Idea for NY Super Bowl was born in aftermath of 9/11 attacks

Then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue smiles during a press Then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue smiles during a press conference for the New Orleans Saints. Photo Credit: AP, 2006

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If it seems people have been talking for years about the Super Bowl coming to the metropolitan area -- and all of the potential logistical challenges that might come with it -- that is because they have.

NFL owners approved a joint bid to host the 2014 game by the Jets and Giants on May 25, 2010, when their new stadium still generically was called "New Meadowlands Stadium,'' when the Giants' Eli Manning had not yet won his second Super Bowl MVP award and when his older brother Peyton still played for the Indianapolis Colts.

But the road that will end Feb. 2 with Super Bowl XLVIII being played at what now is known as MetLife Stadium goes back well before even that, to the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Paul Tagliabue, then commissioner of the National Football League, told Newsday earlier this month the notion initially came up when the league faced a scheduling conflict for Super Bowl XXXVI with a car dealers' convention in New Orleans.

That game was to be played a week after originally planned because of the postponement of NFL games the weekend after the 9/11 attacks, but much of New Orleans' hotel and convention space was spoken for. Before the league and the auto dealers negotiated a solution, Tagliabue suggested Giants Stadium as an alternative.

Tagliabue did not give up on the idea, forming a committee to study the feasibility of an outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather climate, and pushing for the idea among owners, in part as a post-9/11 show of support for the region.

"It would be great affirmation that the city is resilient, the city is up and running, that the people are resilient, and it would be a vote of confidence for the city and region, and a vote of thanks in the aftermath of 9/11,'' he told Newsday.

The notion of an outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl did not gain traction at the time but was revived when another impetus came along: MetLife Stadium itself, which opened in the spring of 2010, just as the New York/New Jersey bid was coming up for a vote.

During the past decade the league has granted Super Bowls as a reward of sorts for building a new stadium, a carrot that helped Houston, Detroit, Glendale, Ariz., Arlington, Texas, and, in 2016, Santa Clara, Calif., land the big game.

It also helped that the New York/New Jersey bid had the support of two franchises -- one of them co-owned by the venerable Mara family -- and that it promised the backdrop of the media and financial capital of the United States.

East Rutherford, N.J., needed four ballots to prevail over two Florida bids, eventually beating out Tampa after the Miami Dolphins' home in south Florida was eliminated in an earlier vote. By the final ballot the bid needed only 17 votes, a simple majority of the 32 teams.

The announcement was televised live by the NFL Network and shown on monitors in Times Square.

"It's a historic moment for the league,'' commissioner Roger Goodell said when the vote came in during owners meetings in Irving, Texas, that spring day in 2010. "There are some unique aspects to this, and I think that appealed to our membership.''

"We want to thank the NFL owners for having confidence in our ability to host this game and for having the guts to want to make some history,'' Giants president John Mara said after the vote.

As the vote neared the New York-area bid emerged as the favorite, in part because other owners of teams in cold-weather regions saw the possibility for Super Bowls in their futures if all went well in New York.

Goodell also saw the bid as a chance to add a wrinkle to the Super Bowl brand, saying, "Innovation is a big part of our initiative.''

On the day of the announcement Mara credited Jets owner Woody Johnson with pushing him to embrace the idea, and to lobby fellow owners to the cause.

In 2005 the NFL had given conditional approval for the 2010 Super Bowl to be held at a proposed stadium with a retractable roof the Jets attempted to build on the West Side of Manhattan, a facility that never was built.

Super Bowl XLVIII will be the first NFL championship game held in the New York area since the Giants hosted the Green Bay Packers at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 30, 1962, four years before the first Super Bowl was played.

That game widely is remembered for a frigid wind that limited the offenses in the Packers' 16-7 victory and that many of the fans who were there still recall as one of the coldest days of their lives.

This time there will be a comfortable, modern stadium for fans to sit in, but still no roof to shield them from the elements.

"We've come a long way since the Polo Grounds in 1925, when we used to hand out tickets,''' Mara said on the day of the announcement in 2010, wearing his late father Wellington's 1956 NFL Championship ring for good luck.

"The league has come a long way and the sport has come a long way. It would have been a proud moment for my father.''

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