Monday, February 06, 2017

HALV: $1.5 Billion (Yes, with a B)

As I was catching up on my Houston Stupid Bowl reading late last night and (too) early this morning my eyes wandered over to (Pulitzer Prize giftee) Lisa Falkenberg's obviously obligatory, cliche-filled "welcome to Houston column".

"Howdy y'all" and all of that.

All-in-all it's a fairly benign piece of fluff that reminds people that they are welcome in Houston, provided they behave and believe as a large slice of the ruling and courtesan classes want them to.

But then, buried within, I stumbled across this little nugget:

The bigwigs wouldn't tell us how much they spent to spruce up - it's a private NFL document! - but some officials have estimated around $1.5 billion.

That's $1.5 Billion with a capital B y'all. Money presumably spent mainly by "Houston First!" and the Super Bowl committee, with a majority of that funding coming from tax revenues. Of course, it's going to be said that this is what hotel and motel taxes are for and that the "public won't even notice it's missing" but for a city that's standing on the edge of a huge, gaping pension hole whose value determination is a little fuzzy, we might look back on that $1.5 Billion with longing eyes some day.

At this point I should mention that a real reporter (or group of them) would latch onto that document like a dog going after a T-bone steak and demand some accountability from the elected officials in City Hall, but I know they won't.  Because the heady issues in this column were an outdated ideal of holding open doors, and chastising people for the old-stereotype "Houston, we have a problem" (complete with reminding everyone that this is not what was really said).

Now, to be fair, despite my distaste for her writing, it's not entirely fair to place the lion's share of the blame on Ms. Falkenberg for this.  The editorial diktat that came down from above at the Chronicle was clearly "see no evil, hear no evil, speak (or write) no evil" about the big to do. It's very clear when  Chronicle sports dinosaur John McClain is running around on local radio shows chastising San Diego for "missing out on the Super Bowl in the future" by refusing to pony up taxpayer dollars to keep the Chargers in town that the increasingly popular idea of not providing public money to build Billion dollar play-pens for Billionaires is not something that's spread very far into the so-called watchdog press.

If newspapers want to understand, in part, why people are abandoning them in droves, they need to understand that their ideas are at least behind the time as is the technology they use to provide the news. Also, they all have people, similar to John McClain, whose careers have been so entangled in the leagues they cover that they've fully swallowed the leagues talking points and are incapable of regurgitating anything else.

The "Super Bowl is an economic shot-in-the-arm" fallacy is hard to kill. Part of the reason for that is because the NFL keeps the true expense of running the damn thing in a corporate secrets lock-box. They claim this despite having no competition that could use it to gain a competitive advantage over them.

In a time when the world is slowly coming to the realization that the Olympics are a financial disaster, it's amazing that newspapers and local TV news don't realize that the same economics apply to the NFL's cash cow.

Sunday saw the 3rd Super Bowl in Houston's history.  By all accounts the city put on a brilliant show, almost as brilliant as the game itself (which, as noted here, I didn't watch.)

Here's hoping we never have to do it again.