- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No one talks about dreams in the make-believe world of sports these days, not in these economic conditions.

The Oakland Athletics can’t get a new ballpark built.

Manny Ramirez can’t get a big payday.

And the notion of a Super Bowl played in the D.C. area seems more foolish than ever.

The District this month played host to one of the biggest events this country has seen in recent memory - the inauguration of President Barack Obama. And so it is galling to see Tampa, the Waffle House capital of America, play host to the nation’s biggest sporting event this week and know the game may never happen here.

The Super Bowl will be played in Miami next season - though if you’ve ever been to Dolphins Stadium, you know it’s closer to the Everglades than it is to any beach.

After that comes the great insult - 2011, when Jerry Jones plays host to the Super Bowl at his new stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Traditionally, the host city has been a warm-weather site, the idea being if you want people to travel and spend thousands of dollars on the Super Bowl experience, you had better make it a place they want to visit.

But no one was drinking margaritas on the deck overlooking the Detroit River when Super Bowl XL was held at Ford Field. And the warm weather certainly wasn’t a factor in choosing Minneapolis to host the game in 1992, either.

Both of those cities have what is the prerequisite for a cold-weather site: A domed stadium. The dome is supposed to protect the integrity of the game.

How has that worked out?

The Super Bowl has generally been a snooze, not nearly as compelling as the playoff games preceding it in such messy, cold places as Pittsburgh or New York. The main benefit of playing the game indoors has been that we haven’t had to watch a boring game from the Goodyear blimp.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say everything but the game is the lure for fans to the Super Bowl, then claim the integrity of the game must be protected by an indoor facility in a cold weather city. Either it is a football game or it is not - and in many cases it has not been much of a football game.

Maybe it’s time for the Super Bowl to be a football game played in a football city - like Washington.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder has lobbied the NFL in the past to play the Super Bowl at FedEx Field. There even has been talk of putting on a temporary roof to accommodate the game.

Those talks have gone nowhere, and the belief is that Washington won’t host the Super Bowl until it has a new, covered stadium.

That was part of the plan when the District undertook its foolish effort to win the 2012 Summer Olympics - build a new Olympic stadium that would then serve as home for the Redskins. (It was not clear at the time if the stadium would actually be a domed facility.)

That dream seemed to die with the rejected bid for the Olympics.

But Mayor Adrian Fenty revived the notion of the Redskins returning to the District in a new, covered stadium that could host a number of events - including the Super Bowl.

As recently as November, while watching FedEx Field turn into Heinz Field South when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Redskins in a Monday night game, Fenty said a new stadium for the Redskins in the District was still on his agenda.

But that, of course, was before the economy went into full-blown crisis mode. No one in this climate would dare bring up the possibility of a new football stadium in Washington.

That project would be complicated and difficult, even under the best of conditions. The club would have to find a way to reach an agreement with the state of Maryland to buy out the remainder of its deal for funding the infrastructure surrounding FedEx Field, which is tied to the lease that runs until 2027. The club would have to find a way to finance a new stadium without public funds.

Some of the ideas that have been kicked around include Snyder paying for the new stadium in return for acquiring development rights to valuable land along the Anacostia River.

But no one is being so creative these days, when the dream is simply to survive. So who knows if there will be a new home for the Redskins - and a Super Bowl site - in the near future.

There’s no reason, though, that FedEx Field couldn’t host this game.

The NFL should have been paying attention to what happened in Washington last week with the inauguration of President Obama.

This is not Tampa. This is a big event town.

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