Friday, February 10, 2006

How to get Super Bowl tickets

The February 2006 issue of GQ included an unsigned story (page 70) on how the NFL disbursed the tickets for this year's Super Bowl. It's not online; I don't know why. The subtitle was hilariously ironic: "We break down the crowd at this year's Super Bowl in Detroit. Don't look too hard for real fans!"

Here's the lowdown. The AFC Champ gets 17.5% of the tickets. The NFC Champ gets 17.5%. The host-city town (this year, Detroit) gets 5%. The other 29 teams gets 35%. That's 75%. The other 25% go to the NFL home office.

Teams that go to the game split them three ways: to players and staff, to sponsors, and to season-ticket holders. Sponsors are given the right to purchase Super Bowl tickets in their contracts. Players also have dibs over season-ticket holders, who receive the leftovers by lottery. If sponsors, players, and staff account for 75% of each team's ticket pool, that's about 26% of all tickets not going to season-ticket-holding fans.

Teams that are not playing or hosting typically hoard all their tickets for sponsors, players, and staff. So their 35% of all Super Bowl tickets were distributed to these people. Let's assume the host city gives most of their 5% to players, staff, and sponsors. The NFL office, the article reports, gives only 6% of their share (500 pairs) to fans.

To come to the point: add these numbers up, and you learn that 88% of all the Super Bowl tickets were given to former players, staff of NFL teams, sponsors of both the league and the individual teams, and whatever VIPs the NFL front office admires.

I would assume that none of those people paid for their tickets in the traditional sense. Staff and players paid dues, sure, and sponsors, well, they buy advertising that enriches the people who give them tickets in their contracts. Still, most of these people fly to Detroit with a ticket that could be easily flipped for $3,000 cash in the hours before the game. The temptation to party all weekend, go to the stadium, dump the tickets for massive cash on a last-minute decision, and then hit the shoe store--it must be pretty great.

So that's how the Steelers fans got their tickets--they bought them from people who are or got them from former players, NFL staff, or NFL sponsors.

And that's not all. Given the fact that Steeler fans are everywhere, I'd further guess that many people who got tickets through other teams were Steeler fans. It's not far-fetched to imagine a Steeler fan working at some bank, for example, in Denver that does business with the Broncos. And Steeler fans have a way of making themselves and their loyalty known. Some bank gets two tickets, the Steelers are in the game, how is the President not going to give them to the VP or branch manager who wears the Jack Lambert jersey on Sundays?

One last comment. I must admit, I don't buy GQ for the articles. They are nice benefit, though, something that occasionally catches my eye. I buy it strictly for the naked ladies, which are actually quite good.

World Baseball Classic

Players only manage so many professional PA per year. If these are exhibition games, they're an insult to the teams, who need to practice together to get ready for Opening Day. If these are not exhibition games, they will further dilute the talent pool in the big league games. It's obvious in the case of starting pitchers, who will have their seasons extended without having their professional expectations (say, 180 or 200 IP) reduced. But the same thing will happen to position players. The WBC games will put what, about 50 PA on some the game's best position players, who will then be asked to play 750 PA, which usually is not going to happen.

The teams most hurt will be the teams with the most to lose--the teams whose success or failure depends most on a smaller group of players. Every game Jason Bay plays for Canada is more or less one game less that he'll play for the Pirates. I'd believe otherwise if the AB distribution from year-to-year suggested that many guys are capable of staying healthy and competent for 700-PA years.

The season is already too long, and this makes it longer. What they could do, something I would support, is shorten the regular season. They could bring it back to about 144 games, add the WBC, open later and start the expanded playoffs sooner.

Whisenhunt to stay

All hail the Wiz, who has withdrawn from consideration for the Raiders' coaching job and will be back next year. His lowball gestures spurned by both Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and Whisenhunt, the diabolical Al Davis will now attempt to attach his marionette strings to Art Shell.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

More Steelers Illustrated

If you count the mini-helmet on the Olympic issue, that was five Steeler covers in a row. I know most of them were regional, but think of the people in Cleveland getting that week after week after week.

Officials blame loss on Seahawks

The Sports Pickle has another scoop.

...updated ... OK, Ryan covered the handshake thing yesterday. When I see a post that starts off about Duke basketball, I admit my eyes glaze over ...

Pirates Q & A

This week's installment discusses promotion, mainly. Two thoughts come to mind. One, a lot of fans starve with the Pirates and feast with the Steelers. I'd go nuts or give up sports if I only had the Pirates to follow, but that may just be me. Two, the Pirates will sell new player jerseys when they win more than half of their games. There's little the promotion team can do. You can't sell a losing team. The core or majority of the Pirates' next big fanbase is pretty much like the Steelers' fan base. They will be purists of a sort, and purists can only get excited, generally speaking, about winning teams.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tuesday Midnight Quarterback

Not a day that many Steeler fans could do much thinking on the internets, I suspect, with the likelihood of all-day Monday hangovers and all-day Tuesday hangovers and all-day Tuesday parade action, too.

