Forget Pittsburgh, Tampa Wins Big In Super Bowl

There’s no doubt that fans who traveled to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII put their money to good use, as they were treated with a football game that lived up to its title as being truly “super.” In fact, members of the sports media are calling it possibly the best ever. Throughout the long history of professional sports, there has always been a fitting – not seemingly coincidental – correlation between some of the greatest games being played in some of the greatest venues.

In 1958, Yankee Stadium played host to the NFL Championship Game, commonly referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. More recently, possibly the greatest tennis match ever played occurred this past summer at Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Mark Messier also won the New York Rangers’ first Stanley Cup in 54 years in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. New York has what it takes to create great moments, and Tampa is quickly getting the hang of it.

Perhaps Tampa Bay is on to something. No matter what the official name on the stadium reads, whether it’s Tampa Stadium or Raymond James, the city of Tampa has been home to two of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. Before Ben Roethlisberger stood in front of the Buccaneer pirate ship, Bill Parcells was drenched in Gatorade and lifted off the field on the shoulders of his players. Parcells’ New York Giants had just won Super Bowl XXV at the old Tampa Stadium, thanks to Buffalo Bills’ kicker Scott Norwood who missed the game-winning kick wide right as time expired.

Sports Illustrated, in a recent issue, listed Tampa as the country’s third-best location to host a Super Bowl behind the top two vote-getters San Diego and Miami. Even with a feeble economy – which led to less media coverage, less celebrity appearances, and even cancelled Super Bowl parties – Tampa received sparkling reviews of the week that was. Ideal weather, a beautiful facility and natural gulf beaches paired with animated nightlife was persuasive enough for Mayor Pam Iorio and the Tampa City Council to place a bid for Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.

NBC’s telecast of the game brought in huge ratings for the local affiliate, WFLA Channel 8. According to the Nielsen Ratings, NBC scored a 42.1 rating and a share of 65 – just two points below last year’s Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. That game is significant not only for scoring a viewer rating of 44.7 which rendered it the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, but also because it serves as the prime source of head-to-head competition to this year’s game for the title as “greatest Super Bowl ever.”

Law enforcement did a terrific job of maintaining security checkpoints and procedures, as well as cracking down on fraudulent tickets and phony media credentials. The Tampa Police Department reported that 26 arrests were made in just a few hours before kickoff of those selling fake tickets at prices ranging from $2000-$5000 for admission into the stadium.

On Monday morning from a table at Starbucks, I witnessed a handful of tourists identified only by the Super Bowl merchandise adorning their bodies. I asked them to describe their experience from the entire week. Four gave positive responses, claiming they appreciated the cleanliness of the city and the various options for fun and entertainment including Clearwater Beach, International Mall and Busch Gardens. Those views reiterated what I heard the day before, on Super Bowl Sunday just a few hours prior to the game. Patrons outside Raymond James said the citizens and local businesses of Tampa Bay were friendly and welcoming, and that the city was easy to get around. Few were critical about the difficulties in getting not only near the stadium, but getting inside via Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue. They also shared a mutual dislike for the ongoing city projects, primarily highway construction on Interstate 275 and the Veterans Expressway.

This year, Tampa avoided repeating a mistake that earned the city much criticism that last time the Super Bowl was here in 2001. Eight years ago, Super Bowl XXXV was held in succession one day after the traditional Gasparilla Parade in which there was an increase of criminal activity including vandalism, drunk driving and public disorder. This time was different. The allure of Tampa, as experienced from many fans from out of town, is now etched in their memories and classified as a great venue for the largest professional sporting event. Don’t forget, the games played here are pretty good too.


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