I grew up in the small town of Griffith in the northwest section of Indiana, where winter his hard for four months every year from Thanksgiving until the first week of March. As miserable as copious amounts of snow the residents of the “219” or as some call it, “The Region” have to deal with, football helps us keep our mind of the cold for a little while.
In the 1980s, sub zero temperatures were called, “Bear Weather” as an homage to the hard-nosed Chicago Bears teams coached by Mike Ditka in the mid to late 80s and of course the 1985 Bears, who went 18-1 on their way to a dominant Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. This mythical phrase made notice of yet another football team who used cold weather in December and January to their advantage against teams from warmer, more desirable climates. The Bears were never as dominant as you may have thought, but for another generation of people, football was viewed as a more enjoyable product in the winters of the Midwest.
While the Bears played low scoring games in frigid games at Soldier Field, the children of this area played backyard football in the snow — enjoying every minute of it. Growing up in that area, football seemed to be perfect in the snow and rain. Playing in the elements always seemed to present another challenge, one that everyone always took on with a smile. Yes, it was cold and your whole body was freezing afterwords, but it was a feeling kids from the south and west coast couldn’t relate to.
I bring up this topic, because we are less than two months away from the first outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl in NFL history at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Anyone and everyone from former players, columnists, radio hosts and fans have voiced joy and annoyance that the largest event in American sports could easily be altered by snow, wind and freezing rain. The fact that some would rather have the Super Bowl in a dome or the warm climates of Florida and California year after year is disappointing.
Would the NFL Championship game between Dallas and Green Bay, termed “The Ice Bowl” be a revered if instead of the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, the game was played under the sunshine of the Rose Bowl? No it wouldn’t be. Playing in the outdoors brings a host of other elements into play. There is a widely held belief that we could have a monster snow blizzard that will drop one or two feet of snow down on the New York-New Jersey area, rendering the passing game useless. The myth that you can’t pass the ball, or even score points at a frenetic pace in the snow is just not true. The past few weeks of the NFL have showed that weather only has so much of an impact on scoring.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, New England and Denver matched up in Massachusetts and despite the heavy winds and temperatures in the single digits, the two teams combined for 65 points. This past Sunday, Detroit lost at Philadelphia, 34-20, on a field that had between one and two feet a snow. The Broncos also defeated the Titans on a frigid day in Denver, 51-28 when Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns. These are all examples that cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean low scores and sloppy play, yet the narrative continues. Playing in Miami, Tampa Bay, or Pasadena gets boring after a while.
The early days of professional football was all about playing out in the elements, but now we have gotten so spoiled. Obviously depending on where you are from will change how you view this issue. The only real aspect of the game that will be adversely impacted will be field goal kicking, and if anything eliminating that will make the game more exciting. All the posturing about the weather aside, with how much global warming has changed winter weather, the temperatures will likely fall between 27-40 degrees at kickoff — hardly the temperatures the Packers and Cowboys dealt with in The Ice Bowl.
The outdoor Super Bowl will be the ultimate test as to whether or not this is a viable option and if other cold weather stadiums like Soldier Field and Gillette Stadium can host football’s ultimate game. Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will be at a disadvantage, while Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco would be quite comfortable. To be crowned Super Bowl Champion, you should have to deal with the toughest test possible.
Sure Miami is nice, but why can’t we have both options available for the Super Bowl? I’m excited for a cold weather Super Bowl and so should you.
Dennis spends his time spoiling his Pitbull, Toby, and rooting unabashedly for the New York Yankees.