-made New York Knicks jersey with the last name "James" and the number 6 on the back. Though New Yorkers are forced to wait anxiously until at least July 8 to discover LeBron James' future home, they'll know about 4 p.m. on Tuesday if another hot sports commodity is coming to the Big Apple.
Roger Goodell will announce the host city for 2014's Super Bowl XLVIII Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas. With the list narrowed down to three finalists, the league's 32 owners will vote via secret ballot to determine the next city to get the Super Bowl. Up against mainstays Tampa and South Florida, New York/New Jersey and the open-air New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford are vying to become the hosts of the first "cold weather" Super Bowl of all time.
The last time an NFL championship game was played in New York, Lombardi's Packers beat the Giants, 16-7, in front of 64,000 people at Yankee Stadium in 1962. The time before that? It was 1958's "Greatest Game Ever Played" between the Colts and the Giants. The league's roots are found in this area's blood. The league's headquarters, the draft and two of the league's franchises are all housed in either New York or New Jersey. It's time to bring the sport's championship game back here, too.
Quite frankly, a cold-weather Super Bowl is long overdue. This faulty notion that the game needs to be held in a warm-weather city is about as antiquated a concept as using a pay phone or wearing a leather helmet. For as sunny as Miami can be in February, it rained throughout 2010's Super Bowl week and a complete downpour basically washed out 2007's Super Bowl festivities. If you're going to risk the heavy rains of Miami, why not roll the dice with the snow and winds of New York? Hey, at least there are Broadway shows to see while you're wearing your parka.
For the out-of-town crowd, this city has it all. To borrow a line from LeBron's good buddy Shawn Carter, "In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do."
It's true. For those traveling to the Big Apple during Super Bowl week, there are more hotels, good restaurants, museums, tourist attractions and shopping venues per square mile than any other city in the world. And hell, who knows -- maybe that LeBron James guy will be playing for the world champion Knicks by then, too.
Though nothing is set in stone, a Super Bowl week in New York would likely include an NFL Experience expo held in the Javits Center on the West Side Highway, the NFL's official Super Bowl party at the American Museum of Natural History and the Super Bowl Saturday night concerts overlooking the city's skyline at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
Not a bad week of events, huh? I'd say it at least compares favorably to the dinners at Hooters and T.G.I. Friday's in sun-drenched Tampa.
Will Leitch, the sports voice at New York Magazine and the author of the recently released Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball , says: "I was in Arizona for Super Bowl XLII, and all the out-of-town visitors complained so much, so repeatedly, about transportation and facilities that by the time the game actually happened, everyone forgot why they'd come there in the first place.
"The problem is not weather. The problem is showing visitors a pleasant time. New York, better than anywhere, with the possible exceptions of New Orleans and Miami, assures this won't be an issue. If you can't enjoy New York City, even in February, the issue is with you, not the venue."
And if the city's natives don't appear to be jumping up and down over the thought of a Super Bowl four years from now, it's not due to any lack of desire. This is a hard-nosed bunch, and they've learned a thing or two about letdowns and heartbreak from experience. After New York put the full-court press on for the 2012 Olympics (Jerry Seinfeld filmed a video!), only to fall short to London (yawn) in the end, they've become a bit more careful when it comes to getting too excited too soon. If New Yorkers are anything, it's prideful.
When these types of events do come to the Big Apple? They're always incredible. The 1998 NBA All-Star Game was considered an overwhelming success. The 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game? An all-around home run. The 2014 Super Bowl? It'd be a grandiose celebration of the nation's finest sport on the world's premier stage. It'd also bring in an estimated $550 million of revenue to the region.
Of course, neither of the participating teams would be headquartered in Manhattan proper. Practices would be held in New Jersey (one team at the Jets' facilities in Florham Park, the other at the Giants' at the New Meadowlands) and the game itself in the Garden State, as well. Jersey gets a bad rap, but it's more than just Snooki and The Situation fist pumping and "beating the beat" at Bamboo.
Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Sinatra -- they're all from the Garden State, too. And the New Meadowlands? It's a $1.6 billion dream of a football stadium. A modern architectural marvel, the complex is just a 10-minute train ride from New York City and has all the nooks and crannies you could ever ask for in a Super Bowl site. Concerns about traffic, logistics and the congestion of a New York/New Jersey Super Bowl are a bit overblown, too. I distinctly remember endless shuttle rides from Livonia, Mich., to Ford Field in 2006 and a three-hour trip from my hotel to Dolphins Stadium in 2007.
In the end, though, it's not about traffic, spacious luxury boxes or celebrity-infested Super Bowl parties at The Standard Hotel's Boom Boom Room.
It's about the football.
Brian Bassett is the editor of the popular New York Jets fan site TheJetsBlog.com. Speaking on behalf of Gang Green Nation, he says: "A 48-year drought is long enough. New York football fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world, and this game will be a crown jewel for both the city and its residents.
"People will complain about weather, but we all know the most memorable games are those played in poor weather conditions: the Ice Bowl, the Tuck Rule Game, the Giants-Packers NFC championship in 2008. If people don't want to sit through the cold weather to be associated with a moment this historic, they shouldn't worry -- plenty of eager fans who love this game will be ready to take their seats."
He's not alone.
"Doing it in New York is the right thing for a lot of reasons," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News last week. "I've been going to Patriots game for 50 years up here. I personally believe all football should be played outdoors. Our league was founded on winter football with the Ice Bowl. Our sport is about resilience, mental toughness, adjustments. I think it will be a great experience for the fans. A memorable experience."
Leitch scoffs at the warm-weather theorists, saying: "Worries about the game being played in the snow? Since when has anyone ever cared about the game at the Super Bowl? The Super Bowl is a massive, hideous, wonderful display of American exceptionalism. There's no better example of this than New York. People will love it here. They would be fools not to."
The overwhelming thought heading into this week's owners meetings is that New York is the heavy favorite for Super Bowl XLVIII.
It'd be the perfect pairing of a city and an event.
If only getting King James to the Big Apple was as easy.