Call it Karma, call it cosmic, or give credit to the full moon or the alignment of the planets, but how great is it that Donald Trump and Super Bowl 50 come along at the same time?
Never have two things so reflective of who we are and where we are as a country come along together. That shiny 50 symbol and The Donald, man, I bet if you rented one of those cameras on the International Space Station you could see them both from way up there. One slightly more orange than the other but both bigger than life, or at least bigger than they should be.
All those very rich, mostly white, men trying to prove that 'theirs' is the biggest and doing whatever it takes and spending whatever it takes to prove it. And that's just football. Politics is a slightly different ball game, the white guys are richer, but this season they are closer than ever before. We have Trump to thank for that.
I should point out that I like both football and politics. I thought about going into politics as a much younger fellow but instead decided to follow my first love -- sports, football in particular. Some of my fondest earliest memories are of watching the Lions play the Bears with my Dad in a steel girder supported stadium where the 'inexpensive' seats were behind a post. Players would disappear behind it and come out the other side. Maybe. I played in high school and college and would later watch the games, college and pro, on a small black and white TV with my newborn son sleeping on my chest. I encouraged him to play. He did, high school and college, and his two knee surgeries convinced me to not encourage my grandsons to play. I won't discourage them, I just won't encourage them. A compromise.
Sports became a career choice and I spent most fall Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays on some sideline or another covering various games. I can't tell you how many I've seen but I was privileged to see some of the best of their time. I've covered 18 Super Bowls. I go to church when I can but not on those 17 or 18 Sundays in the fall during football season. I figure if I kneel down after the game like a lot of today's players I've done my due diligence. I pray a lot during most Bills games anyway.
I quit doing sports when it became more about all the 'other' stuff than it was about the games themselves. Besides I got tired of over paid, 'entitled' athletes that you had to practically beg for an interview. Who ever heard of paying some 20 year kid $100,000 to play hockey? I know, I know. What did I do instead? I decided to cover politics.
My first political memories parallel my sports ones. Adlai Stevenson versus Dwight Eisenhower. I was hooked from then on, watched all the conventions, read all the position papers, couldn't wait to vote and have every time, every election at every level ever since. I've covered city council races, mayoral races, sat in more living rooms with more candidates' wives watching results than I care to count, covered conventions, and I've even been kicked off a national Republican campaign press plane because the candidate didn't like one of my stories. A badge of honor. Besides it WAS funny darn it.
All of this brings us to 2016, Super Bowl 50 and Donald Trump and his Republican Presidential bid. I have watched both the Super Bowl and Presidential political campaigns grow in size and unwarranted stature for over four decades. But I gotta tell ya, these are the cherries on the sundaes.
Super Bowl 50 is being played in Santa Clara, the billion dollar plus San Francisco 49ers' stadium is located there, but it's being 'celebrated' in San Francisco. The two are about 45 miles apart. Santa Clara bought into the 'we'll reap fiscal benefits from helping pay for the stadium' in 2014 and San Francisco bought into the 'we'll reap economic benefit from hosting the Super Bowl' in 2016. Of course history is not on their side in either case. Most of the 'benefit' numbers are compiled by folks who want the stadiums to be built and the events to happen. Independent studies show that the events bring in roughly 10 per cent of what the host committees claim they will and that communities that spring for public investments for major sports facilities never get their money back, let alone reap a significant financial benefit. St. Louis lost the Rams but dodged a huge fiscal bullet when it didn't opt to pony up for public funding for a stadium. In recent memory San Francisco bought into the hype behind the Americas Cup and lost 11.5 million dollars on the deal.
The Olympic Games are the biggest rip off in sports. The landscape is littered with the names of cities and countries that will never get out of the money pit caused by the Olympics. Ask Greece. China. Salt Lake City. Russia. Ask Jacksonville, Florida. Yes there was a Super Bowl in Jacksonville, did it spur tourism? Have you been recently?
How does a city get the Super Bowl? Why would they want it? At one time it was seen as a way to showcase a championship game that frankly not a lot of folks paid much attention to and go some place warm in the winter. The NFL hasn't always been a multi-billion dollar business. Super Bowl I had to be carried by two different TV networks and was played before a less than sell out crowd. Give the NFL credit. Since then it has branded and marketed, moved franchises, consolidated leagues, fought off interlopers, cut deals with television providers and built the game to the point where it is now passed around between the owners like a bong at a bachelor party. Build a new stadium and you get the game. That's how Santa Clara got it and why else would you play it in Minneapolis in 2018? In February. Why would a city want it? Well, cities don't initially want it, the owners in the cities do. They rally their buddies, friends, business contacts, clients and the next thing you know there's a 'study' that points out what a great economic benefit it would be to host the game. It's BIG, it's BOFFO, it's WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT.
Hold it a sec. Make America Great? Again? I've heard that somewhere before. While Super Bowl 50 promises to be the biggest football extravaganza of all time--they're actually building a Super Bowl City along the San Francisco waterfront and rounding up all the homeless people so no one will see them on TV--Donald Trump is campaigning for President on what could be called a 'Super Bowl 50' platform. Making America Great Again. Convincing other people to pay for things, i.e. the wall along the border with Mexico, he's a builder of cities or at least buildings, he doesn't like 'losers',i.e. homeless and John McCain, and he claims that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in New York City and his supporters would still love him and vote for him. Hey, just like the NFL. They have players that beat their girlfriends and wives, get arrested on multiple DUIs, deny benefits to participants who suffer life altering injuries, and then deny the injuries. And yet, Super Bowl 50 may end up being the biggest Super Bowl yet.
I tell ya, we're blessed. Super Bowl 50 and Donald Trump in the same year. What did we do to deserve this? Oh, let's hope the Super Bowl is a good game and that Donald Trump is a good sport. I mean, he's kidding right?