Aside from the odd blackout in cities like Tampa, San Diego and Buffalo, the NFL proved to be recession-proof in recent years. Profits are up, and ticket prices continue to rise in most locations.

But nothing gives a clearer indication of how lucrative the league is than the Super Bowl.

This game alone is a huge reason why CBS, NBC and Fox pay a combined $3.1 billion annually to air NFL games. The host broadcaster rotates from year to year, with NBC selling 30-second ads during this year’s game for as high as $4 million (a significant increase from last year).

That’s because while the NFL is a niche sport in all places not America for the majority of the year, the Super Bowl seems to transcend its limitations both domestically and internationally for this one game.

While World Series games typically average between 10 million and 20 million viewers, the Super Bowl, which of course is just one game, typically has drawn over 100 million viewers in recent years. And while it’s a myth that a billion people watch worldwide, the game still fetches millions more globally, which means it is still outdrawing regular-season games within the United States and might even be challenging World Series games within the country. That’s quite valuable.

Ticket prices are almost irrelevant to the league, because the face value of between $800 and $1200 would only generate about $60 million. But thousands are given away to players, sponsors, award winners and league employees. The tickets that are sold — typically to season-ticket holders and draw winners — are often dealt away on the secondary market at a considerable markup.

This year, tickets are being scalped for an average of $4,000, a price that is 10 percent higher than in 2011. That’s what happens when two big markets like New York and Boston meet under such circumstances.

Too steep? You can still hit up Indy for the weekend and take in the Super Bowl experience. This year, you can spend about 100 bucks for the right to sit in the stands and watch Media Day (seriously) or take in the Maxim Super Bowl Party for about $1,400 (again, seriously). Unfortunately, your flight to Indy alone could cost upwards of $1,000, while your stay will likely be a little more expensive than normal (or a lot more if you’re planning on sleeping close to the stadium). More on that from the Staten Island Advance:

Most nearby hotels are already out of rooms for Super Bowl weekend. And those that still have rooms are charging at least $2,500 for a four-night stay, nearly $1,700 more than the weekend before or the weekend after.

Fans are obviously biting. Some can afford it, but most probably can’t. Still, every flight and hotel will be filled and it’ll be a boon for the Indy economy as well the league’s coffers. The rich get richer; the poor get poorer. But at least fans making the trip will have a lifelong memory.

The big question: In an age of “crystal-clear HD” and plasma screens and DVR and surround sound and pizza delivery and, um, indoor climate control … is it worth it?

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