Neutrality in the Super Bowl

Why is the Super Bowl played in a neutral location?

 

Every year in February millions of people–literally millions–gather around their televisions to watch the biggest sporting event of the year. There are parties planned around the Super Bowl, with meals, commercial watching and camaraderie abound in what becomes an evening to remember for most, football fans and otherwise.

But unlike most every other major sports’ championship, the NFL doesn’t play its final game in the stadium of one of the two teams involved. It seems like a move void of common sense; home field advantage is subject that’s often discussed by analysts, athletes and fans (including myself) and a strong motivator for teams to play past just a playoff berth.

However, there are some behind the scenes determining factors that go into picking a Super Bowl host.

The Setting

There are a stringent set of guidelines that must be adhered to when a stadium is being selected for the Super Bowl, including seating capacity (over 70,000), motel/hotel logistics, media rooms available, busses and limos, adequate staff and crew, and many more. While some of these are clear “yes” or “no” answers (seating capacity, hotels), others are more fluid (bus availability, staffing) and can be planned ahead, bringing us to the amount of planning that goes into a Super Bowl.

Unlike the championships of other major sports, there is an extreme amount of preparation that goes into the Super Bowl each year. Consider the moving pieces and logistics that need to be perfectly planned for the event–then realize just how much time is needed each year.

The Conditions

To ensure that weather doesn’t become a significant factor in determining the Super Bowl champ, cities that feature warmer climates are often chosen to play host. Weather is a toss up most of the time, and playing through snow is the norm during the regular season–but to have the deciding factor in the biggest game of the year be a slippery surface or hands too frozen to catch a football wouldn’t sit well with most fans.

Neutrality

At the heart of the choice of a neutral location for any given Super Bowl is just that–neutrality. The NFL is one of the only major sports leagues that features single-elimination playoffs. The NHL and NBA both use a 7-7-7-7 format while MLB uses a 1-5-7-7. The NFL’s single game championship presents an interesting conundrum–home field is a big advantage to have, but is it too impactful in a single-game format?

Ultimately, the answer is yes. In the final matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL, it’s been generally agreed that there should be no inherent advantage.