So let's call it Wednesday Morning Quarterback, where Gregg Easterbrook stars in one of his best columns ever. In this one, Easterbrook is so right about so many things, I can only wonder if he's from Pittsburgh. Save it for tomorrow morning, when you are somewhat more fresh and clear-minded.

All hail Gregg with two g's.

Everyone loves a parade

If you can pull your kids out of school and still make it for the parade, by all means do it. It could be another 26 years before they have the chance to enjoy another one.

Tempers, tantrums, conspiracy theories

Wow, some heads sure did explode about the officiating. I did not realize the extent of the head-exploding among some self-styled "neutral" parties until the last hour or so, as I just scoured the coverage out there. The outrage! The hyperbole!

Some unsolicited advice: if your headline and argument is foaming at the mouth, you have no credibility when you claim "neutrality" or even rationality in paragraph one or three. Get a blog, you wacko nutjobs, until you get a more grown-up grip on your prose and emotions.

I can understand the bad press about the overall inconsistency of both teams. I can understand the thesis that runs, "both teams played bad, but Seattle played worse, so the Steelers won." OK, maybe. You could play it that way I suppose.

In contrast, some of the things people wrote last night and early this morning - for generally reputable sports sites - should be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. It's just embarrassing.

Neither team played a great game. The Steelers, however, had more and better big plays. And they were more poised, they were better coached, and they better executed on special teams. They did more little things better. Total yards? Time of possession? Since when did those stats determine the outcome? Quarterback rating? Who gives a damn? When did we start talking like QB rating "should" determine the final score--if the officiating is "perfect"? There are all kinds of ludicrous arguments out there to the effect that Seattle "won" or "dominated" (!) the game. Wow, wow, wow. I am shocked I say, shocked at the epidemic of unsportsmanlike SB analysis.

The team with the most points won. And they deserved to win - they scored twice as many points as the other team, for crissakes.

Steeler fans and Steeler players have nothing to apologize for, and nothing to feel guilty about. The idea did not even occur to me until I read it in print. I imagine 99.8% of all Steeler fans feel the same way. It was a football game like hundreds of other football games. A little disappointing to watch, but hardly a disappointment to finish. Or savor all day today, next week, and for years to come.

When did they perfect officiating, and since when did we have zero tolerance for close-call ambiguity? That should be water off the duck's back to any seasoned observer of the game. What's gotten into you non-Steeler fan people? Are you all so easily rattled as Mike Holmgren? He threw in-game tantrums and whined like a guilty child at the end of each half, and everyone identifies with him?

Why are some of you so high-strung? The paranoia about government and hatred of judicial authority. This is football: save that for your politics. Don't crap in the stands. The refs are firemen and ambulance drivers, Boy Scout leaders and church deacons, Dads and Pop-Pops, upstanding citizens in most every sense of those words. Get a grip, you crazy gripers.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cowboys Nation?

Joel Ryan reports for E! Online that SB XL had the biggest audience since SB XXX.

Sunday's Super Bowl XL, pitting the Seahawks against the victorious Pittsburgh Steelers and featuring a muted halftime performance by the Stones, averaged an estimated 90.7 million viewers, ABC said Monday. That's up about 5 percent last year's big game, which typically is never quite as big as when the Dallas Cowboys are playing, which they weren't.

Per Nielsen Media Research, Super Bowl XL's performance is the best since 1996 when, as is the rule, the Cowoys played.

What do those two Super Bowls have in common ... hmmm ... Ryan says XXX had the biggest because the Cowboys were in it. Why then was this a big audience? Seattle? Or maybe it was the Rolling Stones? Hard to say what XXX and XL had in common, or what there was about XL that might explain why the audience was so large. Luck? Oh I know--bad officiating!

Another thing I don't get is this. At every Steelers road game, there is a massive Steelers crowd. This is often interpreted as the Steelers' "travelling fans." Who travelled, for example, to Denver to see the Steelers? On one week's notice? When airfares were about a grand a pop?

What folks don't seem to get is that Steelers fans can be found, in great numbers, everywhere. Those 15,000 Steelers fans who got into Mile High for the AFC Championship live, for the most part, in Colorado. And a good share of those non-ticket having Steelers fans partying outside and around the stadium last night? They live in Detroit.

I know that Western PA buys a lot of jerseys and shirts and so forth, but the Steelers did not lead all NFL teams in 2005 apparel sales for that reason alone. And did not do that on the strength of the January 2006 playoff games.

