EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The biggest winner Sunday wasn’t the Seattle Seahawks. It was the NFL.
No, it was commissioner Roger Goodell. It was his keister that was on the line when Super Bowl XLVIII was approved for MetLife Stadium — sans dome — and it was his keister that was going to fry if the game, the week and the event dissolved into a Super migraine.
Bringing the Super Bowl to the New York/New Jersey area was an enormous gamble, and it was a gamble that was not supposed to work. Worse, it was a gamble critics said Goodell … and the league … would regret, sabotaging not only the chances of the game returning here but going anywhere where climate was an issue.
Except they were wrong. It’s not just that the game wasn’t derailed. It’s that the week went off without a hitch.
OK, so there were hiccups, like that rocking boat that had some Broncos complaining of upset stomachs during last week’s media sessions on the Hudson, and, yeah, the Secaucus train station Sunday was a mess. But this wasn’t the Ice Capades of Dallas 2011 … or the traffic jams that were Pontiac 1982, and Palo Alto 1985 … or the cold and ice of Atlanta, 2000 … or the logistical pratfalls of an overwhelmed Jacksonville, 2005.
In short, this wasn’t a nightmare.
On the contrary, it was a success … an enormous success … and it was such a big hit that other cold-weather cities with outdoor stadiums can start lining up now at Park Avenue for the next invite.
In fact, they already have.
New York Giants co-owner John Mara on Sunday said he wants the Super Bowl to return here, while Denver mayor Michael Hancock showed up in New York City last week to politic for the game going to Denver — with Hancock making the rounds on radio and TV to plug his city for the Big Game.
Once, that seemed ludicrous. Not anymore, and thank you, Mother Nature.
“Weather is a factor when you play in the United States in February,” Goodell said at his annual news conference last week. “(But) I believe we need to get as many communities as possible so they can share in not only the emotional benefits but the economic benefits as well.”
The New York/New Jersey area had been hammered by snow and two polar vortexes in January, and the early forecast for Super Bowl weekend wasn’t good — with the Farmer’s Almanac last year forecasting a blizzard for the weekend. That would have crippled traffic, cratered ticket sales, put a bull’s eye on Goodell and the decision-makers who brought the game to New Jersey and made Dallas 2011 seem like a paid vacation in Kauai.
But none of that happened. Instead, the New York metropolitan area was treated to its warmest day of the calendar year, with temperatures hitting 55 degrees by mid-afternoon and dropping to 49 by kickoff. That’s not only OK; it’s positively extraordinary, far better than the forecasts a week ago that had temperatures in the mid-30s, with a 40 percent chance of precipitation.
Instead of early February, it felt like early April, with New Yorkers waking up to morning temperatures over 40 and wondering if the Yankees and Mets … not the Broncos and Seattle … were in town. It didn’t snow. It rained in the second half, but the game wasn’t affected. And I’m still waiting for the first hint of wind.
People say the league got lucky, and, OK, so it did. It doesn’t matter. What it said would work did. What it said could happen did. What it predicted for the future happened.
The snow that was supposed to be the back story to Super Bowl XLVIII won’t arrive until Monday, with one to three inches predicted. At least that’s what meteorologists say, but who gives a rip? The game was played, and weather wasn’t the issue. Denver and Seattle were — the league’s best offense vs. the league’s best defense; Peyton Manning vs. the Legion of Boom; finesse play vs. old-school hammering — and isn’t that what this game is supposed to be about?
It was Sunday, and hallelujah.
“I think the storylines, the game itself, is going to carry the day,” Goodell predicted last week. “And it should.”
And it did.
But the story line now is this: Who’s next through the door? If this game worked … and it did … there was going to be Denver, Seattle, New England, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, you name it, lining up to host a future Super Bowl, and why not?
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Clark Judge, a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange, has covered pro football since 1982 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Judge is a New York resident.