New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Sharing Brings Political Griping

Roger Goodell’s response to a reporter’s question included one mistake and none of the regionalism promised by the 2014 Super Bowl host committee.

“We’re willing to play an outdoor game in New York, as you know, in 2014,” the National Football League commissioner said during a news conference before last year’s Super Bowl when asked whether Philadelphia might one day be the host.

Only the 2014 NFL championship game won’t be in New York. It’ll be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where Mayor James Cassella is among those who give no credence to promises of the No. 1 media market across the Hudson River sharing an event that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson says will bring roughly $550 million to the region.

“The NFL and the networks are going to make this a New York event,” Cassella said via telephone.

The 2014 Super Bowl marks the first time that coordination of the biggest spectacle in U.S. sports has included two states. It’s hard enough with two cities, past hosts said.

New Jersey politicians working to secure their piece of the game’s financial reward might renege on promises of cooperation to secure whatever Super Bowl business doesn’t wind up in Manhattan, previous hosts said.

The league two weeks ago disclosed the locations of several events, including media day, which will be held in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Cassella said it makes no sense when the Izod Center next to the game site, about 11 miles (18 kilometers) away, is available.

“Obviously, there isn’t much thought process in trying to accommodate this area of the state other than the ballgame,” he said.

Event Distribution

Michael Davidson, executive director of the Greater Newark Convention & Visitors Bureau, declined to address the comment, saying he doesn’t get into sour grapes.

“We’re all just trying to do the best we can for our communities,” he said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Frank Supovitz, the league executive in charge of the Super Bowl, wants to “spread the events around.”

Davidson hasn’t met Al Kelly, the chief executive of the 2014 host committee whose members include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and BlackRock Inc. President Robert Kapito.

Kelly, during an interview in New Orleans, where last night the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in a Super Bowl that was delayed 34 minutes by a power failure, says fervent politicians are preferable to apathy.

“If I’m a mayor I want as much as I can. If I’m a governor I want as much as I can,” the former American Express Co. president said. “Everybody is going to put their best foot forward.”

Handing Over

Kelly and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were among those who took part in a ceremony before yesterday’s game during which responsibility for the Super Bowl was passed to New York and New Jersey from New Orleans. Many of the participants made note of the 64-degree Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) temperature while standing atop a parade float decorated with a 12-foot replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the Super Bowl winner.

Christie, a Republican, in an interview afterward said he and his New York counterpart, a Democrat, “on day one” made a commitment to cooperation. He noted, however, that the agreement is contingent on game-related events being distributed fairly. He wasn’t specific.

“Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and I made a deal that we will not be fighting with each other,” said Christie, who wore a short-sleeved shirt and drew laughter by promising similar weather for next year’s game. The temperature in New York at the time was 30 degrees. Cuomo didn’t attend the New Orleans event.

Jets, Giants

New York and New Jersey have repeatedly sparred over the area’s NFL teams, the Jets and Giants, who share a New Jersey home and New York names. Also taking part in the ceremony on St. Charles Avenue, less than a mile from the Superdome, were New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee co-chairmen Woody Johnson, owner of the Jets, and Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch, who was born in New Jersey but lives in New York.

“I feel extra responsibility that everybody be included,” said Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp.

After the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl, Christie said the championship parade ought to be in New Jersey. It took place in New York, which historically honors teams and celebrities with a ticker-tape celebration up lower Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes.

“There’s always been this issue of who do these teams belong to,” Allen St. John, a Montclair, New Jersey, resident and author of “The Billion Dollar Game,” said by telephone.

When it comes to 2014 Super Bowl money, and who’ll get how much of it, the real battle isn’t New Jersey versus New York.

Interstate Fight

“It’s Rutherford versus Lyndhurst,” St. John said, referring to two neighboring towns. “These mayors aren’t all on Team New Jersey. There’s political resentment that goes back decades. Everybody is going to want their own piece.”

Politicians throughout New Jersey want their towns to reap whatever money accompanies the first open-air Super Bowl in the Northeast. Competition to satisfy constituents has the potential to become cutthroat, says Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, who has been involved in bidding from South Florida.

“It can get ugly,” she said.

One Game

New Orleans has now hosted the Super Bowl a record-tying 10 times. MetLife Stadium, which cost $1.6 billion, and its winter weather probably won’t host another title game soon. Because few politicians in New Jersey or New York are seeking to build a long-term relationship with the NFL, they’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their constituents benefit.

“They’re politicians,” said Jim Steeg, who left the NFL in 2005 after 34 years, 26 in charge of the Super Bowl. “They’re asked to make public support of dollars, but they want to get a return.”

“You’ve got to convince people that everybody isn’t going to stay at the Waldorf,” Steeg said. The process by which sites bid for the game changed around 1989, when the counties surrounding Miami chipped in and wanted a return on their investment.

Grossman said unlike South Florida, which has hosted 10 Super Bowls, the politicians of New Jersey don’t have the luxury of a learning curve.

NFL Decisions

“If they spend too much time bickering, the NFL is going to make all of the decisions,” she said. “That does not lend itself to regionalism. They’d better decide what goes to Caesar and what stays with God -- and God is Frank Supovitz.”

The 2011 Super Bowl was played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, midway between Fort Worth and Dallas. The cities had a handshake agreement to cooperate.

“It didn’t totally work out that way,” Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. “There are enough problems without politics mixed up in this process. It could be a disaster. I feel sorry for them.”

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