The Super Bowl is a big deal, at least for Americans. (How big? Ninety-seven million people in the United States watched last year’s game.)
It is not only the country’s biggest sporting event, it is one big party.
But celebrations just aren’t the same in the midst of a deepening recession, when millions have lost their jobs. That was true of Sunday’s event in Tampa too.
The telecast serves as a showcase for advertising. Broadcaster NBC managed to sell all 69 advertising slots for the game, for a record $206 million in revenue, but it took a long time, with several spots booked in the last few days. (The asking price was $3 million for 30 seconds.)
In a sign of the times, the Big Three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, were absent; Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com had spots.
On the ground, the famous Sports Illustrated and Playboy parties were cancelled, some others scaled down.
The Associated Press reported that hotels had vacant rooms, restaurants had empty tables.
And shortly before kickoff, scalpers still had tickets.
The auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that this edition of the Super Bowl would generate business worth $150 million, down sharply from $193 million last year when the game was played in Phoenix.
President Barack Obama had invited 15 lawmakers — 11 Democrats and four Republicans — to the White House to watch the game with him. The team Obama was rooting for, the Pittsburgh Steelers, lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23.
The chill from the recession is being felt everywhere. California, which if it were a country would rank as the seventh-largest economy in the world, has a projected budget deficit of $42 billion, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a fiscal emergency.
Starting this week, many state government offices there will be shut on the first and third Fridays of each month — unless an appeals court stays Schwarzenegger’s order.
The governor hopes that forcing workers to take two days off without pay every month will save the state $1.3 billion.
Last week a Sacramento County judge rejected union challenges to the furlough order.