Super Bowl … Saturday?!

Super Bowl 2012

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m going to use the occasion to examine the question of moving the game day to Saturday. This is an idea I’ve been a proponent of for quite some time and when talking about it with friends I always complained that the NFL was foolish not to adopt it.

For many years I stood by this argument without bothering to further examine why the Super Bowl remained on a Sunday. This demonstrated a fallacy called Ought-Is or Wishful Thinking. Simply put it is the idea that we want something to be true so we therefore believe it is true without critical analysis. The Ought-Is is a pretty common reason why we fail to fully examine situations and make mistakes.

So, let’s put on our Critical Thinking caps and get to work!

The benefits of a Saturday game are fairly self-evident. Parties could occur on Saturday night instead of Sunday night. Bars, hotels, and other venues would get a boost in revenue because the revelry could go on all evening. The game itself would air in the evening rather than late afternoon. People could stay up late without having to go to work the next morning.

Our critical thinking skills come into play to determine why the game, with all these tangible benefits, hasn’t been moved. One of the important aspects of critical thinking is determining who stands to gain and who stands to lose by a particular proposition. In this case the thing I chose to ignore was the idea of who loses with a Saturday game. Can you think of the answer? Take a moment.

Two parties lose by moving the game to Saturday, the NFL and the host city. The process by which the NFL determines the host city does not involve, to my knowledge, a direct cash payment. However, the host city is generally chosen by their “ability to host”. Well, let’s parse that phrase. What the NFL means by “ability to host” is really how much money can they extract from people who come to see the game.

While the NFL benefits from direct ticket sales and certainly from advertising I would imagine that the events surrounding the Super Bowl, including specially built venues to entertain the visitors in around the host city, provide a hefty boost to that income. Most of these special events take place on Saturday with a continuation onto game day. This revenue would certainly decrease with only half a day on Saturday to run before the game.

Likewise, the host city gets more hotel revenue and more tourist revenue by having the game on Sunday. Tourists arrive either late on Friday or early on Saturday and spend the rest of their time spending money. If the game were played on Saturday this would eliminate a full day of tourist revenue. Now, certainly many tourists would stay through Sunday in any case but the loss of revenue would certainly be significant.

Ok, now we’ve uncovered the reason for the game staying on Sunday, can we come up with a solution to the problem? The only real solution that I can think of is to have some sort of national holiday on the Friday before the Super Bowl (if the game is on Saturday) or the Monday after (if the game remains on Sunday). The NFL has proposed such solutions but it seems unlikely that the government will get involved and even if they do, some companies would ignore the holiday and this might curtail some of the revenue generation.

So, for all our critical thinking we don’t have an easy solution. That’s the way of it sometimes but at least I have some peace of mind as to why the game continues to be played on a Sunday.

I would suggest that we all try to use our critical thinking skills when faced with a seemingly absurd situation. Oftentimes you will find that Wishful Thinking has blinded you to the reality of a dilemma.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist