The Billion Dollar Game

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-01-12
  • Publisher: Anchor
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One hundred million spectators. An economic footprint larger than the GDP of 25 nations. Zero room for error.An inside view of the 365 days leading up to the greatest event in American sport.More Americans watch the Super Bowl than vote in presidential elections. Cities compete for the lucrative rights to host a game, and ad agencies, merchandisers, security personnel, and celebrity party planners quarterback their own teams starting a year in advance. Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday for sports fans, who purchase 1.5 million large-screen TVs in the week before the game, attend one of 7.5 million parties, and eat more food than on any day other than Thanksgiving (according to the California Avocado Commission, Americans consume more than eight million pounds of guacamole on this single day). In THE BILLION DOLLAR GAME,New York Timesbestselling author Allen St. John gets rare access to the people and corporations that mastermind this iconic event. He goes into the FOX Sports broadcast booth with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and the longtime director/producer team of Artie Kempner and Richie Zyontz. St. John gets a front-row seat in the Madison Avenue conference rooms where the massive Anheuser-Busch campaign is being tested in focus groups, and he takes readers behind-the-scenes with stadium architect Peter Eisenman, and the billion-dollar deals brokered in Phoenix preceding Super Bowl XLII. Covering the political snafus, the organizational nightmares, and the well-oiled hype machine, St. John weaves a fascinating portrait of the National Football League and the Super Bowl and examines how all the elements miraculously come together to create the biggest cultural phenomenon in American sport.

Author Biography

Allen St. John is the New York Times bestselling author of the MAD DOG 100 and THE MAD DOG HALL OF FAME, both with Christopher Russo. St. John is also the author of CLAPTON'S GUITAR. He is a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and his recent work has been honored by The Best American Sports Writing. He has written for Rolling Stone, Playboy, Maxim, Men's Journal, the Washington Post Book World, and the New York Times Magazine.


The Game
If You Build It . . .

“It all started with an innocent phone call,” says Peter Eisenman.

Wearing a navy blue cashmere sweater with a small hole, Eisenman is sitting in the sunny, unpretentious Manhattan loft space that he calls his office, perched in an old black Breuer chair, at one end of a conference table big enough for a game of platform tennis. (Just the thing for spreading out pages of blueprints, I assume.) Eisenman is one of the major figures in contemporary architecture. He is also the first of many auteurs of Super Bowl XLII.

The man on the other end of that phone call in September 1996 was Mike Rushman. Rushman is a Phoenix-based lawyer who had worked briefly with Eisenman on a proposed, and ultimately abandoned, project at the Boston Navy Yard. Now he came to the architect with a proposition.

“Are you interested in football?” Rushman asked.

“Yes,” Eisenman replied.

“Well, the Arizona Cardinals are thinking of building a new stadium. And we’re going to have a competition, with Frank Gehry and Will Bruder, who’s a local architect,” Rushman explained.

“Frank Gehry doesn’t know anything about football,” Eisenman countered.

“This season is the fiftieth anniversary of the Cardinals winning their first NFL championship, so it’s a good time to kick this thing off.”

“Yeah, I know. I saw that team play,” said Eisenman casually.

“Really?” said Rushman.

“Not only did I see that team play, I can name the starting backfield. Paul Christman, who played at Missouri. Elmer Angsman, the fullback who played at Notre Dame. Pat Harder, who played at Wisconsin. Charley Trippi, who played at Georgia. And the fifth one was . . .” Eisenman paused, more for effect than anything else. “Marshall Goldberg, who played at Pittsburgh.”

Unlike Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman knew a thing or two about football.

He went on to tell Rushman how the Cardinals had gotten their name. “They were an Irish club on the South Side of Chicago, and they had no money for jerseys.” Believe it or not, a half century ago, the National Football League was just a ragtag organization that took a backseat to the big college programs of the day. How ragtag? When Jay Berwanger of The University of Chicago, winner of the very first Heisman Trophy in 1935, was selected first overall by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the first NFL draft, he decided against playing pro football and became a successful foam rubber salesman instead.

“The University of Chicago was called the Maroons,” Eisenman continued. “And they would give their hand-me-down jerseys to the local pro team. But after being washed all year, by the end of the season they were no longer maroon, they were cardinal red.”

And with that casual phone call began an odyssey that would see a sleepy desert farming town become a place where, a dozen years later, the worlds of professional sports, high finance, and mass culture would come together on a sleet-gray January Sunday for Super Bowl XLII, not only the biggest Super Bowl but also the best. For a brief shining moment at least, Glendale, Arizona, would become the center of the universe.

The truth is that Super Bowls don’t really have a beginning, or at least one single beginning. A lawyer in search of a creation myth might settle on the day when bid contracts were signed. A football fan might consider the countdown to the next Super Bowl under way when the last one ends. A guy in the street might settle on the moment when the banners go up on the light posts.

But most years, it really is impossible to pin down where a Super Bowl starts. Super Bowls intersect and overlap, building on each other in a bumpy continuum that stretches all the way back

Excerpted from The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport - Super Bowl Sunday by Allen St. John
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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