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New York area on the clock for history-making Super Bowl

By Steve Politi, Special to CNN
updated 9:34 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
Sunday's power outage at the Super Bowl delayed the game for 34 minutes. Next year it's being played in the Northeast for the first time.
Sunday's power outage at the Super Bowl delayed the game for 34 minutes. Next year it's being played in the Northeast for the first time.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Steve Politi: Superdome power outage sets stage for next year's Super Bowl in N.J.
  • Winter storm could shut down transportation and make for freezing, miserable spectators
  • But if the game is a success, more cold-weather markets may host Super Bowls
  • Fans like to take over host cities, so Politi wonders if NYC will "swallow the game whole"

Editor's note: Steve Politi is a sports columnist for The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @StevePoliti

(CNN) -- They were the strangest 34 minutes in Super Bowl history: The two teams were standing on the field. A hundred million people were watching at home. And the only thing that was happening was -- nothing.

The power outage at the Superdome was not only one of the biggest story lines for Super Bowl XLVII. It sets the stage for the big game in one year at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Think about it: If a minor power outage can dominate talk around the biggest sporting event of the year, imagine the possible doomsday scenarios for the league's first cold-weather outdoor game.

A winter storm could shut down the transportation hubs -- as a powerful nor'easter was expected to do through the Mid-Atlantic region starting Friday afternoon.

Freezing rain could make the experience miserable for spectators.

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Or the poor weather could keep the fans from arriving early in the week leading up to the game, which is when the host market reaps the biggest benefits from having the game.

For these reasons and more, the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl -- just 359 days from now, for those fans already in serious football withdrawal -- could be the most important in NFL history.

If the game is a success, it could not only open the door for New York/New Jersey to host future games -- and the CEO of its host committee said last week he wants that to become a reality -- but it also could lead to bids from other cold-weather markets such as Denver, New England and Washington.

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If the game is a failure, it would not only reflect poorly on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who pushed for it, but it also would be the third black eye in four years for the marquee event on the NFL calendar.

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In 2011, the Super Bowl in Dallas was marred by controversy when temporary sections in Cowboy Stadium failed inspection, which meant 1,250 fans had expensive tickets for the game but no seats. This winter, the power failure may have helped the 49ers -- down 28-6 when the lights went out -- to regroup and nearly pull off the greatest comeback in the game's history.

New York/New Jersey is on the clock. Can it exceed expectations? Al Kelly, the CEO of the host committee, not only thinks it will, but also believes hosting the game won't be a one-time thing.

"It's the biggest sporting event in North America," Kelly said. "It's only right that it gets on the biggest stage in the world, and hopefully it makes sense that that should happen once a decade. Right?

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"I don't have any vision that we're going to get three out of the next 12 Super Bowls or something. But maybe, because of all the other things you can do in the region, which is an endless list of options, we can have it again."

Kelly and his team spent last week in New Orleans attending events and meetings to gather as much information as possible from a city that has hosted 10 Super Bowls. They returned home to begin processing that information and continue their preparations for next winter.

The priority: Finding more volunteers. Kelly said 12,000 already have signed up, but he wants about 18,000 -- many of them at every major transportation hub, helping the visitors find their way around.

Kelly is counting on the many entertainment options in the New York/New Jersey region -- from Broadway to the museums to the long list of restaurants -- to make the week special for fans. Some of the problems that occurred in smaller Super Bowl cities such as Indianapolis and Jacksonville, including long lines at most dining options and a scarcity of taxis, are not a concern.

But the New York/New Jersey bid is combating more than just Mother Nature to make it successful. Fans generally attend an event like this to be around others like themselves. They take over a city like New Orleans for the week. Will New York swallow the game whole?

The city hopes it has a solution -- something called "Super Bowl Boulevard," a massive fan event in Manhattan from January 29 to February 1 that will feature nightly concerts, NFL-theme exhibits and even the Lombardi Trophy.

Still, with the teams practicing in New Jersey and the game and game-day events across the Hudson River, Kelly knows most fans will have to rely on public transportation.

"If you can make the fan comfortable, feeling safe and feeling welcome, and there's a lot to do, I think that makes a great Super Bowl experience," Kelly said. "I don't know how much the game is the draw. The game is the great enabler -- it creates all of this -- but whether the Super Bowl is exciting or not exciting, they still want to come back to it and the experience that surrounds it."

Goodell is counting on it. He admitted that the success or failure of the New York/New Jersey game will affect where the NFL places its big event in the future. Glendale, Arizona, will host the game in 2015, while the 2016 host -- Miami or San Francisco -- will be announced on May 22.

"The game of football is made to be played in the elements," Goodell said. "Now, we hope they're not extreme, but we'll be prepared for that if that's the case. Some of our most classic games were played in extreme weather conditions. You know them all: The Ice Bowl. Some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, 'That was fun.'"

Will Super Bowl XLVIII end up on that list? Or will a winter storm make that 34-minute power outage in New Orleans seem like a happy moment in NFL history by comparison?

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