You cannot walk to the Super Bowl this year. It is against NFL policy. You cannot have someone drive you to the Super Bowl and drop you off. Again, against policy. You cannot even take one of New York City’s famous and plentiful taxis. Want to grill some burgers in the parking lot? Against the Law of Goodell. Instead, head inside MetLife Stadium for a $15 kale sandwich.
Why, you ask? Why have I been transported to this hellish dystopian spectacle as imagined by a vegan corporate attorney for Bank of America? Where has my beautiful, grimy football gone? Don’t these skeeving suits make enough money hawking commercial slots to the penile-compensation pickup truck shadow economy? (“Erection lasting longer than four hours? That’s just the hemi power rubbin’ off, fella.”)
Why? Early on, the NFL cited strains on infrastructure and logistics, which might make sense if the game was actually being played in New York City and not in a colossal parking lot in New Jersey, one that spent the last five months hosting NFL football games for two different teams without any apparent infrastructural or logistical problems. After some backlash, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell closed his eyes and summoned his George Orwell spirit animal, citing “security concerns,” the magic phrase accompanying any proper bureaucratic shakedown.
The NFL thinks of you not as a human being whose loyalty and wallet contribute to its preposterous franchise valuations ($1.17 billion and rising!), but rather as a number on an Excel spreadsheet, and the league is determined to wring as much guaranteed profit out of Super Bowl XLVIII as possible. A $9 billion yearly profit is not enough. Now Super Bowl-bound attendees are being told to head to one of the NFL’s nine designated “Fan Express” zones around New York and New Jersey and pay $51 to take a league-sanctioned shuttle bus to the Big Game.
Fans can also take the New Jersey Transit (hellish traffic-wise, Super Bowl or not), but even if only half the ticket-holders attending the Super Bowl are herded like cattle onto the Fan Express, that’s 40,000 sheep x $51 a pop. A cool $2 million in cooked-up revenue that goes straight into the pocket of the NFL, a not-for-profit institution that paid its CEO nearly $30 million in 2012.
Fans who are outraged should have seen this coming. Jerry Jones, a billionaire who happily took $325 million from Arlington taxpayers to fund the new Cowboys stadium, had the audacity to say this with a straight face about the motivations for the 2011 lockout:
“Rather than before it goes over the cliff, like we wish we had done in this country 10 years ago, make the changes now in the business model that will grow the pie, because it’s too great a game for our fans.”
Seems the NFL was close to imminent financial disaster. Funny then that just one year before the lockout, commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated that the NFL expects to triple its revenue to $25 billion by 2027. Pretty ambitious for a league that was going off a cliff.
Of course, the revenue isn’t going to triple itself. That’s where you come in. That’s why you cannot walk to the Super Bowl. That’s why you cannot tailgate at the Super Bowl. Come hungry, because the menu inside MetLife Stadium includes healthy options like a chicken-sausage and Tuscan kale sandwich for just $15.
The ghost of Hank Stram just started drinking bourbon straight out of the bottle.
All this despite the fact that taxpayers have paid for a ridiculous, stupefying, unbelievable 68% of NFL stadium construction costs since 1923—a number that has risen astronomically in recent years despite a crippling recession and bankrupt state governments.
All this despite record-setting, unfathomable profits for the league, including a deal with Anheuser-Busch to make Bud Light the “official beer of the NFL” that’s worth $1.2 billion over six years.
There’s a certain pavlovian response that echos in the comments section of any article that dares to point out the NFL’s runaway greed, often made by high-T Baby Boomers wearing really big polo shirts in their Facebook profile photo, and it goes something like this: “Durrrrr that’s just good ol’ American capitalism! Love it or leave it.”
No, it’s not. It’s the opposite. Under a capitalist system, taxi companies, black cars, Uber drivers, bus lines, and other services would compete, creating a fair market price for a ride to the Super Bowl. The NFL’s closed system is designed not just to crowd out competition, but to ban it entirely.
The ghost of Hank Stram is incontinent.
Enjoy your kale sandwich.
Sean Conboy is the digital editor of Pittsburgh Magazine. Also catch him at
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