Super Bowl 50: jocks versus nerds

The Super Bowl used to be all about American football prowess on the field. But as Chris Carter explains, the Silicon Valley nerds are taking over.


The Carolina Topcats: cheering on Silicon Valley

This Sunday, Americagrinds to a halt. Super Bowl 50 sees the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in the annual climactic end to the American football season. But just as important as the gridiron action' on the pitch is what's happening off it. Make no mistake, Sunday is the day the nerds have their revenge on the jocks.

After all, Super Bowl 50 isn't being held just anywhere. The festival of American football is taking place in Santa Clara, 40 miles south of San Francisco. That puts it in reach of Silicon Valley's tech billionaires, and boy, have they made their presence felt.

At the new $1.3bn Levi's "smart" stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, 400 miles of fibre optic cable have been laid down, providing 40 times more internet bandwidth than the nation's next best stadium. Checking your emails mid-match isn't going to be a problem, and Google, one of the sponsors, wants you to know it.

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That's why the online search engine has paid $200m to have the right to lay on 100 buses normally reserved for its staff to ferry fans to the game.



As John Harlow writes in The Sunday Times, apps have been created that will "bombard" fans "with a thousand different statistics a minute just to make the workaholics feel as if they have not left the office".

Step outside the stadium if you dare and you can hone your American football bar-room knowledge by reliving' past games on virtual reality headsets. Some even include "gaze detection technology", allowing you to put yourself in the players' boots and decide on the game-play tactics yourself. If it proves a hit, the technology may be rolled out more fully for next year's Super Bowl, says Harlow.

My colleague Matthew took a recent look at virtual reality and what it means for investors check it out here.

Bluffing can only take you so far

Talking of "well-heeled", a luxury suite at the stadium graced by the likes of Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer will set you back up to $600,000. That's around £414,000 at today's exchange rate for just four hours.

But for those who really want to send their bank managers into a spin, Fairmont San Francisco hotel is offering "the king of all Super Bowl 50 bundles", says Kristin Tablang on The Million-Dollar Fantasy Big Game 50 package comprises 22 access all areas' tickets to the game, and a four-night stay in the luxury hotel's penthouse suite for six guests.

You also get to throw your own "tailgate party" complete with Fairmont chef and bartender. But in case you haven't already guessed, the "million-dollar" bit in the package's name isn't figurative. It actually costs $1m.

Jocks and nerds aren't so different

That's why, as Julia Carrie Wong and Nellie Bowles point out in The Guardian, the National Football League (NFL) "has encouraged players to look to Silicon Valley for their second careers". NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana will be "on display" at this year's Super Bowl for having become a tech industry angel investor in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And it's why, when viewers tune into CBS for the Super Bowl warm-up on Sunday, they will be greeted by former American football star Tony Gonzalez, whose fitness app was recently snapped up by Fitbit. Maybe jocks and nerds aren't so different after all.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.