NFL owners last week voted to bring Super Bowl XLVIII to the New Meadowlands Stadium and the New York metropolitan area in 2014. Also, this year’s world tanning championships will be held in December in Fairbanks, Alaska.
No, that second item was made up. But not the first one, even though it’s just as nutty.
Bad ideas are never in short supply, and here is yet another—playing the Super Bowl outdoors ... in northern New Jersey ... in early February. As opposed to Tampa or Miami, the two warm-weather sites that lost out.
If we’ve proved nothing else, those of us over 50 proved long ago our loyalty to the NFL and our willingness to accept excesses and selfishness for as long as the game has been played. But we deserve better.
Along with its conduct policy, the NFL needs a sanity policy. The glitz and glitter of Manhattan (and the requisite marketing opportunities), not to mention greater Newark, won out over rational thinking. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who shows little tolerance for players’ untoward behavior, should have reprimanded the misguided owners who approved this—except that he thinks it’s a marvelous idea, too.
The weather’s not a problem? Fine. Like baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn going coatless in frigid conditions to sell the idea of night World Series games, Goodell and the owners are now required to sit outside during the game, not in their comfy, climate-controlled indoor suites. And no fair anyone sneaking them cocoa, or hot hors d’oeuvres.
This is madness. Think of Februarys past. Like, say, the last one. As the Super Bowl kicked off in sunny, sensible South Florida, many of us were still digging out from the gigantic blizzard that hit the Northeast. It was the “storm of the century,” or more colorfully, “snowmageddon,” and thousands couldn’t even watch the game because their power was out.
Sure, it was an extraordinary quirk of nature. But why take chances on it happening again? Besides, it’s winter; isn’t it supposed to snow in such places? If only there were somebody we could ask about this. Oh, wait.
“If somebody were to ask me which two weeks in the entire winter it is most likely to snow in Newark, N.J., I would probably say the first two weeks of February,” Dave Dombek, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, told Bloomberg.com. “It just likes to snow that time of year because the ocean is getting close to its coldest.”
And even if it doesn’t snow, it probably will be numbingly cold. Remember, the game will start long after dark. The average high temperature for the area in February is about 32 degrees. The scientific term for that is “freezing.” Grumbled Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior when he heard the news, “I play enough games in the cold.”
To get this done, the NFL waived its policy that prohibits an outdoor Super Bowl being awarded to cold, nasty places. Places like, well, you know. Not only is such arbitrariness an outrage, it highlights why such a policy exists in the first place. Here’s a clue: Because it makes sense! Because the most important football game of the year should not be decided by windblown passes, a slick field, icy fingers that can’t grip the ball or a snowstorm that obscures the lines on the field. Because the fans shouldn’t have to suffer beyond paying absurdly high ticket prices.
Some find bad weather and football to be a quaint combination, a throwback to the pre-dome, pre-artificial turf days when real men had to conquer the elements as well as their opponents (without using a snowplow, like in New England that time). The Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL championship game in Green Bay, comes to mind. The temperature was minus 13 degrees. It was so cold that Frank Gifford’s steaming cup of coffee froze solid in the broadcast booth within minutes. Besides the weather, it is best remembered for Bart Starr’s famous quarterback sneak in the final seconds. Otherwise, it was a terrible game.
Maybe that’s an extreme example, but it illustrates how in foul-weather games the elements, not the players, often determine the outcome. This usually can’t be avoided, except for the Super Bowl (where it has rained a few times, but not hard enough to mess things up). Until now. In Tampa and Miami, beach chairs are for the beach. In some northern cities, they’re used for saving parking spaces during blizzards. The NFL should have taken the hint.
Bob Cohn is a veteran sportswriter now working for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He covered Super Bowl XXX in warm, sunny Arizona.