Wintry Weather a Warning Sign for NFL
It's too bad the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a northern city isn't scheduled next year, but in 2014, at Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. For if it were in 2012, there would be a chance that potential NFL work stoppage due to labor negotiations could wipe out next season and, with it, the folly of attempting to play the national pastime's showcase game in weather no one would want to brave even if they were allowed.
Instead, the best league bosses can do between now and then is keep their collective Gore Tex-gloved fingers crossed that the wicked winter weather canceling Super Bowl events this week in Dallas, and shutting down central Indiana where the 2012 Super Bowl is scheduled, won't crop up in a more likely locale of metropolitan New York three years from now.
This week is proof that the decision last May to play the 2014 Super Bowl outdoors -- in the dead of winter -- at the uncovered new home of the Giants and Jets was a bad idea.
It may have been a nostalgic idea.
"I think the idea of playing in the elements is central to the way the game of football is played," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said of New Jersey's bid at last year's Super Bowl.
But it was also a Neanderthal thought.
Goodell should have squashed the suggestion when Jets' owner Woody Johnson brought it up. After all, it looked Tuesday like it will only wind up being another fine mess the Jets have gotten the league into.
By nightfall, wind chill was expected to push temperatures in metropolitan Dallas, where the Steelers and Packers will play, to below zero. Ice temporarily shut down DFW International Airport. Schools, businesses and government shuttered early. Driving conditions were treacherous.
"When we woke up this morning," Packers' nose tackle B.J. Raji told reporters at media day, "I thought I was in Green Bay again."
Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones, who lobbied for the Super Bowl at his new stadium, dismissed the inclement weather as unusual for Dallas. But I lived there for 20 years and well recall several similar ice storms in February or late January.
So the idea that the league couldn't have done anything to avoid the massive winter storm ripping through much of the country, which on Tuesday canceled more than 8,700 flights, including many headed to DFW for the Super Bowl, is false. It could have done what its done most often: avoid such weather. It could have again put the Super Bowl in Florida, southern California, New Orleans' Superdome or even Arizona. Although I'd protest the latter till Arizona becomes a more hospitable state to everyone.
It's upwards of 80 degrees in Miami this week. The forecast is sunny and 70 in San Diego come the weekend. It's room temperature in the Superdome. It will, at least, be the same inside Jones' stadium with the retractable roof undoubtedly closed.
I don't have a problem with the league wanting to share the biggest annual sporting event in the nation with every corner of the country. But when it is taken up North it should be housed if not hermetically sealed.
I went as a fan to the coldest Super Bowl on record in 1992 in Minneapolis. It was 26 degrees at kickoff and in single-digits after Washington finished off Buffalo. But it was inside the Metrodome. Stadium workers didn't have to shovel snow off the seats. Indoors we shed our coats, gloves and hats and never saw our breath.
That's the way it should be for the Super Bowl. The elements come into play often, and rightfully so, in the conference championships. I was at Foxborough, Mass., three weekends ago and Pittsburgh two weekends ago. The Patriots and the Steelers earned the right to make their opponents come on their turf, as frozen as it was, and attempt to beat them.
The Super Bowl should be an even playing field and decided by the coaches and players rather than wind, rain and, of course, snow, if possible. It's very possible, too.
The Giants and Jets decided, unlike the Lions who hosted a Super Bowl a few years ago, to build a stadium without a roof. Good for the regular season and playoffs, but not for a Super Bowl.
After all, if the weather in greater New York three winters from now is anything like it has been the past three weeks or so, there will be a good chance the league will have to do what it did twice last December: postpone the Super Bowl because of snow. Nineteen inches of snow fell on Central Park last week. That was on top of upwards of 20 inches the New York area got earlier in the winter, which paralyzed the city.
That was more than what fell on Philadelphia in December that caused Philly city to shut down for a moment and forced Goodell's office to move a weekend Eagles' game to Tuesday night.
There was much debate then about whether the right call was made, but it was based as much on safety of fans and workers getting to Lincoln Financial Field in Philly as it was the workers ability to clean it up fast enough.
Would safety be overlooked simply because the Super Bowl is scheduled rather than a mere regular-season contest? I'd take the under.
Looking back now, that decision could be a dry run for something the league could be forced to do in 2014: delaying the Super Bowl because of weather. Imagine that.
If the Super Bowl were planned for Indianapolis on Sunday rather than next year that would be even more of a possibility. The same storm system that hit Dallas was figured to wallop Indianapolis even worse. As a result, downtown college campuses shut down. Businesses shuttered for the rest of the day. The governor ordered state workers to go home early. Power outages were anticipated due to ice and high winds. It was thought as many as 18 inches of new snow could fall on the already blanketed northern Indiana region.
So what if the Super Bowl would be played indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium? People might not be able get there.
A Chicago mayoral candidate said the other day that if he won he'd seek the Super Bowl for the Windy City. I hope anybody else wins.