First with the museum, now with the hotel rooms.
What is the deal with NFL commissioners and their dismissive 'tude toward Baltimore?
Remember the former commish, Paul Tagliabue, denying Baltimore a football team in 1993, and suggesting that the city build a museum instead? (Yes, that sound you hear is the Cone sisters and William and Henry Walters banging their heads against a celestial wall.)
Now his successor, Roger Goodell, has put us in our place as well, albeit more diplomatically.
Goodell, in town for the Ravens' divisional playoff win over the Houston Texans last Sunday, was asked in a fan forum and news conference whether Baltimore could ever hope to host a Super Bowl. As he told the media:
"Well, as I mentioned to the fan who asked that question, a big part of the decision is going to be whether they have the infrastructure here. What it takes probably is 25,000 hotel rooms to be able to host a Super Bowl now, and the infrastructure because of the popularity of the Super Bowl is getting larger and larger, and we have more and more requirements for it. So that's probably the biggest issue."
Now, I don't expect the NFL commissioner to know how many hotel rooms there are in any given city — I had to do some reporting myself to find that out. But what's telling is the underlying assumption behind what he says, in other words: Baltimore couldn't possibly have that many hotel rooms.
So I counted them. No, not really, but I went straight to the source all the tourism folks consider the definitive hotel census-taker. According to STR, the Henderson, Tenn.-based hotel performance benchmarking firm, the Baltimore area has 32,387 rooms.
That includes hotels in Baltimore city and county, as well as those in Howard, Harford, Carroll and Anne Arundel, which fall within the radius the NFL specifies. (I've seen it described variously as within 60 miles or an hour's drive of the stadium.) And that doesn't even include the 19,533 hotel rooms that STR counts in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
The Baltimore area's tally is on par with what's available in Indianapolis, this year's host, which has about 33,000 rooms, according to the city's Convention & Visitors Association. So, yes, I think we could house a Super horde, particularly if you're talking a weekend in February.
Now, I don't know what other "infrastructure" the NFL requires, but we do have indoor plumbing and paved roads and even that newfangled Wi-Fi thing.
Sorry, am I being defensive? It's a local malady, particularly when it comes to the NFL and its history of looking down its nose at us.
Apparently, the hotel minimum is a standard Goodell response to what turns out to be a standard question when he visits the hinterlands — he told Green Bay much the same thing a couple of years ago. (The cheeseheads' accommodations number in the low four figures, not including ice houses.)
But here's the thing, as we learned during our NFL interregnum: The NFL may say you need X, Y and Z to get a team or a Super Bowl or whatever, but it does what it wants anyway. That, after all, is why a city such as Jacksonville got a franchise (the league was pursuing a Southern strategy then) over a superior bid from Baltimore in 1993.
And, of course, Jacksonville has hosted a Super Bowl, in 2005. Never mind that it had nowhere near 25,000 hotel rooms and had to bring in five cruise ships to make up the difference — which, of course, we could do, unless St. Mary's College has another bout of moldy dorms in 2016, the year of the next unclaimed Super Bowl.
At least the winter weather can't be used against us, not with the Super Bowl slated for the Giants' and the Jets' shared stadium in New Jersey in 2014, the first to be held in the North in a non-domed stadium.
I'm loving it already. It feels authentic, even old school, and a throwback to football's wintrier, Rust Belt-dominated roots.
Of course, for now, that still leaves one Super Bowl first that Baltimore could and should compete for: the first Super Bowl in which the home team is also the host city.