When the big game gets out of hand

first_imgEric He is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Fridays. For all but one year of my pre-collegiate life, I lived in a quiet suburban city in the Bay Area called Santa Clara, located a bit north of San Jose and an hour south of San Francisco.In fact, here’s where I tell people I’m from — because nobody understands the multitude of Bay Area cities, and anyone from the region can relate: “You know San Francisco? Yeah, I live there, but like, an hour away.”I won’t have to say that anymore after this weekend, when the world’s attention descends upon my nondescript hometown for Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, just six miles and a 15-minute drive from where I live.It feels very strange for my city to be hosting the grandest and most prestigious sporting event in America, and I use the word “strange” because I have mixed feelings about it.Santa Clara is not a sports town. It is not a town meant to have thousands of people streaming in for a major event, let alone a Super Bowl. Santa Clara is a classic suburb, consisting mainly of shopping plazas and office buildings, with little to no attractions or nightlife. In the midst of Silicon Valley, the city is right next to tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Intel – in other words, its main occupants are middle-aged engineers and techies living a middle-class lifestyle.Somehow, the San Francisco 49ers decided this would be the right place to build a new $1.3 billion stadium – $114 million of which came from taxpayer money – and move San Francisco’s team 40 miles away. It might as well be a world away, comparing the atmosphere of one of the world’s most iconic cities to a small suburban town. The Oakland Raiders, just a trek across the Bay Bridge away in the O.co Coliseum, are located closer to San Francisco than the 49ers.Since construction began on the stadium in 2012, I’ve watched firsthand as it was built, piece-by-piece, slowly taking on the form of a colossal, 70,000-seat venue. Infrastructure-wise, I have to admit it is as state-of-the-art as stadiums come. But something about it feels off – perhaps the way it panders to a corporate ideal. Sponsors are everywhere, including – and definitely not limited to – the Intel Gate, the Dignity Health Gate, the Toyota Gate, the SAP Tower, the Visa Box Office, the Pepsi Fan Deck, the Bud Light Patio and the Safeway Faithful Mile (fancy words for “tailgate area”). If a company asked to sponsor the restrooms, the 49ers would approve in a heartbeat. Celebrity chef Michael Mina has a Bourbon Steak restaurant in the stadium, and if you’re asking yourself who would go to a football game to eat a $95 steak, you’re not the only one.The immediate area has been affected as well. Right across the street is the Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club, where, as a kid, I used to play tennis with my father on Sunday afternoons. That’s no longer an option. Adjacent to the stadium sits the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park, home to 1,500 kids in the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League. Their website reads, “All fields: closed until further notice for Super Bowl 50” because the NFL has taken over and is turning the fields into a “media village” for the Super Bowl. A superior court judge denied a lawsuit by the soccer league, leaving the conditions of the artificial turf in danger and thousands of kids without a place to play.“The [Super Bowl] is big and cool, but it is also a really big downfall because we don’t have somewhere to practice,” Monica Hrncir, a 15-year-old soccer player, told USA Today. “They’ve had so much stuff there and the fields are totally trashed. It is pretty disappointing.”This is the pinnacle of corporate culture imposing its will on everyday citizens and why I am extremely lukewarm about the Super Bowl coming to town. The Super Bowl is not “big and cool” if you’re a youth soccer player looking to get to practice, or if you just happen to live nearby and have to cancel your plans on Sunday.And Santa Clara is not the only city affected by the Super Bowl. The majority of events this week leading up to the game are taking place in San Francisco, which will cost taxpayers approximately $5 million, and it doesn’t even have the benefit of hosting the actual game. The NFL put up a number of obnoxious “50” signs all over the city, and to retaliate, people are gleefully vandalizing them. In one location, the sign was tipped over with the lettering on it brilliantly rearranged from “Super Bowl 50” to “oops.”While I can’t lie that I’m not happy for my city hosting the Super Bowl, the bragging rights are far outweighed by the maddening corporate culture that will be made worse by the event. And so I hope something happens on Sunday — however big or small — that sends a negative message. Perhaps some people think the game is in San Francisco, spend hours stuck in traffic driving an hour south and miss the game entirely. Maybe another power outage disrupts the game, which would be an embarrassment for this state-of-the-art stadium with seemingly more sponsorships than there are residents in Santa Clara. Whatever happens, I believe turning my once-quiet suburban hometown into the center of the world on Sunday is doing more harm than good.last_img

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