The American Individualist

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Prepping for the big game

From TV sales to ocean swims, Super Bowl is big business

By Joseph Kellard
January 30, 2007

Each football season, Jeff Rosenthal roots for the New York Jets and Giants to earn Super Bowl berths. The co-owner of Home Appliance TV & Video in Oceanside is a fan of neither team, but wants them in the game because he knows that would boost his business.

Unfortunately for Rosenthal, the Chicago Bears will line up against the Indianapolis Colts in Miami in Super Bowl XLI on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Super Bowl is the most watched one-day event each year, viewed by up to 140 million Americans -- which means television sales typically peak during the weeks leading up to the game, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

At Home Appliance, sales of HD and plasma televisions usually jump 20 percent, and even more if a New York team is playing. “Sales were off the wall when the Giants made it to the Super Bowl back in 2001,” Rosenthal said. “It depends a lot on how much people care about the game, but even if people don’t like the sport, for some reason they want to have a party and bring people to their house.”

The Super Bowl’s immense popularity has made it not only a money-maker for many businesses, but a reason for almost any kind of celebration. Many Americans treat the day as a holiday, gathering with family and friends. The Super Bowl generates the highest Nielsen ratings and thus greater TV sales for appliance stores, and since game day is second only to Thanksgiving in single-day food consumption, it fires up the food industry.

Just ask Franco Abballe, who is in the business of selling some of Super Bowl Sunday’s staple grub: pizza, chicken wings, burgers and soda. “Super Bowl Sunday is one of our earmarked days of the year,” said Abballe, owner of Cinelli’s Pizza & Grill on Davison Avenue in Oceanside. On a typical Sunday, Cinelli’s sells an average of 50 pizzas; on Super Sunday that total rises as high as 125. Except for what he described as “the king of all days.” Good Friday at his Cinelli’s location in Franklin Square, a heavily catholic area -- Abballe said, “Super Bowl Sunday is up there with New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day, which are monster take-out days.”

Lance Denni, a co-owner of Lawson Deli in Oceanside, said that on Super Sunday his shop produces about 200 feet of heroes, doubling the average for other big days and events like Christmas, christenings and confirmations.”Of course, if a New York team is in it, it’s always best,” Denni said, echoing Rosenthal. “One of our biggest days was when the Giants were in it a few years ago.”

Stop & Shop is seeing increasing annual sales for Super Bowl-related items, said Rob Kean, a spokesman for the supermarket chain. And in addition to the traditional foods the chain sells, such as snacks, Kean noted that newer items include Super Bowl-themed cakes and shrimp platters.

”In many ways this is one of our biggest weeks of the year,” Kean said. “The demand for certain items is almost like a holiday rush for us.”

While restaurant-bars also rake in the big bucks -- as places like Churchill’s in Rockville Centre fill up with patrons who pay $50 to eat and drink all they can, and where some gambling pools promise winners pots of tens of thousands of dollars -- Super Sunday remains the top at-home party event of the year, even bigger than New Year’s Eve, attracting an average of 17 people per party, according to Hallmark Cards Inc.

Nancy and Gerard Achstatter and their three college- and high school-aged children throw an annual Super Bowl bash that involves up to 20 friends. A family of Jets fans, the Achstatters serve everything from nachos and chili to cakes and cookies, and look forward to each Super Bowl even if their team hasn’t earned a trip to one since 1969.

“It’s a nice chance after the holidays and when it’s cold to root for a team, even if it’s not your team,” said Nancy, who in high school was a sideline baton-twirler for the Jets.

The Achstatters’ main guests are fellow Oceansiders Bob and Betsy Transom, who can be counted among those who aren’t necessarily football fans but gather at Super Bowl parties for the companionship. But Betsy is quick to point out that things have changed this season. “I started watching football because of my son, Craig, and I was really into the games this year, and I even watched the playoffs,” she said. “But even before this, watching the Super Bowl is like the ‘American Idol’ phenomenon, in that you’re all hooked into the same live event. It makes you feel very connected.”

On the morning of the big game, the Achstatters and Transoms can be found at the Oceanside Kiwanis Club¹s annual Super Bowl pancake breakfast at St. Anthony’s Church on Anchor Avenue. The breakfast illustrates an event that attracts patrons who may not care about football, but who nevertheless celebrate the day nonetheless. Each year hundreds of children and adults crowd St. Anthony’s cafeteria to get their fill of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bagels, orange juice and other fixings and to play games. Recognizing all this, the Oceanside Kiwanians keep using the day for their primary fund-raiser.

“The Super Bowl has become like a national holiday,” said Betsy Transom, whose husband is a past president of Oceanside Kiwanis. “And with the pancake breakfast, we’ve developed quite a following, and people look for it every year.”

The breakfast, which began in the early 1990s at Terrell Firehouse in northwest Oceanside, raised enough funds to send as many as three poorer children to Kamp Kiwanis upstate each summer. But it has grown so much that Kiwanis not only sends more than 30 kids on this trip, but they also fully outfit and equip them.

“It’s unbelievable how big it’s gotten,” said Cy Lishnoff, a past district president of Kiwanis who remembers the first breakfast at the firehouse. “It’s at the point now where a number of people tell me, ‘You don’t have to tell me about it, I come every year.”

That morning, another growing tradition, begun by a native of Oceanside, takes place in Long Beach. The polar bear swim is the brainchild of Peter Meyers, who first took a dip in the city’s frigid ocean with a friend on Super Sunday 10 years ago. The following year, 18 people joined them, and the polar bear population grew each January -- considerably so after 2000.

That year, Meyers, a boys’ basketball coach, made the event a fund-raiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation after one of his players had died. Through sales of sweatshirts and donations, they raised $7,000 to go toward granting sick children their wishes.

“Since it’s on Super Bowl Sunday,” Meyers explained, “everyone is in such a festive and giving mood that we have people who come up to us and say, ‘You know what, I was going to bet $100 on the Super Bowl, but I’d rather give it to a kid who needs a wish.”

Last year, the swim attracted some 3,000 participants and raised $190,000. All told, Meyers and Make-A-Wish have generated $400,000 and helped 50 children. “It’s a beach party in February,” said Meyers, who catches the big game at the local VFW with fellow polar bears. “You go in the water a thousand times in the summer, but if you go in this one time on Super Bowl Sunday, everybody talks about it for a long time.”

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard.


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