On Sunday, millions of people will gather around their televisions, chips and beer at hand, and participate in a national ritual of sports and advertising: the Super Bowl.
We will not merely watch. We will spend.
Anyone who wants to actually see the game in person can expect to pay an average of $4,500 per ticket, according to The Miami Herald. That's before the airfare, hotel, car rental, and souvenirs.
Riled up into a high-definition frenzy, 2.5 million people will run out and grab a new television to bring the game right into their living rooms, according to a division of the National Retail Federation. That's not all. About 1.3 million consumers plan to buy new furniture, such as home entertainment centers, for the big day. Consumer spending on Super Bowl merchandise, such as apparel and accessories, will average more than $56.
What does all this add up to? The National Retail Federation expects total Super Bowl spending to reach $8.7 billion. (Yep, that's billion with a "b.") South Florida's official estimate is that Sunday's game will bring a $400 million boost to the region.
At the risk of causing my inbox fill with angry letters, my house to be pelted with rotten eggs, and my children's children to be hexed for all eternity, I feel compelled to point out -- it's only a football game.
I know, it's not just a football game. It's the football game. For some Chicago and Indianapolis fans, it's the game they've waited a lifetime to experience. I'm not one to begrudge someone the experience of a lifetime, even if it is expensive. But, I beg and plead with you, don't spend thousands of dollars on a Super Bowl experience you can't afford.
Don't raid the kids' college fund. Even if you think Junior will get a football scholarship, the Super Bowl is not educational. Don't raid the retirement fund. You can bet all the players on the field -- win or lose -- don't have to worry about whether they can afford knee replacements in old age.
Definitely don't pile on the credit card debt. If you buy a $2,500 television on a credit card and take until next year's Super Bowl to pay it off, you'll spend an extra couple hundred dollars you could have used to buy more cheese doodles and commemorative jerseys. Besides, watching the game on a brand-new, 40-inch, high-definition television with built-in surround sound, a 10-bit processor, and 12.8 billion colors will not ensure that your team will win the game. I hate to be the one to break the news to you.
(I can't say the same for all your regular football rituals, like wearing the same team jersey every game without washing it, or cooking up your world famous, hotter-than-Hades chili.)
So, what's a broke Bears or Colts fan to do? Figure out which of your friends has the biggest television and invite yourself over. Go to a bar. Or ignore the fact that you watched the 1985 Super Bowl on the same TV you have now, invite all your friends over to crowd around the tiny thing, and have a blast. After all, size isn't everything.
Or get creative. Sports Illustrated scanned some online ads in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Miami and uncovered some interesting barter offers from people looking for tickets:
- A woman offering her pregnant belly for advertising.
- An unnamed gentleman offering to trade a lifetime gold VIP membership at a Wisconsin strip club (worth $1,000 per year).
- Offers to exchange sports memorabilia, and an offer to swap a signed lithography by the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (appraised at $7,000).
- A week at a condo in Hawaii (with airfare), or a timeshare in the Caribbean.
- An exchange of professional services, including dental work, a professional fireworks display, and plumbing.
- A new 50-inch plasma HDTV.
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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple must admit that she last got excited about the Chicago Bears when they recorded the Super Bowl Shuffle. She welcomes your feedback. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.