East Rutherford Mayor Jim Cassella was already aware that the National Football League officials planning the Super Bowl did not have a high opinion of the people who live in his town.
But he didnít think it was this bad:
"There is not a single solitary person, unless theyíre a Navy SEAL, who is going to walk to that game and get through that marshland to the stadium and get past State Police."
That quote from Al Kelly, who is the president and CEO of the Super Bowl Host Committee, appeared in a recent Star-Ledger article on preparations for the Super Bowl.
"This is disrespectful to the people who live here," said Cassella. "It reminds me of Howard Cosell making all of those jokes about building this stadium in a swamp."
The late Cosell was not the only one who has turned the Meadowlands into a Jersey joke. The locals also have to endure endless gibes about whether Jimmy Hoffaís body is buried in the end zone. But this has to rank as the cheapest shot yet at the long-suffering locals.
"You donít have to be a Navy SEAL," said Cassella. "Plenty of people park outside and walk to the games."
Not this Feb. 2. The NFL is calling this the first "mass transit Super Bowl." That sounds nice. But only a small fraction of the fans will be arriving by train. Not that many will arrive by car either; the number of available parking spaces has been cut in half.
Most of the fans will arrive by bus or limo, and all such vehicles are required to park for the entire game. Parking rates have not yet been announced, but if theyíre anything like the ticket prices, theyíll be astronomical.
"You start to think the NFL is looking for ways to prohibit other people from making money," said Cassella.
You do indeed. Among those are the bars near the stadium that offer low-cost parking and shuttle service to the stadium. That wonít be permitted for the Super Bowl. You canít take a cab either.
Cassella said not too many locals are likely to have tickets, which can sell for thousands of dollars. But many are renting out their houses and condos for the weekend.
"I read somewhere that somebody was looking to get $35,000 for the week," he said. "Thatís nice, but how are you getting to the game? For $35,000 you can have a wonderful weekend in East Rutherford."
"Weíre gonna have people wandering around saying, ĎI got a ticket,í " he said. "Itíll be 15 degrees out and the people will be freezing outside but they canít get in there."Many of those people are likely to show up at the stadium on game day expecting to get in, he said.
The NFL likes to tout the benefit of the Super Bowl to the local economy. But whatís the benefit if the stadium is blocked off by a ring of armed men?
Not much, says Andrew Zimbalist. Heís a professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts who specializes in the economy of sports.
"Any positive economic spinoff is going to be greatly diminished by this," said Zimbalist. "If the fans have to come on public transit, the surrounding area is not going to benefit at all."
Zimbalist said there could even be a negative effect on local businesses as their regular customers avoid the area for fear of game-day traffic. But then sports leagues often overestimate the economic value of their events, he said.
"The notion that this is somehow a great boon to the local economy is problematic," he said. "People who do studies show that itís just a minuscule effect in comparison to what the NFL is throwing around."
The big boon is likely to be on the other side of the river. The priciest packages include hotels and pregame parties in Manhattan. Those people will find it easy to get to the game via train or bus.
"Imagine if they held a game at Madison Square Garden and said you couldnít enter on foot," Cassella said.
Thatís impossible to imagine. Madison Square Garden is in New York.
As for the Super Bowl, thatís in New Jersey ó even if you have to crawl through the mud to get to it.
ALSO: Here's a nice touch. Even though you aren't allowed to take a cab or shuttle to the game, "Ground transportation is not included within the NFL On Location packages," according to the official NFL website.
These packages can cost $6,000 or more. Do they expect you to fly from your hotel to the game?
***I know I for one was disappointed NY JETS West Side stadium fell through***
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Anyone See This Article Bout Super Bowl Committee?
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