Sekerci: Don’t crown the Super Bowl as the world’s biggest sporting event

Burak Sekerci, Columnist

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Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLIX represented the “biggest sporting event in the world,” as many call the NFL’s annual championship game. It is hard to argue with the massive numbers surrounding the Super Bowl. The game has an estimated financial impact of $600 million on the economy of the host city Glendale, Arizona, and its surrounding areas. According to a Forbes article published on Sunday, an average ticket costs $3,950, the players of the winning team receive $165,000 in bonuses, the betting on the event totals more than $8 billion, a 30-second advertisement costs on average $4.5 million and about 112.2 million people watched the event. But does all of this extravagancy and these enormous numbers mean the Super Bowl is the single most important sporting event in the world?

There are many instances where Super Bowl comes short in numbers when compared to other sporting events. In March 2014, the El Clasico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona was watched by about 400 million people worldwide. If we look at the status quo of both games, El Clasico is a rivalry match in La Liga, Spain’s top soccer league, that happens at least two times every year. On the other hand, the Super Bowl is a game to decide the the champion of the NFL, which happens only one time every year. The fact that a rivalry game in not even the most watched soccer league can beat Super Bowl in spectator numbers contradicts the argument that the Super Bowl is the world’s biggest sporting event.

According to Forbes’ “The World’s 50 Most Popular Sports Teams 2014,” Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two most valuable sports teams in the world: Real Madrid has a value of $3.44 billion and Barcelona has a value of $3.2 billion. Meanwhile, New England Patriots rank as the eighth most valuable team in the world at $1.8 billion and Seattle Seahawks place 28th with a net worth of $1.081 billion. Clearly, the Super Bowl teams are not nearly as valuable as the El Clasico teams, which again detracts from the idea that the Super Bowl is the world’s most important sporting event.

Returning to the Super Bowl itself, I wonder if people really watch it for the game, or if it’s just a misunderstood norm because people say that it is the biggest sporting event of the world. According to an informal social media survey that USA Today created, only 25 percent of the people said that they will be watching the Super Bowl for the football game, while 32.5 percent of the people will be either working or have other plans for the night and 15 percent will be watching the Super Bowl just for the commercials or the halftime show — so no true interest in football there. The survey shows that as many as 20 percent of respondents have no interest in the Super Bowl itself, and 7.5 percent of the people will be watching Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl instead of the Super Bowl. This brings the total to around 40 percent of respondents who actually planned on having their TVs on Super Bowl game.

Looking over the data that we have, the Super Bowl doesn’t look like the biggest sporting event to me at all. While it is hard to gain exact numbers, FIFA reported that 909.6 million television viewers watched at least part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, with numbers for the 2014 final expected to be even higher. Having said that, I don’t want to undermine the effect of the Super Bowl as the biggest American sporting event. With such substantial numbers, it will remain the same for many years, but to me, it is hard to crown the Super Bowl as the biggest sporting event in the world.

Burak Sekerci is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at buraksekerci2017@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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