Sunday Morning Coffee — February 11, 2024 — Sunday Morning Super Bowl, oops, Big Game Scramble

February 10, 2024 Sports 6 Comments

Originally, in honor of this afternoon’s kickoff, I was going to call this the Super Scramble, but I didn’t want to violate NFL trademarks. So instead it’s the Big Game Scramble.  The first two games of what later became the Super Bowl in 1967 and ‘68 were simply called the AFL-NFL Championship Game after NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle failed to produce a consensus on his naming proposals of The Big One and The Pro Bowl. About a year later, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt allegedly inspired by his son Clark’s toy Super Ball, suggested calling the game the Super Bowl and it stuck. The first Super Bowl was actually played on January 12, 1969, and was won by the one and done New York J-E-T-S. The league then backdated and gave the ‘67 and ‘68 games the Super Bowl title in arrears. Nobody knows what the young Mr. Hunt did with his toy but today he will be here in Vegas, in the KC owner’s box as the CEO, watching his late father’s team try to go back-to-back. What goes around…..

The NFL adopted the Super Bowl name permanently, trademarking it, so  unless you pay the league a stiff royalty you are stuck with promoting your event, party, sale or what-have-you as The Big Game or some other offshoot. I was in violation of the trademark back in 1980. Working in upper management at a South Florida pari-mutuel greyhound racing track we called our major stakes race “The Super Bowl of Racing.” We got away with it for about a half dozen years until finally the cease-and-desist letter arrived from the NFL. I was flattered the league actually paid attention. It was a publicity man’s dream. I took the letter and tossed it figuring if they really wanted to challenge us what better press could we generate for our race than that? The next year corporate counsel convinced us calling it The Big Race was probably fiscally wiser.

Two different faces of the outside of Sphere, illuminated to pay homage to today’s match-up.

So today’s Big Game will be right here in Allegiant Stadium shrinking in size from 62,500 seats for a Raiders game down to 60,000. The reduction is due to the overwhelming media demand, 6,000 credentials, and space needed for additional television and security cameras. CBS will use 165 cameras for its coverage and the Department of Homeland Security has the venue on the highest security alert demanding more monitoring equipment. It will be the smallest capacity of any of the previous 57 Super Bowls, a key factor in driving ticket prices skyward. As of Saturday on StubHub you could grab an upper level seat for about $6,850 with a view akin to sitting atop of the Stratosphere needle. That doesn’t factor in third party sales commission, so add another 23% and your get-in price is now $8,470. Average ticket resale price throughout the stadium, was about $11,000, before fees.  No, I am not going. That line has to be drawn and those prices are a good 90% over what I would even consider. The first Super Bowl I ever attended in 1971 at Miami’s Orange Bowl set this 18 year-old-student back $15. That in itself was economically painful. This weekend over 350,000 out-of-towners are on the freezing cold and windy Strip paying absolutely ridiculous prices for everything. Very few will go to the game. Most are here to party and gamble in reverence to The Big Game. City officials expect the weekend to result in a $400- $600 million dollar economic impact, most of that undoubtedly in hotel resort fees for those particularly valuable perks of bottled water, printing your boarding pass and unlimited phone calls from your hotel room telephone. When was the last time you used an in-room hotel phone or even a printed boarding pass?

Room nights on the Strip are priced with not only record, but simply outrageous rates. Not including taxes and the pesky pilfering resort fees, the Wynn and Encore fetched $2,500 a night; Caesars $2,499; Mandalay Bay and its neighboring Delano, an easy walk to the stadium, are $1,100 and $1,478; the Venetian and Palazzo a much more reasonable $999. Almost all the properties require a three-night stay. Head downtown to Fremont Street for an average of $280 a night not including the sour beer and urine smell the next morning. However, if you are more of a Motel 6 kind of traveler, the one that’s an easy walk from Allegiant Stadium is only $509, undoubtedly a Motel 6 rate record. It doesn’t say if clean towels are included but waffles in the morning are.

