Daniel Ruth

A super bowl of steaming hooey

As urban myths go, this has to rank right up there with Barack Obama is a Muslim, Mr. Rogers was a secret government assassin and Elvis is alive and managing a trailer park in Two Egg.

To hear the mandarins running the Super Bowl hoopla, one would think the streets of our fair hamlet will be paved in precious jewels once the big game actually arrives here two weeks from Sunday, which of course is poppycock, wrapped in balderdash, inside a healthy dollop of phooey.

Crunching numbers from the Baghdad Bob School of Wishful Thinking, the National Football League and local tourism officials have whistled past the graveyard that Super Bowl XXCDDLVIIIXXDVXLDDIII will be worth upward of $300-million in economic impact.

If we've learned anything over the years, it is that when you hear some sports hotsy-tot start babbling about jockstrap "economic impact" what they are really saying is: "We are more clueless than Brian Blair and Buddy Johnson forming a committee to try to figure out how to open a bag of pork rinds, so we just made up a number in the hope no one would notice the three- card monte game we are foisting off on the public."

For years we've been subjected to the dubious notion of what a pile-driving "economic impact" juggernaut the Tampa Bay Bucs are, as if every time Monte Kiffin belched in Lutz, a Humvee was sold in Fort Lonesome.

And yet in the 30-plus years the Bucs have been annoying people in this community, Tampa Bay has hardly been confused with Brigadoon meets the Garden of Eden.

So it understandable why the hash-mark czars of professional football blanch every time they hear the name Philip Porter, the party pooper of the gridiron, who has become to the Super Bowl what a proctologist is to middle-aged men. It isn't pretty.

Think of Porter as a sort of steroid tester of the NFL bottom line.

The University of South Florida economist is part of a growing number of scholars who have studied the "economic impact" piffle offered up by a number of high-profile sports hucksters, who claim their particular event will bestow all manner of moola on cities. If the NFL is correct that literally hundreds of millions of dollars accrue to cities like Tampa for hosting the Super Bowl, it is only reasonable one would see a massive spike in sales tax revenues collected just prior to, during and after the game is played.

Or perhaps the NFL executive suite is seeing more enhanced performance substances being ingested than Lyle Alzado meets the old East German women's shot put team.

This isn't complicated John Maynard Keynes stuff, here. But it may be the NFL's Maynard G. Krebs approach to accounting.

Indeed, in evaluating sales tax receipts for the past three Super Bowls hosted by Tampa, Porter has found precious little in the way of a mother lode of added funds flowing into the city's coffers, mirroring a trend found in other Super Bowl locales, as well as communities that have been the scene of All-Star games, Final Four basketball tournaments and even the Olympics.

Deadwood probably had more reliable ledger books.

To be sure, hotels, caterers, limo services, florists, geegaw merchants and the like will certainly enjoy an increase in business. But after Super Bowl XXXVVVDDLVIIMCXXLIDXV is played will our schools be any better, our roads improved, mass transit realized? Has it ever?

So why do the NFL robber barons and their city of Tampa co-conspirators of grand illusion persist in this long-debunked notion of riches beyond imagination simply on the basis of a simple football game?

Well, maybe it's simply because they can. And maybe it's because the general public already knows it is being played for a chump, but at least everyone has a good time. Still your chances of getting into one the week's chichi, froufrou soirees of beautiful people is about as likely as Malcolm Glazer finally honoring his long-ago promise to pay for his half of Hellooooo Sucker Stadium.

There is an argument that the Super Bowl affords a city like Tampa some free national publicity. That's probably true, although if the country doesn't already know where Tampa is maybe some of that phantom $300-million ought to be spent improving school geography programs.

Or perhaps it might be better applied to teaching Economics 101, the works of Lewis Carroll, or the of myth of Sisyphus, who kept rolling that rock and never got anywhere.

A super bowl of steaming hooey 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 8:02pm]

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