Are the Cowboys really America's Team? (Azibuck, you don't answer this one OK.)

...UPDATE: E! Online edited out that stuff about the Cowboys. I did not make that up, and I'm glad I bothered to blockquote the relevant part. Someone must have smacked Joal Ryan on the ear for that nonsense. I guess it is E! and what can we expect.

Great moments in Super Bowl history

If you head over to SI's website, you can find this slideshow of the "Top 10 Super Bowl Moments" (under Super Bowl History, left side, "full coverage" page). Marcus Allen's 75-yard run appears as number 10. It put the Raiders up 35-9. It's no stretch to argue that Willie Parker's run will go down as a greater "moment": it was longer and far more important to the outcome of the game. But if that deserves recognition as the new #10 greatest moment in Super Bowl history, where do we rank the El pass to Ward, which was even more great and even more memorable?

Who will ever forget that play?

Nestled into a setting rich with mistakes and the mundane, were moments as great and as memorable as any in the history of the game.

Big plays

Some quick notes before we go out there and work like a champion today:

Back in the mid-90s, Ms. Rowdy, who is not much of a sports fan and never has been, caught an interview with Bill Cowher on the TV. Cowher's early teams were characterized by stifling defense and safe, ball-control offense. They had an annoying weakness: with a bounce here, a little luck there, and a 50-yard completion, another team could beat them after being shut down all game long. Witness that Championship game the Steelers lost to the San Diego Chargers. Cowher, probably thinking of that, was saying the team needed some big-play ability to get to the next level. "We need more BIG PLAYS," he said. Ms. Rowdy thought that was hilarious for some reason. For years, Ms. Rowdy offered that as her contribution to any sports conversation that broke out around her.

All hail the big play! We got big plays.

The Seahawks did not play like the second-best team in the NFL yesterday. On the other hand, that was not the best of the games the Steelers gave us in this year's playoff run. The early penalties on the Steelers' opening drive were a real buzzkill -- like someone turning on all the lights just when the party's getting started so they can look for their keys. The game played and looked more like your average 1pm Sunday game than it played and looked like an AFC playoff game.

The officials called way more penalties than I expected. I'll have to do the research some time and see if it is not the case that fewer penalties are called in the Super Bowl. Perhaps that impression was burned into my mind from Super Bowl XXX, when the Cowboys got away with everything.

Seahawk fans can complain about some of those calls, but there was nothing yesterday remotely like the Polamalu non-interception. It's a sorry reflection on the state of officiating in the NFL, that everyone watching the games these days expects to see the officials screw things up or make calls that scream "fix."

I did not like the pictures of the players with the Lombardi trophy. It creeped me out to see the Steelers mugging with a trophy they had not yet won. The best one was Cowher, holding it at arm's length and giving it a glare that said, "Why are they torturing me like this?" Players should have to win the big game before they are allowed to mug with Baby Lombardi.

Where was Terry Bradshaw? What a friggin' knucklehead.

When you are up by 11 points, there should be no passing on third-and-goal EVER. I thought we learned that lesson in that Denver AFC Championship game when Kordell threw the pick that went the other way & turned the game going into the half.

The Monday after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday.

Parade tomorrow. Enjoy the day.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Drink like a champion tonight

All hail the Steelers, your NFL Champions!

Super Bowl XL: Seahawks and Steelers

Here we go.

...halftime thoughts: well, huh. The score is about or close to what I expected, but how we got there, not what I expected. The Steelers did not come out with domination - they are playing a C game - and still they lead. The Seahawks looked rattled going into the half.

There should be no "we got a huge lead, there's 22 minutes left to play, what do we do now" type of mini-letdown, like we saw last week in Denver. Hopefully the team comes out with steadily increasing intensity and concentration (no more dropped passes, no more dropped INTs).

Cowher said something about getting the running game going, which is true. Seattle's the kind of team the Steelers want to drive a power back through. You have to take what they offer, and right now they are offering their gut with so many guys in pass coverage. Yet the team stayed with Willie Parker. Just as I was thinking they should start to lean on Bettis, Ben connects for some throws. Still I'd like to see more power running - for some first downs, for crissakes - in the second half.

Certainly better than the last Super Bowl. The Steelers have dodged a bullet or two and have the momentum and the opportunity coming out of the half.

Super Bowl prediction: Bones

Lopsided domination. Steelers' D shuts down Shaun and challenges Hasselbeck to step up. Despite his fearsome sagittal crest and perhaps due to improper nail care, Hasselbeck wears goat suit and wilts, Jake-style. Meanwhile, Ben plays like a champion today and lights up the Seattle secondary. ARE returns a punt back for a TD, and the Steelers serve up more whoop-ass: Steelers 41, Seahawks 13.