So ends Jed York’s big week, one in which he got to forget his local image problems and act like the feudal lord all NFL owners fancy themselves being. He hosted the National Football League and all its best clients, and he basked in his newfound national importance. His uncle got a pretty new gold jacket and the rest of the family got to play important-person dressup when he got it. The traffic wasn’t good, but the weather was. The game was lousy, so it didn’t needlessly embarrass his own team’s standard of play. He even got to trade the Girl Scouts for Beyonce and only looked ridiculous for a day.
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But was Superb Owl really superb enough? The harsh but accurate assessment is this: No.
In fairness, though, it wouldn’t have mattered how the week went. No matter what the Bay Area did this past week to show its best face on the York family’s behalf, the Superb Owl almost certainly will not return here any time soon.
You see, this game was a gift from the league in honor of York’s ability to do real estate well. He built a stadium of undisputed utility, which is the typical way an owner outside the golden circle known as “the rotation” gets a Super Bowl, but he can’t keep building new stadiums every six or seven years to stay in the game, and he doesn’t have either the throw-weight among his peers or the wallet to get into the golden circle on his own.
Put another way, this Super Bowl looks a lot like a one-off for York because Stan Kroenke just annexed the West Coast.
But first, let’s record Jed’s pie-shop-in-the-clouds analysis:
“I think it’s the experience that people have and making sure we provide all the best of the Bay Area and make sure people have an unbelievable experience. I think Levi’s Stadium will speak for itself. And I think the Bay Area and this entire region will speak for itself. And I’m fully confident people will enjoy their time here.”
“I’m fully expecting we’ll be able to host multiple Super Bowls. We’d certainly like to get in that rotation. We will certainly look to host multiple Super Bowls. We’re hosting the national championship game and we’d like to host other world-renowned events.”
That’s the policy statement. But as the league’s youngest, fourth newest and seventh poorest owner, York doesn’t walk into a room and cause the heads of his elders or betters to snap in any particular direction. At 35, he is 15 years younger than Clark Hunt (Kansas City). As an owner for only seven years, he has been in the club for less than anyone save Kroenke, Mark Davis (Oakland) and Jimmy Haslam (Cleveland). As a wallet, his is either lowest (if you consider his own personal worth) or seventh-lowest (if you count the family as a whole), ahead of only Pat Bowlen (Denver), the Bidwill family (Arizona), Alex and Dean Spanos (San Diego), Mike Brown (Cincinnati), the Rooney family (Pittsburgh) and Davis.
These items combined make him less imposing than his team’s worth makes him powerful, and in terms of selling a stadium for the NFL’s February purposes, they matter much more than the logistical difficulties of selling two geographical and cultural entities 40 miles apart as one unit -- the Bosnia-Herzegovina conundrum to a T.
It therefore makes little sense to expect that he can stake and hold a place in a rotation reserved for far larger figures, in bigger and newer stadiums.
And now that Kroenke has won Los Angeles outright by persuasion, muscle-flexing and even threat, he is one of those far larger figures, looming only 400 miles to the south. Kroenke is building his Inglewood plant as not only a retail powerhouse but as a de facto second league office, where the entertainment side of the business can generate its own billions. He is in the rotation, for good.
Jerry Jones (Dallas) is in the rotation, because he has a venue that York only wishes he could emulate, and because having engineered the Kroenke deal, Jones is now an influential part of the shifting balance of power among the membership, supplanting Bob Kraft (New England), Jerry Richardson (Carolina), the Maras (New York) and Rooneys (Pittsburgh) as the heart of the decision-makers.
For similar reasons, Bob McNair (Houston) is still in the rotation as well, given that he is getting Superb Owl II (or maybe it’s Blow Purse I, if we’re going anagram shopping) in 2017. Hey, if someone goes to the trouble of looking that much like Lex Luthor, he’s gonna get his.
Tom Benson is in the rotation because New Orleans remains the perfect Superb Owl city. Always has been, always will be -- unless his family becomes too fractious in the fight over his fortune. I mean, he’s still alive and they’re already trying to divide the duvet covers. But as long as there are all-night beignets, New Orleans is a rotation staple.
Steve Ross (Miami) is still in the rotation because Miami has never not been in the rotation. The longest it ever had to wait was nine years while it got its stadium situation solidified, which is to say it got Sun Life Stadium to replace the Orange Bowl.
Billy and Mike Bidwill (Arizona) are still in the rotation for now, but may lose their place to Kroenke as well because, well, west of Phoenix isn’t quite the same as south of downtown LA.
And outside the rotation, there are the cities that get their one turn for caving in to the stadium extortion game, like Minneapolis, which gets the 2018 game for the Vikings’ new digs, or Atlanta, which is getting a new building in time for the 2017 season at the earliest, or San Diego if it builds a new stadium either for the Chargers or Raiders, or Washington, if Danny Snyder gets his way and his flirtations with Maryland, Virginia and the District continue.
All this leaves very little room for York to elbow his way into the line. The funny thing about “state of the art” stadiums is that they don’t stay “state of the art” for long, and even if this Superb Owl was perceived by the others as being close to perfect (and the daily driving distance alone made that impossible), it won’t be nearly perfect enough to make anyone that matters want to grant him another.