Yesterday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to San Francisco was over. As the head of the Oakland Super Bowl XVIV Bidding Committee, which from 1999 to 2001 worked to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland, I hated to witness that event. I thought San Francisco had its best chance yet to land the Olympic Games because it had a large set of people who seemed to be equally committeed to doing it.
The SF 2012 Olympic effort was the largely the story of the work and energy of one person, Anne Cribbs, whereas this time the heavy lifting was spread out more to others. In the case of Oakland's Super Bowl that effort was totally the story of my work and enthusiasm. But in all three cases, one element of Bay Area society came forward again and again: the selfish action of one key player, perfectly timed to wreck the chances of winning. What makes the Bay Area a great place to live is also that which keeps it from really growing as a society: the insistance of individuals that they "do their thing" and sometimes at the expense of everyone else.
In the matter of the Oakland Super Bowl, it was Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown who threw the monkey wrench into our bid effort by not following our specific instructions and by not totally endorsing the effort, even as his city manager, Robert Bobb, was Oakland's executive pushing for the Super Bowl, and I was the point person. It wasn't the Oakland Raiders, who were very supportive behind the scenes and of me.
But in the Super Bowl-Oakland effort, it wasn't just Jerry, but also the San Francisco Chronicle, who's op-ed page editor John Diaz first supported, and then for terrible and tempermental reasons didn't back our effort. If we had both elements in place, everything else would have worked and the 2005 Super Bowl would have been here, and not in Jacksonville. We had a terrific plan.
In the case of the first Olympics effort, Anne had almost all of the elements in place, except a clear financial package. That was the fault of the State of California and other municipalities, which didn't really want to fiscally back the effort. Anne also didn't have all of the key players behind her that were in place for the 2016 project. Many people did not think she would get as far as she did, and so kind of sat back and watched but never helped -- then they were surprised when she got as far as she did.
That was exactly what happened in my case with Oakland's Super Bowl Bid. Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner once told me "You know, we were all surprised and didnt think you would get as far as you did." But there were a lot of people who thought that, and I had to ignore them. Even Ralph Barbieri of KNBR, who promissed to have me on his radio show to talk about the Oakland Super Bowl Bid, but never followed up on his promise. In fact, KNBR as a whole seemed almost hostile to the idea and for no reason other than they knew they could damage the effort.
It seems in the Bay Area for any one person that wants to do something, there's several who don't want it to succeed because either it's not there idea or doens't benefit them. The same elements of behavior that cause more than one new Bay Area resident to complain that "friends here are not really friends but acquaintences" or that they only have friends via the work place are the same factors that work to prevent the area from joining together to draw large scale sports events, and even seem to be hampering the timely construction of the East Side Of The Bay Bridge.
One may ask if this is the case, how did we land the 1984 Super Bowl, where the 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins 38 - 19? During that time, the way the NFL selected Super Bowl Host Cities was completely different than it is today. First, there was no official set of guidelines. Second, there were no contracts, everything was done via handshake. Thus, it was easy for then-San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein to go to then-NFL Commissioner the Late Pete Rozelle, and work a deal to bring the Super Bowl to the San Francisco Bay Area, where it was played at Stanford. The entire San Francisco bid book was just 20 pages.
By contrast, bidding for the Super Bowl today is a massive effort, where there are over 25 contract sets that must be distributed to almost 1,000 different people and organizations -- and signed, and returned to the bid organization. That alone is a huge undertaking which takes over a year to do. I know because we did it. That's on top of negotiations to use faciltiies, political issues, and so on. That's a lot to do and it requires community coorperation.
With the exception of contracts, the San Francisco Olympics Bid has the same complex set of elements and people. All it takes is one person or organization to decide it doesn't want to do something, and the entire work of many people is trashed. Here, the San Francisco 49ers played the role of "heavy" and all of this was John York's fault. He could have handled all of this in a behind-the-scenes way, but he's acting like he's angry with someone over something. Moreover, I'll bet the issue he's upset about not only could have been handled without involving the media, it was a misunderstanding to begin with.
Look, it wasn't just the configuration of the proposed stadium -- he could have worked that out -- I'll bet it was someone talking to him in a way he didn't like, and so he decided to pull and go to the media. In other words he dropped a bomb on someone, and the person may have been Gavin Newsom and Kofi Bonner of Lennar. My instincts and information tell me this, and I'm seldom wrong in this matter.
Regardless of the details, other cities have faced similar problems of politics, from Atlanta to Miami, Houston and Jackonville -- all cities have landed Super Bowls. In other words, individuals worked out their problems behind the scenes and maintained the progress of the bid effort. Butn in the Bay Area, when individuals are unhappy with the smallest matter, they tend to work to destroy things for everyone else.
This happens again and again and again. I've never seen a part of a country where people are so jealous and critical of each other for the smallest and dumbest of reasons. It's that dynamic which makes poor friendships here and the same one that consistently wrecks efforts to bring Super Bowls and Olympics to our region. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area think that because our land is pretty anyone should want to come here. That's not always true. We Bay Area residents have got to put our collective narcissisum aside if we expect to improve our society, let alone land the Super Bowl and the Olympics.