Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Ironmanlife: Super Bowl vs. Ironman

The start of the 2009 Ironman World Championship in Kona. (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

Kevin Mackinnon can’t figure out why the Ironman World Championship doesn’t get as much hype as the Super Bowl

Someone needs to explain this to me. On Sunday about 100 million people will tune in to the Super Bowl, where they will watch 47 members of the Indianapolis Colts take on 47 members of the New Orleans Saints actually play for a grand total of – are you ready for this – 12.5 minutes.

There’s no comparison between that and the Ironman World Championship in Kona, where you get to watch almost 1,800 athletes compete for anywhere from eight to 17 hours. What gives?

It’s not just the actual amount of physical exertion that puts Ironman way ahead of the Super Bowl when it comes to cool sporting events. Here’s my (very biased) list of how the Ironman World Championship is considerably more entertaining than the Super Bowl:


About 30 percent of the participants at the Ford Ironman World Championship field are women. Seen any female players on the field at an NFL game recently? (OK, you’ve got me on the cheerleader thing … but I’ll choose to ignore that and respectfully move on.)


South Florida is nice. No two ways about it. Hawaii? Nicer. Hands down.


An upper level end zone seat at the Super Bowl goes for about $2,590, while a lower level 50 yard line seat goes for $6,590. Even then the only way you’ll really get really close to the action is through a pair of binoculars. Compare that to Kona, where you actually have to work hard to not get sprayed with sweat by athletes as they bike and run by.

The cost for that privilege? Nada. Zilch. Zero. (OK, I hear you. Yes, you’ve got your air fare and hotel bill to take care of and, yes, I am fully aware that tickets to Hawaii are a bit more than tickets to Miami. Once again, I’m going to ignore that and move on.)

Even watching the Super Bowl at home seems to cost a fair amount. Those 100 million Super Bowl watchers will spend, on average, about $53. Get a load of these numbers from

The vast majority of spending (71.4%) will be on food and beverages, so it’s no surprise Super Bowl Sunday is the most important snack-purchasing day of the entire year, followed by the day before the big game.

And of course, football and beer go hand in hand – Super Bowl is ranked eighth on the list of highest beer-selling occasions for the year, with over 52 million cases sold during the two-week period surrounding the 2008 Super Bowl (Nielsen). No wonder Anheuser Busch buys the most ad time every year and plans 5 full minutes of spots this year!

It’s hard to eat that much during the Kona coverage – seeing how lean and fit everyone is makes you want to skip the next four or five meals, let alone reaching into the bowl for another handful of chips or cracking open another cold one.


The Ironman World Championship happens because of the hard work of about 5,000 volunteers. The Super Bowl requires about 6,000 volunteers. Here’s where we’ve got them beat, though … Super Bowl volunteers don’t get tickets to the game.

Our volunteers? They’re right in on the action. Many of them get to be right out on the course, baking in the sun for anywhere from eight to 12 hours. Some even work so hard on the event that they hardly get any sleep during race week. They get to carry sweaty bodies around after they collapse at the finish line. They get to clean up after …

OK – maybe the Super Bowl volunteer thing isn’t so bad, after all. I’ll just ignore that and … well, maybe I’ll just call this one a tie.


Face it, us mortal beings can’t even begin to compare ourselves to the guys we’ll see vying for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night. The average NFL football player is just under 6’ 2” tall (1.88 m) and weighs 245 lbs (111.36 kg). They’re huge. They’re fast. They are simply not built like the rest of us.

You can’t get inspired from Sunday night’s game, suddenly decide that you’re going to make a lifestyle change and then be able to compete at the Super Bowl in a year or two.

Countless lottery winners and Ironman qualifiers have done just that over the years in Kona. Look at the two Ironman size extremes on the men’s front: Greg Welch is, I believe, the lightest Ironman World Champion in history – well, lightest guy, anyway.

He started the race in 1994 at a whopping 132 lbs (60 kg) – who knows how far under 130 he was when he finished. I’ve owned dogs that were heavier than that. (Heck, I think my right leg weighs more than that.)

Even at 6’4” (1.95 m) and 209 lbs (95 kg), Ain Alar Juhanson, the heaviest Ironman champion I’ve ever met (Ironman Lanzarote) would probably get crushed during the first play of an NFL game. How many men fit between those two extremes? Am I safe to say “most?”

You can watch the Ironman World Championship and say “I can do that.” Unless you’ve been eating your Wheaties and living in a weight room for the past decade or so, that’s not an option when it comes to the Super Bowl. Even 300-pound Daryl Haley, who played in the Super Bowl during his eight year NFL career, managed to finish the Ironman World Championship.

Game / Race

During the 70s, the average winning margin at the Super Bowl was 11 points. In the 80s it was 22 points. The 90s saw things get a bit more exciting than the previous decade – the average winning margin was 14 points. (Which is still two touchdowns, I will point out).

Over the last 10 years things have got a bit more exciting and returned to the 11 point margin we saw during the 70s.

Not exactly nail-biting action. No wonder 51 per cent of the people watching say they’re most interested in the commercials.

While we haven’t ever seen a sprint finish for the win in Kona, I don’t think I’m too far out of line to say that even a four minute victory in a race that takes over eight hours is considerably closer than a two-touchdown win at a Super Bowl.

Here’s the other thing – when you have 25 age group categories, two pro categories and a number of physically challenged categories, at least one of them is going to be exciting. (Look, I know that you’re about to bring up the “Chrissie Wellington finished in another zip code” line I used during last year’s coverage. In case you haven’t figured all this out … I already said this was a biased look, so I’m going to ignore you yet again.)


The Super Bowl has nothing on the Ford Ironman World Championship. If you don’t agree … well, that’s fine. In case I haven’t been completely clear, I’ll simply ignore you and continue with my diatribe.

Now all I need to do is get Tim Tebow to help make a commercial, find the $3 million to air it and I’ll convince everyone else of that fact.

(Reach Kevin Mackinnon at

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