Commentary

Take a seat: Super Bowl not about fans

Updated: February 11, 2011, 11:54 AM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

Despite being touted like a cruise on the Starship Enterprise, apparently the Super Bowl experience at the Jerry Dome was something more akin to the Titanic.

Some 1,000 fans who attended the Super Bowl have filed a class-action suit against the NFL and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, claiming they ruined their Super Bowl experience.

The fans are upset because when they showed up for the Super Bowl with tickets, they discovered they didn't have a seat. Well, at least not a safe one, according to officials.

But the moral of this story isn't that the NFL screwed up, or that these fans decided to exact revenge in a manner so typical of our lawsuit-loving culture.

[+] EnlargeSuper Bowl Ticket
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesA ticket didn't guarantee every fan at Super Bowl XLV a seat.

The bigger issue here is how gigantic sporting events like the Super Bowl are becoming increasingly out of reach for the everyman, or rather the everyfan.

The Super Bowl isn't the ultimate fan experience. It's the ultimate anti-fan experience.

I've been to five Super Bowls and after every one, I have the same thought: What exactly does an average fan get out of this?

The Super Bowl has become so overpriced, excessive and corporate that it's not worth giving up your spot on the couch or your bar stool.

The media is accommodated. Corporate bigwigs, celebrities and other athletes are pampered. Average fans, though, are just tolerated.

Of course, it's not that way for everyone. Some fans go to the Super Bowl and have a great time. The NFL tries to stay somewhat connected to the everyfan with the "NFL Experience," a fan festival at a nearby convention center with interactive games, free football clinics and other bells and whistles that allow fans to enjoy a taste of the Super Bowl, whether they are attending the game or not.

But considering the average price for a face-value ticket for Super Bowl XLV was $900 -- 12.5 percent more than last year's -- it's obvious that the real NFL experience is making a mortgage payment to attend the big game.

And fans not lucky enough to get a face-value ticket could buy one on the secondary market for the price of a small Hyundai. On the league's sanctioned site, the average price for a resold ticket was $4,119.

How long before fans are paying $5 just to breathe at the game? If you think I'm being dramatic, keep in mind the people who paid $200 to stand inside the stadium and those who paid $1,000 at a nearby business for parking.

So no, it's not surprising that the NFL and Jerry Jones became so obsessed with breaking the Super Bowl attendance record that they didn't acknowledge until the last minute that the temporary seating area was not only unsafe but unfinished. The Super Bowl is just one enormous "ka-ching!" Who cares about the details?

Kurt Snibbe
Kurt Snibbe/ESPN.com

With the collective bargaining agreement expiring March 4, this was the wrong time for the NFL to have a public relations fiasco involving fans . For weeks, all fans have heard is how the NFL and the players are trying to hammer out an agreement because they have the fans' best interests in mind. That seems a little hollow now, as does today's brinkmanship.

I'll give the NFL credit for trying to make amends. They've offered each displaced fan either three times the face value of the ticket ($2,400) and a ticket to next season's Super Bowl, or a ticket, airfare and hotel for a future Super Bowl of the fan's choosing. But apparently, the only thing that will mend some of those fans' battered souls is $5 million in damages.

There's nothing like combating greed with even more greed.

If the NFL really wanted to do something impressive for fans, the league would make the Super Bowl less about appealing to corporate dollars and keep the tickets' face value reasonable.

As it is, the ticket prices in the secondary market for this Super Bowl were the highest on record. Ten years from now, forget about tickets costing the same as a small Hyundai. They will cost as much as a Mercedes.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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