Almost 20 years have passed since The City Too Busy to Hate last hosted The Big Game. But it’s happening again. The Super Bowl is coming to Atlanta.
In a sobering, unavoidable, undeniable fact, the Super Bowl — brace yourself, COTNS — already is here. Tom Brady rolled into town over the weekend. The team that the Patriots are playing is here, too. Media members from all over the world are starting to fly in. Fans, as many as a million of them — though Mercedes-Benz Stadium will seat only a smidge over 70,000 — will be dribbling in all week.
Which means, if you live in Atlanta or anywhere near Atlanta, the last place you want to be in the next week is in Atlanta.
This city has hosted some big events before; a couple Super Bowls, in 1994 and 2000. The college football national championship game barely a year ago. Final Fours. A World Series. An MLS Cup just a few months ago. The 1996 Olympics. A civil war.
Atlanta has some 11,000 hotel rooms around the stadium. There’s straight-line public transportation to and from the busiest — and, without a PR dog in this fight, I’d guess the most efficient — airport in the world. We have taxis, and Uber, too. Airbnb.
We can handle big events. We have the tools. We have the know how. We’re ready.
Still: Do not come here for the Super Bowl. If you’re already here, take cover. If you live in the ‘burbs, don’t even try to pierce the perimeter. No good can come of any of it.
When you take the extra people in town, the added Ubers on the road, and you factor in the streets that are shut down (for security, mostly, but also just because government is evil), you have all the makings of a cluster of the first degree. If you’ve ever been on Atlanta roads, you know it’s a cluster anyway.
During the Super Bowl in 2000, the gods conspired against Atlanta in another way, laying an ice storm on the city that choked the roads — once it gets in the low 30s around here, the transplanted natives get really, really nervous behind the wheel — and made us look laughably ill-prepared to those Northern out-of-towners.
(Ice storms happen. Five years ago this week, at noon one workday, I was on the road, headed to a video shoot in the northern suburbs, when a snowstorm roared into town. Just so happens, everybody in this city of nearly 6 million decided to take off that noon, too, so when the snow dropped much harder and heavier than expected, the plows had no room to operate. They literally could not even get to the roads. Instant ice.)
(Seven or eight hours later, after abandoning the shoot and trying several ways home, I slid slowly and comically off an icy side road into a ditch. I ended up in the rectory of our nearby church with three priests who offered dry toast and a glass of water, no ice. No lie. May be a story for another time.)
The Great Ice Storm of 2000 wreaked hell on Super Bowl week. Players did media interviews in freezing cold tents outside of their hotels. (The tents, normally, would have been just fine.) Nobody wanted to venture outdoors. Everything that was planned for usually temperate winter days and evenings was, if not ruined, just really uncomfortable. The city, ripped four years earlier for being unbearably humid during the Olympics, was ripped anew for being an icebox. (Up until that time, for the most part, Super Bowls were held in places like New Orleans or Miami or San Diego.)
Since then, the Super Bowl has been in some really cold places — Minneapolis last year, East Rutherford, NJ before that, Indianapolis before that — yet it still took the NFL powers 18 years to bring a Super Bowl back to Atlanta. A new $2 billion stadium, opened about a year or so ago, certainly didn’t hurt.
So, here we are again. Super Bowl LIII, between Brady’s New England Patriots and some other team, kicks off on Sunday, February 3.
A winter weather advisory that calls for snow is in place for Tuesday morning. Rain is scheduled for the weekend. Some 80 MARTA bus drivers — MARTA is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the mass transit in town — called in sick Monday. It should be an interesting week.
We’ll see y’all again around 2039. We’ll be ready then.