Posted January 28, 2014

You Can’t Walk to the Super Bowl Because You Are the NFL’s Personal ATM

Riffs

sb_walk

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 Wired, Deadspin, GQ, Vice, and elsewhere on EM. Banter with him on Twitter @SeanConPM

21 comments
rationalrevo
rationalrevo

Great article, thinks for this. I'd say that it actually is "good ole American capitalism". The error is in thinking that capitalists actually like competition and free markets, they don't. Actual capitalists want monopoly power and subsidies to inflate profits, exactly what the NFL has very effectively gotten. However, the idea that anyone should "love it" is absurd.


Make no mistake, this is every capitalists dream, and what they are all pushing for in Washington. Over the past 30 years we've rolled back all of the government regulations that were designed to ensure a somewhat "free market" in the name of being "pro-business. What conservatives don't get is that actual capitalists don't want free markets, and will do anything in their power to eliminate them. "Free markets" require controls and regulations to prevent private industry from undermining them.

skittles4beastmode
skittles4beastmode

Also, how can the NFL not allow taxis to just drop people off outside a huge security perimeter? Safety? Are you kidding? That's what gets me the most. Not just the greed but the boldfaced lies.

skittles4beastmode
skittles4beastmode

The NFL and all "big sports" organizations got not-for-profit status in like the 1970s. This does not mean that their respective teams do not pay taxes but the "league office" does not pay. On the surface, this is not that bad. But if you want to see the true greed of the NFL, look at how much they have donated to concussion research. Roger talks all day about how they are looking out for player safety but this "non profit" has given hardly any money to researchers since they begun finding out how dangerous football is for the brain. It's a joke.

Skyydream
Skyydream

The Fan Express transportation is SOLD OUT and has been for some time (unless you wanted to get there after the game has already started).  Leaving the fans like me to rely on public transportation to get the game.  Ridiculous that they cannot accommodate the demand when making extreme profits.

Jetson
Jetson

Why does the NFL have non-profit status again???  The rest of us pay taxes.

BennDover
BennDover

Sean, you sound like a broad complaining for the sake of complaining.  Go take a midol, wipe off your chin, and shut the F#$! up!

pghpiratefan
pghpiratefan

It costs thousands to get in the game and thousands to travel and a hotel room. The only people walking, taking a taxi or tailgating are ones without tickets. I hate Goodell as much as anyone, but this is nothing more than complaining for the sake of complaining.

JeremiahJohnson1
JeremiahJohnson1

I won't pay any attention to these NFL laws as they put it. I'll go and come as I please and entertain myself( tailgating) all I want . If they make an issue of it, I'll have plenty of video to go viral on the Internet and get rich off their mistakes.

canoeal
canoeal

Lamest excusses of all. Really just to make mo money... I will now refuse to go to ANY games of the NFL and may not bother to watch a bunh a rich men running around a field. Remember it is only a game...A game where contracts are negotiated and no one has to win to get paid...


RayKaminski
RayKaminski

Actually, most fans can't afford a ticket, let alone the price of transportation.    And who amongst you really thinks that the rich and powerful and famous are gonna stand in line at the bus stop in the cold to get on the Express? Lots of tips to be exchanged when the private limos arrive.

Jared87
Jared87

Goodell is ret@rded. But you forgot to mention you can get tasty rice balls at the game as well. rofl

maverick98
maverick98

as i understand it the teams themselves have to pay taxes but the NFL organization is a not-for-profit. which is totally crazy of course when you think about the profits they make. who knows where the money is going? probably only the NFL's team of attorneys and tax advisers. ha. what a shame

woodysbackinpa
woodysbackinpa

I really am sick of watching games on TV all you really get is two hours of commercials and maybe an hour and a half of actual game.The game stops for everything and the players actually wait on the field for the commercials to finish to start play again.Why is the NFL tax exempt?Can anyone answer that for me?As far as them doing what they are pulling at the game, well people can teach them a lesson and stop going, there is power in numbers but I guess it's just easier to be like the rest of the sheep and just say Baaaaahhh.

Shanjo
Shanjo

I like to believe that corporatism is capitalism's evil twin. Can look like capitalism on the surface, but is actually nothing like it.

RagingYinzer
RagingYinzer

Hey, Sean, you want some cheese with that whine?  It's a grass-fed gruyere asiago blend.  And it's $18.

Jetson
Jetson

That's right.  They're a charitable organization.  Right?????  That's why they're so greedy.

normfromnorway
normfromnorway

@pghpiratefanNo i dont think you understand at all. NO ONE is walking, taking a taxi or tailgating. even the ones with tickets. and anyway the point is that the nfl is going to take as much as possible from the fan when they can. if you dont think the 'limited tailgatijng' policy is coming to a city near you very soon, you are crazy. they have already done it several times at metlife.

RayKaminski
RayKaminski

@maverick98 Hey, that's the trick of not-for-profit.     Pay salaries and expenses for the people who own it and, voila, no profit!!!     As usual, the people who foot the bill are you and me, just like when the Romneys of the world show their patriotism by hidding their money overseas or in other shelters they helped legislate into existence.