How the SuperBowl Drove New York City Crazy(er)

Those who viewed the SuperBowl through a lens located outside New York City may not have found it overly exciting due to the lackluster and largely predictable game— however, anyone who experienced it firsthand knows just what a noxious cocktail of rampant tourism, exasperation, and delightful oddity it truly was. For those who watched from home, here’s a roundup of what you didn’t see on television.

Photo Credit: Taylor Zartman
Photo Credit: Taylor Zartman

SuperBowl Boulevard: Any prolonged dalliance with central Midtown is always a cautionary tale of bumbling tourists and the resultant mounting frustration, but the SuperBowl’s presence in New York transformed the usual Midtown madness into a full-blown circus, at least between 34th and 47th streets. The sectioned-off blocks included among other things a toboggan run, a concert space, a variety of football-themed public artworks, and various pavilions sponsored by advertisers peddling free wares at the price of long lines. Crowds on every block were suffocatingly thick— for example, the line for admission to the Bryant Park festivities (which included free food furnished by gourmet chefs in the employment of SuperBowl sponsors) wrapped multiple times around the nearby New York Public Library’s perimeter. For New Yorkers, the whole thirteen-block shebang was ultimately a headache and a half, but free pizza has a way of making any frustration slightly less of a bitter pill to swallow.

Traffic: New York traffic is always legendary in its bedlam, but the SuperBowl put the kibosh on smooth transportation on multiple fronts—cabs were in high demand, lanes were unprecedentedly congested, and the subway ran on a schedule absent of seemingly any rhyme or reason. With police presence obtruding what felt like every streetcorner and an army of standers and gawkers clogging up the sidewalks, even walking wasn’t safe.

Chobani Advertising: Publicity stunts puppeted by advertisers are nothing new, particularly in major metropolises, but yogurt juggernaut Chobani took it to the next level by unleashing the hunger-crazed bear from its television advertisements into the wilderness that is midtown Manhattan. Watching the bear (or more accurately the bear-suited performance artist) ransack churro carts and terrorize passersby might just have been a better show than the game itself.

Sex Trafficking: New York’s flirtation with prostitution is among the city’s worst-kept secrets, but the advent of the SuperBowl introduced an added wrinkle when the sex trafficking industry shipped into Manhattan with the intention of snaring tourists. CNN reported that forty-five sex traffickers were arrested and sixteen juveniles rescued during SuperBowl weekend, so thanks to the NFL for inadvertently exposing a small sector of one of the world’s seediest underbellies, though one can’t help but hope that it didn’t take a multi-million dollar extravaganza to do so.

Real Estate Prices: Craigslist isn’t known for its sterling reputation, but even the most cursory troll of New York’s Craigslist platform is always an entertaining romp of sketchy gigs for questionable pay, would-be sugar daddies seeking college students, and too-good-to-be-true real estate advertisements. The SuperBowl’s influence on the real estate page wasn’t any good, but it was true— apartment owners far and wide rented out their spaces at astronomical prices to tourists looking to get closer to the game than hotels could provide. Surely almost all of these tourists were overcharged, but on the other hand, a vast number of New Yorkers just made a tidy profit.

All in all, New York’s take on the SuperBowl had its charms purely for the shock factor, but for local New Yorkers, it proved more of a hindrance to the daily routine. Then again, is that such a bad thing?

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