NEW YORK - Welcome to the Super Bowl, where demand always beats supply and the teams don't really matter.
The NFL's championship game is one of the largest sports and entertainment spectacles in the world. The teams aren't exactly afterthoughts, but tickets are going to move quickly no matter how popular the two contenders are.
In fact, the number printed after the dollar sign on the front of a Super Bowl ticket has about as much in common with the price paid by its holder as the point spread does with the final.
Less, actually — the point spread is at least an informed prediction that comes from the bookmakers' observations of previous events and the price the public will pay to bet its teams.
So, as we near the big game on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., let's take an inside look at the ticket trade.
HOW MUCH? Even on NFL.com, users in search of tickets are directed to a resellers' website, operated by Ticketmaster. On Thursday evening, the cheapest ticket available was over $3,000. (The league also conducts a lottery to purchase tickets for $500. These cannot be resold.)
On Stubhub, people were willing to part with seats for a little more than $2,500, 24 days and an hour before kickoff. Needless to say, these were all in the nosebleed sections. But fans eager to lock down seats now would probably be advised to wait.
"What were probably going to see is over time, the closer we get to the game, the more the prices will drop," said Smita Saran, Stubhub's senior spokeswoman.
Saran said that before last year's game, Stubhub was receiving searches for tickets up to an hour before kickoff.
She also pointed out that fans who purchase on Stubhub have access to a tailgate party where they can pick up their tickets in the parking lot — they'll even give fans a lift there from New Jersey or Manhattan.
But that all depends on someone pulling the trigger on a major purchase.
WHO'S PLAYING? The teams in the game should have some bearing on the price. Large fanbases close to the New York City area — think New England — could cause demand and prices to rise. Three West Coast teams are still alive in the playoffs, and no matter how ardently supported the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are, being a continent away from seeing the game in person will probably thin the horde's ranks.
The remaining teams in order of proximity to Newark Airport, just down the turnpike from the Meadowlands, are the Carolina Panthers (from Charlotte, N.C.), Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos.
The halftime show is set. That'll be Grammy-winner Bruno Mars. The 28-year-old pop star isn't as venerable as some of the heavy hitters to grace the halftime stage in the past — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have albums older than he is — but he should be a bigger draw than Up With People.
WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE? Regardless of what team is in the game, one more major factor could affect prices — the weather forecast. If the prospect of playing outside in 40-degree weather (the average for East Rutherford, N.J.), doesn't seem so bad, that could be because most of the United States just experienced a polar vortex with nighttime temperatures getting down into the single digits.
As this is the first Super Bowl in a cold-weather city, there's no data on how a cold snap affects interest in tickets, but after the polar vortex, it's probably safe to assume demand would not be strong to sit outside for four hours or longer on a cold night in northern New Jersey.
WHAT ABOUT TRAFFIC? New Jersey is not known as the easiest place to drive. And that was before members of Gov. Chris Christie's administration were found to have arranged for intentional traffic jams for political retribution.
After previously assuring the public that his staff had nothing to do with the lane closings in September that caused major backups at the George Washington Bridge, Christie said had to fire an aide. His news conference to address the scandal made national news three weeks before his state is on display for the world as host of the Super Bowl.
That said, no governor can control New York City area traffic, but the state's transportation authority will be running trains on a new line completed ahead of the stadium's 2010 opening. An armada of buses will also be available, and organizers are discouraging drivers — the host committee website even refers to parking as "4th and Long."
X-FACTOR: If after all of that, fans don't feel like shelling out a paycheck (or two) for the chance to brave traffic and weather to watch the Super Bowl from the upper deck, there's one more consideration — you can't watch the Puppy Bowl at the stadium.