NEW YORK – If this wintry Super Bowl manages to escape catastrophic weather, don’t expect the NFL just to exhale and consider itself lucky a bad idea turned out good.
Nah, the league is too ambitious for that.
Too arrogant, too.
“Let’s try to do this once every 10 years,” said Jonathan Tisch, a New York Giants co-owner and co-chairman of the Super Bowl XLVIII host committee.
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He would’ve received a more enthusiastic response if he were suggesting regular colonoscopies.
“Let’s get through this one first before we start talking about that,” Giants co-owner John Mara replied to Tisch during a news conference Monday.
Better yet, let’s just make this a one-time deal.
Concern over a winter storm has nearly matched the hype of an epic matchup between the league’s best offense and its best defense. The angst has lasted for a long time. It spiked with the release of the Farmers’ Almanac last August, which predicted that a Super storm would hit the Northeast at this time.
The NFL has had to make contingency plans, creating options to play the game earlier or later, if necessary. The latest forecast is hopeful; the NFL might avoid snow, ice or sleet turning its international showcase into a frigid gong show. It’s simply supposed to be cold, unseasonably cold (high of about only 20 degrees expected Tuesday), for the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service. There’s a 30 percent chance of rain or snow on Saturday. On Super Bowl Sunday, though, one current forecast calls for a high of 39 degrees, with no precipitation.
So there’s a chance this will be the coldest Super Bowl in history. The dubious record belongs to Super Bowl VI, which was played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans in 39-degree weather. This is the first time in 48 Super Bowls that the NFL has attempted to play in an open-air stadium in an area known for bad winters.
For the first time in NFL history, there are three participants in the Super Bowl: the Seahawks, the Denver Broncos and the weather. The latter is dominating the attention, trumping even Peyton Manning’s big arm and Richard Sherman’s big mouth. If Sherman talks trash to anyone this week, it figures to be meteorologists and reporters asking him about the coldest conditions he’s ever endured in a game.
I can hear Sherman now: Don’t you open your mouth about the weather. Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.
Denver coach John Fox was the first person from either team to speak to the media after the Broncos landed in New Jersey on Sunday. Two questions into the interview, the conversation shifted to the weather.
“In order to be a championship football team, we’ve got to be weatherproof, and I think our football team played in all different elements this year,” Fox said. “I feel comfortable with where we’re at as far as the elements, but it’s a part of the game. I think, tradition-wise, it’s been a part of the league and a part of a lot of championships.”
Yes, in its pre-Super Bowl era, the NFL used to play cold-weather championship games often. The 1967 NFL Championship Game, better known as the Ice Bowl, stands out as perhaps the greatest cold-weather title game in a sport played during the winter.
But there’s a reason the NFL tried to avoid wintry conditions the previous 47 Super Bowls. The game has become such a spectacle that the league needs ideal circumstances. The game needs to be clean, not sloppy. The best team needs to be determined by ability, not happenstance. The game is played at a neutral site to make it fair, and traditionally, that fairness has extended to the playing conditions.
I love watching playoff games in snowy Chicago or on Green Bay’s Frozen Tundra, but those are advantages the home team has earned. The Seahawks’ wet and windy playoff victory over New Orleans was an intriguing change from the norm, but again, that was a part of the home-field reward Seattle was given by finishing with the NFC’s best record.
The Super Bowl isn’t that kind of game. It should be decided in the most sterile environment possible, at least in terms of weather. If crazy weather happens, it should be a surprise, not a fear realized.
Fortunately, the Seahawks and Broncos are too excited to care. Fortunately, they are teams that often play home games in bad weather.
“I still treat this game like Pop Warner,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “Little kids love to play in the mud and the snow. That’s just how I am. I don’t care.”
Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard was asked to give his ideal place to play a Super Bowl.
“Right here, right now,” he replied.
They’re competitors, and they’ll handle it fine. But the game could wind up being a nightmare for spectators who are sacrificing a month’s pay for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If the weather takes a wild turn and the game is moved to a different day, they’re the ones who will suffer. They’re the ones whose experience would be irreparably damaged. They’re the ones who will have to change flights and hotel plans at a significant expense. As bad as it would be to have to reschedule your Super Bowl party at home, imagine what it would be like if you had thousands of dollars on the line, at the mercy of the weather gods.
There is one meritorious aspect of this Super aberration: The idea began 13 years ago as a response to the 9/11 attacks, an opportunity to bring joy to the region. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue floated the possibility to the late Giants owner, Wellington Mara. Now, his son, John, has seen it come to fruition. It’s a touching tale for one of the great ownership families in sports.
“I think my father would be pretty amazed that we pulled it off,” John Mara said. “I think he would be very pleased.”
It’s such a sweet thought that it tames my inner grump.
Or maybe my inner grump already has frostbite.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.