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Over a million visitors, tens of millions in economic activity, plus a global spotlight to show off. These are the things a Super Bowl brings to a city. So why are so many people in San Francisco unhappy this week?
Because with all the good comes the bad traffic, extra security and, worst of all, corporate America. As corporate as San Francisco is, many locals still view it as a hotbed of resistance to "the man." (The truth is, housing prices drove out the real rebels to Oakland long ago.)
Super Bowl signs are being defaced with an only-in-San Francisco cheekiness. "Superb Owl" read one sign where someone moved around the letters. "Up R Bowel" read another. Common complaints about the traffic have reached a new level of frustration as street protests supporting the homeless have made traffic even worse.
"It's four days, come on! It's not that bad," said Dwight Clark, the legendary wide receiver who's amazing catch of a throw by Joe Montana sent the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl more than 30 years ago. "If you don't want to get into this mess, take public transit or something. It's easy to figure out."
Clark was standing by one of the corporate booths inside Super Bowl City, a ticket-only area which has taken over much of the Embarcadero. He was there as part of Chevron's "STEM zone." The Bay Area-based oil giant is using the Super Bowl to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Chevron dissected Clark's famous catch using scientific principles. "Chevron is very passionate about STEM education, and we know that STEM careers are going to grow by 17 percent in the next two years," said Chevron engineer Stephanie Reeves.
Chevron's booth in Super Bowl City has been joined by others from Levi's, Verizon, Intel and SAP — which has a huge interactive setup. Nowhere to be found is Facebook, Twitter, Google or Apple. Google is providing dozens of employee shuttle buses to the Super Bowl host committee to help take people to the game Sunday. Apple has provided some technology, but it is a so-called silent partner doing no marketing. Uber is the only San Francisco-born start-up to visibly and officially partner with the game (and some Uber drivers have been conducting their own protests this week).
No one should be surprised. When the Super Bowl last came to town, Mark Zuckerberg was a year old. The international crowd which has turned Silicon Valley into the nation's technological growth engine may not have grown up on a diet of Sunday football.
Not far from Levi's Stadium is University Avenue, in Palo Alto, the epicenter of tech. A biotech executive and a venture capitalist were dining al fresco at lunch there this week when a reporter approached them to give a pop quiz on football. Both braced themselves for failure.
Who was playing in the big football game? "Denver, and who's the other guy?" asked the VC guy. "Carolina," answered his friend. Then came a harder question: Who says "Omaha"? "I have no idea," they both agreed, until the venture capitalist suggested, "Warren Buffett?"
Left in peace, the two men continued their lunch meeting for well over another hour. Perhaps the next Silicon Valley blockbuster was being born, a company which may — or may not — decide to sponsor the Super Bowl the next time it comes to town.