Tevlin: Saying no to panhandlers doesn't include NFL

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2014 - 11:13 PM

It’s not often you see a ransom note that comes with a return address.

But when that note comes from 325 Park Av. in New York City, it’s not really a surprise. Because the characters who do their business at 325 Park Av. know the rules of a shakedown.

1. They always get caught.

2. It doesn’t matter.

That’s the only way you can account for the sheer audacity of the ransom note, otherwise known as the “Super Bowl LII Host City Bid Specifications and Requirements.”

Even though the Super Bowl Committee members assured us their efforts would be transparent, they tried to hide this stink bug of a deal under a dubious state statute that delays revealing the pain for five years.

Now we know why. The NFL made demands of the host city so outrageous that they make Don Corleone look like Mother Teresa; demands of the sort that would only be made by the type of people who use the words “an offer you can’t refuse,” and mean it.

Free “presidential suites” in hotels. Free police escorts for team owners. Free billboards (for a game you won’t be able to buy tickets to), free media coverage and 35,000 — yes — 35,000 free parking spots. These guys have a lot of besties, apparently.

Then there is the free curbside parking at a designated NFL House — a “high-end, exclusive drop-in hospitality facility for our most valued and influential guests to meet, unwind, network and conduct business.”

Because, heaven knows, when you’re getting your jag on for the big game, you always need someplace exclusive to kick back and unwind.

Nachos, anyone? Nachos?

Don’t forget the 14,000 linear feet of concrete barriers, fittingly known as “Jersey barricades,” to keep the poor people out.

They practically scream: Get outta here, pal!

The demands, obtained by Star Tribune reporters, get down to the smallest details. One of my favorite perks is for 12 cases of water, something that can be bought at Costco for about $3.99 a piece.

Maybe the water will be used to mist glasses of 64-year-old Macallan Scotch that they keep in Lalique bottles in their presidential suites behind the Jersey barricades staffed by free police.

Perhaps the most impressive perk is the one where the NFL out-Shylocked the Shylocks. They demanded that even the ATMs at the stadium and other controlled areas be NFL-preferred, meaning they stole the money from bankers who normally steal it from customers simply trying to get their own money.

I’ll make a wild guess here that the preferred bank will be U.S. Bank, whose CEO is chair of the Super Bowl Committee.

Brilliant.

One demand by the NFL’s 1 percent seems almost comically unaware. The host committee, they say, must work with hotels and restaurants to ensure an “anti-gouging resolution.”

Well, at least someone is looking out for the little guy.

When the NFL asked for “high-level management” at local airports to “cooperate with those needing special services,” I thought it might be a nod to the disabled. How thoughtful.

Nope. “Special services” apparently refers to those arriving in private planes. The very rich have needs, too, you know.

The NFL also asked that government licensing fees be waived for as many as 450 courtesy cars and buses. In other words: tough bounce, cabbies, we don’t like your pedestrian ride.

The committee members don’t want to talk about the deal. The mayor says she hasn’t seen it, which is what politicians say when they don’t want to talk about something.

Let’s see if this comes up during the next City Council meeting on social equity, shall we?

Speaking of social equity, at least we got a public park out of the deal.

But wait, what’s that? The park will only be truly public every so often, when the hometown team doesn’t need it?

That hurts.

I’m guessing homeless people won’t find this new pseudo-public park too welcoming by whoever runs it. No doubt panhandling will be discouraged.

Ironically, social service agencies are putting up billboards around town now, four years before the mandatory Super Bowl billboards, advising people not to give money to panhandlers. Giving them money only rewards the behavior and makes them reliant on a life of perpetual handouts.

Maybe the billboards should have gone up a few months earlier, aimed at a different audience.

jontevlin@startribune.com 612-673-1702

Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin

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