The brand new Fountainbleu, open for two months across from the charming Circus Circus, is also in the room rate race, asking $1,120 a night. While you are there, have a plate of six nacho chips for only $24. It didn’t take them long to get into the gouge-the-visitor game. Arrogance.

In fact, Strip hotel prices are so steep and in such demand they chased the Chiefs and 49ers away. Both teams spent the week at two different properties at Lake Las Vegas, about 25 miles from all the action. The Chiefs at the Westin and the 49ers at the Hilton, where they were promised double HHonors points. Each bussed in every day for practice: the Chiefs used the Raiders facility in Henderson and the Niners the football complex at UNLV.

The traditional Vegas visitor spends about $1,100 per person per trip. The Super Bowl visitor is expected to be four to five times that amount.

On an airplane coming back to Vegas on Thursday I had conversation with two separate parties who were heading to town to see Adele. They bought their tickets months ago and had no idea it was Super Bowl weekend until they began pricing hotel rooms. Ouch.

If you are flying in privately and have not reserved a landing slot or place to park your aircraft forget about it. Harry Reid International and nearby landing strips in Henderson and North Las Vegas are fully booked, no doubt helped by the Silicon Valley aircraft headed in for the Niners. Reid International held one slot, for a Falcon 900 with the initials TS on the tail, on the way to Vegas from a gig in Tokyo.

Long forgotten is today’s Big Game was originally supposed to be played in New Orleans. A conflict with Mardi Gras forced the league to move the New Orleans game to 2025 opening the slot for Vegas’ first ever.

And while Vegas locals bitched and complained about all the traffic and business distractions caused by Formula 1 coming to town last November, the Super Bowl has been openly embraced.

There is no lack of entertainment this weekend with all properties hosting at least B-list talent. The big names on the marquees include U2 at Sphere, Bruno Mars at ParkMGM, the aforementioned Adele at Caesars and Sebastian Manicalsco at Wynn.  Usher will do twelve minutes at halftime, with some surprise guests, and then undoubtedly do a surprise encore at whatever club to which his entourage takes him. Even two of the more tired hotels, the Flamingo and soon-to-be demolished Tropicana, are in the game with acts just as tired as their infrastructure. Wayne Newton is propped up at the Flamingo and Rich Little is playing his old Johnny Carson videos at the Trop.

As much revelry and frolicking this town will see over the complete weekend, there’s one party that has attracted very little notice. SoberBowl Vegas ‘24 begins at noon today, in a downtown government amphitheater hosted by former NFL players Earl Campbell and Ryan Leaf along with comedian Craig Gass and sports agent and Jerry Maguire inspiration Leigh Steinberg. It will feature music, comedy, soft drinks and stories about paths to sobriety followed by the game broadcast. Good for them and everyone that attends SoberBowl ‘24.

For the AFC and NFC championship games two weeks ago I did something I rarely, if ever, do and that’s wager on the ‘under’ point totals in each game. I wound up with a split, but what an awful way to watch football. You sit there rooting for the clock to keep running. You loathe timeouts and incomplete passes. You cheer for sacks. Offensive holding is your best friend. Fumbles and interceptions on the attacking side of the 40-yard line are euphoric. Offensive pass interference the cat’s meow. Missed field goals and botched fourth down conversations inside the red zone orgasmic. And punts, punts and more punts. A terrible root.

I have two plays today. No dreadful unders.  Looking for offense, if the game comes down to the quarterbacks, I like Mahomes to be the difference. So I took the Chiefs plus two points and the Chiefs over 23.5 total points.

The quarterback, Joe Willie Namath, and the coach, Weeb Ewbank, the talent and the brains behind the most influential team in NFL history.

