Super Bowl has become great exercise in corporate spending SUPER BOWL XXIX

January 27, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

MIAMI -- Corporate America closes up shop this time every year and, almost as if on cue, adjourns to the Super Bowl. It has become the annual mid-winter retreat for major business and industry.

Everything about the Super Bowl bash involves money, lots of it, via cash, check or credit card. You just better have it because this is an absolute exercise in spending.

Right or wrong, the Super Bowl is almost a national holiday. What happens after the kickoff is secondary for most of the spectators, although the partisan followers of the competing teams do express a strong provincial interest in the outcome.

It's a vehicle for betting enormous sums with bookmakers and pool operators as America joins in an almost-out-of control desire to pick the winner.

All tickets in Joe Robbie Stadium, the staging venue, are $200, if you have connections and don't want to pay scalpers' prices.

Too often the game, from the standpoint of a classic, has failed dismally. One way or another it comes up short, either poorly played or a runaway rout.

A geographical irony this time is that representatives from two cities in California travel to the arch-rival sunshine state, Florida, to settle the National Football League championship, otherwise known as Super Bowl XXIX.

The Chargers of San Diego are 18 1/2 -point underdogs to the 49ers of San Francisco, but they won't lose by that. To expect one professional team to be good enough to beat another by that much in the Super Bowl, considering both qualified to get here after a long season of hard and demanding play, is too much to ask.

Be that as it may, the assemblage of Super Bowl tourists are expected to provide a $160-$180 million transfusion to the economy of South Florida. Sponsors and clients of NFL Properties, the television networks and ad agencies turn the event into a non-stop social function that is more comparable to the Mardi Gras than an athletic proceeding.

Companies are holding golf tournaments, fishing trips, ocean cruises and visits to the race tracks. They entertain customers by giving them air reservations, hotel rooms, cocktail parties, dinners, limousines, bus transportation, gifts to carry home and, of course, seats at the Super Bowl.

It's a free ride, a way for clients from Peoria, Detroit, Missoula, Philadelphia and other places to avail themselves of a payback for doing business with the "right organizations" the other 11 months of the year.

It's distressing that sports have been turned into such an intoxicating commercial enterprise. You can lament the extravagance all you want but nothing's going to change. It'll only get worse.

One of the leading beneficiaries of so much money being spent is the host city, in this case Miami, and some of its surrounding communities. All shapes of endeavors have tapped into the excitement and the mood, including a floating casino that went out to sea and featured a bevy of showgirls.

Getting back to football, the Super Bowl has had no more than five well-played contests in the 28 to date. But this hasn't muted the interest. Not an iota. It's a difficult ticket to find and to buy.

A fan from Baltimore, Tom "Goose" Kaiser, a partner in ownership of the Bay Cafe in Fells Points, is seeing his second Super Bowl. He hasn't been here since the Colts lost to the New York Jets, the record upset of Super Bowl III.

"There's no way any Super Bowl can live up to all the hoopla and the hype," he said, "but it's still an exceptional experience to see first-hand what's going on in a king-sized celebration. A lot of people having a good time."

How was Kaiser, who doesn't deal with the corporate giants that dominate the Super Bowl, able to acquire tickets?

"I have a good friend who has a contact with the Washington Redskins and I was able to buy two seats," he said. "For me, this is 26 years of nostalgia. I was in Miami when the Colts lost to the Jets."

Kaiser also pointed out he's going to be one of the few fans in the stadium Sunday who was in Canada for the Grey Cup in November and now the Super Bowl in January. That certainly sets him apart.

From the standpoint of international exposure, the Super Bowl telecast goes to 174 countries and will be described in 13 different languages for an audience exceeding 750 million.

Super Bowl week stands as the most over-reported activity on the face of the earth. At last count, 2,300 media members, from verified outlets, had been issued credentials for whatever it is that's going to transpire on Sunday.

It's a gala that exceeds all others. The public can't get enough as every Super Bowl surpasses the previous one in crowd anticipation and a circus-like aura that has lost all touch with reality.

This, obviously, is what America wants. It keeps buying the Super Bowl at any cost to please the cravings of an insatiable appetite.

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