The Super Bowl is more than a game — it's a two-week-long celebration, media spectacle, and merchandising bazaar where anything, it seems, can happen. There's a lot for fans to discuss as anticipation builds ahead of the big game. Here are five of the controversies people will be talking about at this year's pre-game Super Bowl party:
1. Child prostitution rings
"The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," says Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. So the state is sending a dozen extra law enforcement agents to Dallas, site of the game, to watch for signs of underage prostitution, which has "spiked during previous Super Bowls," according to USA Today. But there's sharp debate over just how bad the problem is. Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, says the Super Bowl is a prime target for sex traffickers. But Pete Kotz at The Dallas Observer says the scary tales, as with many other trend stories, are mostly myth. "America's call girls will be at home," he says, "watching the game on TV, just like you and me."
2. A $900 parking space?
The Super Bowl is "not for the faint of wallet," says Jon Schmitz at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the soaking fans endure starts in the parking lot. Websites, such as parkwhiz.com, are charging as much as $990 for a parking spot next to Dallas Stadium — and people are paying without hesitation. "That's what's great about this country," says the company's CEO, as quoted by the Gazette. "Capitalism at its finest." The citizens of Dallas are getting in on the parking racket, too; TMZ says neighbors of the stadium" are renting out their driveways for as much as $500 a space." That sounds crazy, says Daniel Patrascu at Auto Evolution, but "if you want to get an idea of what the game means for Americans, consider that the most expensive parking spots...are sold out."
3. The freezing weather
Even though Sunday's game will be played in the comfort of a dome, the freak winter storm that hit Dallas this week created travel havoc and canceled many pre-game events, reigniting debate over the wisdom of holding Super Bowls in harsh winter weather. The Super Bowl experience used to be about "balmy afternoons" and "golf junkets," says Les Carpenter at Yahoo! Sports. Now it's an event where people are frequently "trapped inside," as they have been this week. Kevin Blackistone at Fanhouse says Dallas could be a hint of what's in store in 2014, when the Super Bowl will be played outdoors at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. It's simply a "bad idea," to "play the national pastime's showcase game in weather no one would want to brave even if they were allowed." Some day, he says, the NFL will have to do the unthinkable: "Postpone the Super Bowl because of snow."
4. The rejected Super Bowl ads
Every year, a raft of advertisers compete for spots during what is typically the most-watched television event of the year. And some of the ads inevitably don't make the cut, earning as many headlines as the often forgettable commercials that do. This year, rejected ads include one for "married dating" website Ashley Madison featuring a mostly clothed adult-film actress. Another reject: The right-wing website jesushatesobama.com, whose ad portrays a bobbleheaded President Obama falling into a fishbowl as a "scornful" Jesus looks on. And Doritos created controversy with two rejected commercials made by fans as part of the company's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest. One of the ads, which appeared online, featured "a man lick[ing] his lips watching his supposedly gay neighbors eat Doritos." Another depicted a priest substituting potato chips for communion wafers to boost church attendance, inspiring outrage from some Catholics.
5. Labor talks
After the giddy run-up to this season's finale, says Jason Gay at The Wall Street Journal, the league will have to get serious to avoid the possibility of a season-terminating lockout later this year. Players and owners remain far apart in contract negotiations on several key issues, including revenue sharing, a rookie salary cap, and the possibility of an 18-game regular season. And players are becoming increasingly frustrated: Last week, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie compared the players-association leadership to "an unflattering seven-letter term he once used to describe Patriots quarterback Tom Brady," drawing a rebuke from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. All the infighting, says Gay, "signal[s] an anxious, agitated moment" for football" and the potential for a canceled season that would mean "the loss of billions in potential revenue."