Thursday, May 24, 2007

Time to put a lid on FedEx Field — a sunroof, a Brock-A-Brella, a temporary toupee, something to keep it nice and comfy in early February. What happened at the NFL meetings Tuesday simply cannot go unanswered. Dallas (OK, Arlington, Texas) gets a Super Bowl? Where’s ours?

Of course, Dan Snyder has been talking about this possibility for a while. He knows the league isn’t going to give Washington the Ultimate Game if there’s any chance Jack Frost will crash the party, so he has looked into furnishing his stadium with some kind of short-term cover. I’d be surprised if he didn’t intensify those efforts now, given his competitive, ego-driven nature. In fact, Dan probably wants the Super Bowl so bad, he’d trade his Redskins belt buckle for it.

And really, why wouldn’t the NFL want to have the Super Bowl here? D.C. is among the most maniacal of football markets, and FedEx has 92,000 seats … plus loads of luxury boxes. Snyder might even be able to enlist help from Congress, get it to throw in an Anti-Trust Exemption To Be Named Later. How could the owners refuse that?

(And if they did, well, Dan could always talk Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes into singing the national anthem — with Suri doo-wopping in the background.)

It’s those 92,000 seats, though, that would be Washington’s biggest selling point — just as it was the 100,000 seats in the Cowboys’ under-construction stadium that landed Super Bowl 45 for North Texas. The second-place finisher, Indianapolis, is building a new dome for the Colts that has room for “only” 70,000; that’s quite a bit less ticket revenue, about $25 million less.

Indy will be given the game one of these years — as a reward for providing the Colts with a $675 million playground. But the Cowboys’ $1 billion palace figures to be fitted into the regular Super Bowl rotation because, as we all know, NFL owners like to make money. (Indeed, when I think of the owners this week, huddling in the counting house, I think of Sir Larry Wildman’s famous line to Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street”: “Not only would you sell your mother to make a deal, you’d send her C.O.D.”)

A funny thing has happened to the Super Bowl in the last decade or so: It’s gotten smaller. Oh, it’s still as big an event as ever, but the crowds that actually get to see the game aren’t as large as they once were. Why? Because Los Angeles is no longer in the league, that’s why.

When the Rams skedaddled to St. Louis in 1995, they eliminated L.A. as a Super Bowl site. (The NFL isn’t going to stage its main event in an area that refuses to supply its team with Adequate Housing.) This has proved costly, because the Rose Bowl and L.A. Coliseum have hosted the six largest crowds in the game’s history — all of them over 90,000 and four over 100,000. Since the SB 27 in Pasadena, which drew 98,374, the best-attended Super Bowl has been Numero 39 in Jacksonville. The turnstile count that day was a mere 78,125.

So you can see why Jerry Jones’ megastadium is so attractive. You can also see why Roger Goodell, the young commissioner with fresh ideas, would talk about playing a Super Bowl overseas someday. Yes, it would further internationalize American football — and plant some serious seed in Europe — but it would have other benefits as well. I mean, have you seen the size of some of those soccer stadiums over there? Wembley seats 90,000; Camp Nou in Barcelona has an even larger capacity — nearly 100,000. That’s a lot of euros, no matter how the tickets are priced.

If I’m Dan Snyder, I’m putting Art Monk’s Hall of Fame candidacy on the back burner and concentrating my energies on getting a Super Bowl for Washington. All that’s required is a little outside-the-box thinking, one of Dan’s specialties. Maybe he can buy the roof of the RCA Dome, before Indy demolishes it, and thumbtack it to FedEx. Or maybe he can enclose the stadium in a Gigantic Plastic Bubble. (I’m pretty sure I saw one for sale on eBay.) Or maybe he can spend the next few years promoting global warming.

There’s gotta be a way. After all, Detroit — Detroit! — has been a Super Bowl venue. So have Minneapolis and Atlanta, hardly tropical climes in midwinter. So why not D.C.? We just have to put our heads together, come up with a plan.

Kidnap the National Weather Service? Turn FedEx into the World’s Largest Roll-Top Desk? I’m just thinking out loud here.

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