When your favorite team has given you nothing to cheer about for the past half century-plus you revel in whatever you can get. Sports Illustrated magazine ranked the 50 most influential teams in NFL history in their February edition. No, number one wasn’t the perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972. They were third. Runner-up was the 1958 Baltimore Colts, who, behind quarterback Johnny Unitas rallied from a 17-14 deficit in the closing moments of the NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium against the New York Football Giants, to send the game to overtime, a first in NFL history. Almost all of America was tuned in on December 28, 1958, as inclement weather plagued most of the country. The drama of the games significance, and Baltimore coming back to win on the first drive of OT, moved interest in the contest to a different spectator level across the country. Since, some writers have called it the “greatest game ever played.” Prior to that professional football was borderline insignificant, distanced behind baseball, horse racing and college football on the American sports menu. However, the 1972 Dolphins and the ‘58 championship game were runners-up to the 1968 New York J-E-T-S who actually changed the course of the NFL as we know it today. Pre-merger the American Football League was embarrassed in the ‘67 and ‘68 games by the dominance of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers over Kansas City and Oakland. The J-E-T-S, 18-point underdogs to the mighty Colts in Miami, were expected to show more of the same competitive incompetence.  Instead, it was New York, behind bonus baby Joe Namath, with a 16-7 mauling of Baltimore becoming, according to SI, the “most influential professional football team ever.” The next year Kansas City representing the AFL did the same to Minnesota showing that the J-E-T-S win was no fluke and the AFL belonged in professional football. Interestingly, Weeb Ewbank coached both the ‘58 Colts and the ‘68 J-E-T-S. When you have nothing else as a J-E-T-S fan, that footnote means something. Over the years the J-E-T-S job has buried many head coaches.  The one we want back has been dead since 1998.

And finally, here’s a little Super Bowl trivia that’s pretty amazing. Players from 143 colleges have been credited with scoring points in the past 57 Super Bowls, oops, I mean Big Games. Quarterbacks don’t get credited for scoring on TD passes, instead that belongs to the receiver. The only points QBs can score are on rushing touchdowns. The University of Miami, whose better years are long past, lead the way with alum scoring 84 points. Then comes Florida, Penn State, Notre Dame and Cal. Even the Coast Guard Academy had one — Redskins kicker Curt Knight. The University of Alabama has sent over 450 players to the NFL but no player who ever finished their college career at Bama has ever scored a point in the Super Bowl. That won’t change today as neither the Chiefs nor Niners have a Tide player in uniform.

Enjoy the day everyone.

6 Comments

  • Ken Rich says:

    Roy, you are the master of detail and you are able to do so while keeping the audience engaged. Bravo! Enjoy the game.

  • Michael Lewis says:

    As usual, great stuff, Roy.

    I’ve never been to a Super Bowl, but I have a unique souvenir from the first championship game in 1967. Back in the day, Newsday sports columnist Stan Isaacs had an annual column called the Christmas Grab Bag. You had to answer some questions. He reprinted the best replies in a future column and sent out “prizes” to the readers. They included press guides, players photos and press passes. He sent me an unused photographers press pass from the first NFL-AFL championship game in 1967. It is the only press pass I have that was not issued to me.

    Enjoy the game!

  • Jim Nettles says:

    Great blog Roy. I like the Chiefs on the money line and the over. Next year Jim Harbaugh completes a back to back parlay by winning “The Big Game” with the Chargers. Go Blue!!!!

  • Lew Matusow says:

    Always a great read, RB. Only YOU could come up with facts that make your J-E-T-S and our Hurricanes relevant again (if only for a brief moment).

  • Dennis H Stein says:

    Congratulations on your bets.
    Never bet against Mahomes!!

  • George Howard says:

    I’m sure that watching the SB live must be a great experience. However, I think there’s nothing like watching it on TV. Football has to be the greatest TV game ever. 4th and 1 on your opponent’s 25 yard line and you want a beer? Bingo! Hit pause and go get your beer. Got to pee? Same thing. Replays? I love them—and I saw the first ones, way back when. The Instant Replay! And the ads on Super Bowl day? GREAT on TV, and I loved the BMW ad this year with Brooklyn’s own Christopher Walken.

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