I get chills thinking about it
Football. Outdoors. In non-idyllic weather.
Old guys like me — I’ll be 61 for the 2014 Super Bowl in the New Meadowlands — need extra time to bundle up. (Note to self: Hilton Tent City, ASAP, for the holy trinity outdoor winter gift pack — thermal long johns, hand warmers, flask.)
The NFL made history Tuesday when, on a fourth secret vote among its 32 perpetually suntanned owners, it landed the sport’s showcase game in East Rutherford, N.J., no matter the temperature on Feb. 2, 9, or 16 in 2014 (Super Bowl Sunday TBA).
A very bold move for these guys, because they had to waive a provision in the Sacred Super Bowl Documents — presumably kept under lock and key in a Pasadena incubator — that mandates the game be played in warm-weather climes or in a domed stadium. I have nothing against warm weather, but domed football stadia have always left me cold, no matter how much sense they make, how much heat they generate, or how many luxury suite amenities they breed.
Indoor football is kind of like decaf cappuccino or no-cal/low-carb beer. One sip, and you’re left to wonder, “The point of this is . . . ?’’
“You know, this is football,’’ New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told ESPNNewYork.com after the Jets-Giants edged out Tampa for the bid, “not beach volleyball.’’
Precisely. Hizzoner knows his sports. No way he’ll hire Jason Varitek as a consultant on “splitting the uprights’’ for the big game at the new $1.6 billion open-to-the-great-outdoors-freeze-your-tushy-off stadium.
The decision Tuesday quickly generated musings around D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Foxborough, Green Bay, and Cleveland that perhaps one day the Super Bowl could be held in their own wintry climes.
“And you can quote me!’’ said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, emphatically expressing his interest in bringing the game to the nation’s capital. Wouldn’t he first have to bring an NFL team to D.C.? Seems a reasonable prerequisite.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was not nearly as over-the-top or promising about the prospect of bringing the Super Bowl to his Lighthouse in the Forest. That could change. I bet it will. What’s New York got that Route 1 doesn’t? Other than a footbridge or two?
Truth is, the curiosity in all this is not that America’s No. 1 sports extravaganza will be served plat froid, but rather that it will have taken the NFL nearly a half-century to be so, uh, brave, so contrarian, so out of the box and out of the enclosed stadium. In that way, what happened last week is a great reflection of where our games have gone, and how we care to see them staged, over all these decades.
We had an ownership group that had to think long and hard about taking its made-for-outdoor sport and plopping it outdoors, exposing it to elements that could be cold, blustery, snowy, hail-ridden, just downright nasty. No question, that could be unsavory for the players and the fans that day in East Rutherford (unless they all get the holy trinity outdoor winter gift pack), especially given that the first ball won’t go in the air until the sun goes down.
But as for a TV event, heck, what’s reality TV without a little frozen tundra in the game? More than just Patriots fans are still talking about Adam Vinatieri’s field goal that sliced its way through the snowflakes in the 2001 Tuck Game. In fact, the Jets-Giants bid included a video clip of that kick and it once again helped carry the day.
It’s the kick that keeps on going . . . and going . . . and giving.
What true football fan doesn’t hold dear the Ice Bowl at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, where the Packers and Cowboys battled out the 1967 NFL Championship game in minus-13 degrees (wind chill: minus-48).
NBC and the World Wrestling Federation burned through gobs of money with their XFL venture, trying to create an NFL offseason alternative (remember Rod “He Hate Me’’ Smart?). Oh, the millions they could have saved, and perhaps banked, had they instead equipped their stadia with huge snow cannons and simply played conventional football amid manmade snowstorms.
The chief aim of the XFL was to provide the audience with a less-predictable game. Wrestling genius Vince McMahon called the NFL the “No Fun League.’’ Nothing like a snowstorm, real or manufactured, to deliver unpredictability.
The Super Bowl has never been staged with the temperature at kickoff below 39 degrees (1972, New Orleans). Six years later, also in New Orleans, it was 46 degrees at kickoff. A handful of other Super Bowls have been held despite temperatures plummeting into the 50s. Otherwise, blue skies, nothing but blue skies, and fields of green (food coloring added to the turf whenever necessary).
“You could be playing in a foot of snow,’’ onetime Patriots assistant coach Eric Mangini told USA Today, the now-Browns coach thrilled with Tuesday’s decision. “Playing in ridiculous winds, playing with icy rains, the cold. It’s great.’’
The game, and its owners, have been brought outside and back to earth. The Super Bowl is exiting paradise, at least for one year, and going retro, putting into question the quarterbacks’ frozen hands, the wide receivers’ taut hamstrings, the referees’ patience, the coaches’ ability to hear their coordinators’ orders barked through snow-caked headphones.
Mother Nature stands ready to give the Lords of the Gridiron a run for their money, which is something no one else in America can do today. The early line in Vegas has the old girl giving 3 1/2 points. When that Sunday comes in 2014, I hope she gives it all she’s got.
Kevin Paul Dupont’s “On Second Thought’’ appears on Page 2 of the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.