What is the best Super Bowl host city

Super Bowl: The slimmed-down mega-event

The Superbowl: the highlight of every American football season. This time, too, he provides a lot of talking point in advance: for example the duel between the two quarterbacks - the legendary Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Patrick Mahomes, the superstar of the Kansas City Chiefs.

But here too, at the NFL final, one topic dominates: Corona. No parties, no big show and almost no fans. The entire season was overshadowed by postponements and new appointments. Isolation of the stars before the start of the season, no preparation games, training units while maintaining the distance, tactic schemes hectically compiled by the coaches.

But despite these precautionary measures, it became clear week after week that the pandemic had also reached the NHL. Every team, from the New England Patriots to the Baltimore Ravens, has been affected by COVID-19 infections.

Free tickets for medical staff

Yet many people in the United States are looking forward to this year's Super Bowl. It is a distraction, an escape from everyday life, a piece of normality. That Super Bowl that not only attracts die-hard football fans but also the occasional audience in front of the TV.

The duel between the star quarterbacks Tom Brady (left) and Patrick Mahomes

"The Super Bowl is the culmination of the NFL, the nation's top television product," wrote J.A. Adande, director of the sports journalism program at Northwestern University, told DW: "Professional football offers pomp and legal violence. It's as American as it gets."

This year, the host city of Tampa, Florida, will have to forego all the fuss. Under normal circumstances, the city would be full of football fans and media representatives the week before the game - a welcome PR for the city and a boost for the local economy. The teams would also be there a week before the big game. This time they only arrive the day before.

"Tourism and hospitality around the Super Bowl usually wash tens of millions of dollars in the coffers," Mark Hyman of the University of Maryland told DW. "Usually it means ten days of partying, but this year it's going to be sobering."

Gigantism, partying, exuberance (like here in 2020) - little of that will remain in Tampa

This year's Super Bowl, Raymond James Stadium, has a capacity of 65,000, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, organizers will only allow 22,000 visitors. These include 7,500 vaccinated medical workers who have received free tickets from the NFL in recognition of their work. The fans are kept at a distance and have to wear masks. For the first time since the introduction of the Super Bowl in 1967, the season finale is not played in front of a sold out house.

Business before health?

Still, the NFL has to put up with the question of whether it puts its economic wellbeing above social and political issues - or even about the health of its players. There has been a lot of criticism of the league's handling of the pandemic. Despite coronavirus infections among the professionals, the NFL continued to play. "She was proud to get through the season without game cancellations, even if that meant, among other things, that a team had to play without a real quarterback," said Adande. "The NFL has never put the wellbeing of its athletes above business."

Literature shooting star Amanda Gorman read her poem at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden

The show goes on, pandemic or not - even at the Super Bowl. In addition to the usual star appearances at halftime, the league has also invited young writer Amanda Gorman to Tampa. The 22-year-old had inspired the country at the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20 when she recited a poem in which she had also dealt with the storm on the Capitol two weeks earlier. At the Super Bowl, she is supposed to recite a poem about the pandemic.

Slimmed-down TV advertising event

The pandemic is also having an impact on advertising revenue. Typically, companies pay around $ 5 million for a 30-second television commercial during in-game commercials - a lucrative source of income for the NFL. "Super Bowl Sunday is as important to advertising as the Oscars are to the film industry," Robert Kolt, professor of advertising and communications at Michigan State University, told DW. "Everyone tries to do the best and most creative work for it. Almost half of the viewers tune in just to see the commercials."

The stage is ready for the 55th Super Bowl in NFL history

However, major advertisers such as beverage companies Budweiser, Coca Cola and Pepsi have decided against booking advertising time for this year's Super Bowl. They justified this, among other things, with the fact that the major event could not be reconciled with the mood in the country. Instead, companies like Budweiser want to invest marketing money in a vaccination campaign.

Communication scientist Kolt assumes that the viewers at the Super Bowl are still looking for a few hours of distraction. Those in charge of the NFL would have to find an approach that can be reconciled with the current situation: "You have to be creative, make people laugh and give them joy".

Perhaps the Bucs from Tampa and the Chiefs from Kansas City will be able to use a spectacular game to ensure that the 2021 NFL final is not only remembered as the Super Bowl of the corona pandemic.

Adaptation: Tobias Oelmaier