The run up to Super Bowl 50 has begun. Now it’s time to predict how the media will cover San Francisco’s happenings over the next two weeks.
Before starting, my early December forecast that San Francisco would “not go for the Super Bowl 50 hype” is looking good. I saw excitement building only if the Seattle Seahawks reached the championship game, and they did not. Few Bay Area residents (Steph Curry is the exception) have a major rooting interest in the Carolina-Denver outcome.
Media Angle No. 1: It’s All City Hall’s Fault
Traffic snarls, BART and MUNI delays, long restaurant lines—-what people customarily blame on other factors will now be attributed to bad planning by City Hall.
The City Hall bashing began last week with supervisors questioning why San Francisco agreed to pick up $4-5 million in costs for public services supporting Super Bowl 50 events. The media highlighted City Hall’s alleged lack of negotiating skills without mentioning that San Francisco got all the financial benefits of a Super Bowl without funding a stadium.
Voters approved $100 million for Candlestick in 1997 but mayors Newsom and Lee never spent the funds. So not only will San Francisco’s net Super Bowl revenue exceed the $5 million costs, but subtracting these costs from the $100 million not spent at Candlestick leaves the city ahead by $95 million in its dealings with the NFL.
So much for claims San Francisco lacks negotiating skills.
The only other city that ever got all the Super Bowl restaurant and hotel business despite not funding a new stadium is New York City. In 2013 the game was played in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which the Jets and Giants privately built.
That stadium deal, a titanic rip off of New Jersey taxpayers, at least involved a privately funded facility, unlike the Santa Clara home for the 49ers. Those now claiming that Santa Clara out-negotiated San Francisco because it forced the NFL to cover its Super Bowl costs forget that Santa Clara taxpayers are paying over $37 million for the stadium—with the indirect costs bringing the total much higher.
If you think Santa Clara has gotten an overall better deal from the NFL than San Francisco, I have a bridge to sell you.
Media Angle No. 2: Visitors Aren’t Seeing Real SF
This media angle has already been launched with claims that San Francisco is trying to put its homeless problem “out of the eyes of the media.” According to Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness, “They want to decrease the physical presence and reminder of poverty and create an illusion that poverty does not exist by removing poor people from the vicinity of the Super Bowl Party.”
Unfortunately for reporters pushing this angle, Mayor Lee held a packed December press conference launching a new strategy to address the city’s homeless crisis. The mayor’s public stance about the persistence of homelessness and the need for greater resources refutes all we will hear in the next two weeks about alleged City Hall efforts to hide San Francisco’s poor.
Media Angle No. 3: Real San Franciscans Don’t Care
Expect the media to quote from the many San Franciscans completely blasé about portions of our city being temporarily taken over by Super Bowl visitors. Preferred lines include “this is nowhere as disruptive as Oracle” and “San Francisco had a lot more people come for Salesforce’s recent event.”
We will hear that San Franciscans are a sophisticated people who argue over wine choices not sports teams. These stories will be careful to overlook the consistent sellouts for the Giants and Warriors and the million people attending Giants victory parades.
And let’s not forget that the San Francisco 49ers had an enormous home field advantage when they played at Candlestick. No NFL team had louder or more loyal fans.
Media Angle No. 4: The Weather
Given El Nino, there is a good chance it will rain on Super Bowl Sunday. This ensures a deluge of articles on the impact of bad weather on both teams, why the NFL allowed game to be played in city where rain was likely, and how fans will be affected.
Media Angle No.5: The Hidden San Francisco
If past Super Bowls are a guide, some reporters will avoid the obvious media angles and write about the hidden, offbeat San Francisco. Gary Kamiya gave them guidance with his new San Francisco Magazine story, “The 49-Mile Oddball Crawl,” and reporters are likely to use areas featured in his list for their own stories.
I’d like to invite all those reporters seeking the real grit of San Francisco to visit the Tenderloin Museum. A day spent in the Tenderloin, Chinatown, and out in the 49ers former home neighborhood of Bayview-Hunters Point offers reporters a very different story line than they will get at the formal parties on Market Street.
Discovering San Francisco’s full richness requires going off the beaten path. The next two weeks will test whether reporters simply repeat the predicted media angles, or go outside the lines to discover what really makes San Francisco one of the world’s great cities.
Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.San Francisco News