Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Football in the snow? No, thanks

New Year's Day, 1947, in Dallas: the Cotton Bowl -- LSU's worst
weather football game ever (final score: LSU 0, Arkansas 0)
     Considering the snow-bound Deep South this week and the usually frozen North has me thinking about bad weather and its effect on sports events.
     If you're a fan, you likely have put your health at risk and braved cold weather to sit through games, and you probably haven't forgotten it.
     Good luck to those people going to the Super Bowl in the Meadowlands on Sunday. It might not be another Ice Bowl -- nothing will be like that again, hopefully -- but sub-freezing temperatures are likely and snow is possible.
     And I'm not envious. If I decide to watch -- and that's a question, as you might've read (or not read) in a blog piece last week -- I'll do it from a warm living room.
     I've had my share of bad-weather games, and I'm not volunteering for any more.
     We've all sat through the rain to watch football, baseball, golf, soccer -- or most anything outdoors -- and we've might've seen some fog-affected games (if not in person, then on TV), and we have driven through rain and snow to get to basketball arenas.
     Many years ago, when I was the sports information director at Centenary College, we had some hellacious basketball trips -- through the snow and ice in New York City, Detroit, Chicago, upstate New York and even to Bozeman, Mont. -- all in the middle of winter.
     I knew we were in the deep freeze one night in Omaha, Neb., when I walked out of the hotel to go to the arena just across the street (Centenary was playing Creighton), and the temperature sign closeby said ... 5 degrees. That didn't account for the wind, and wind chill. Thankfully, no snow that day, but that was not a pleasant walk.
     Baseball in cold weather is not much fun, either. Few times in my life have I left a game of any sorts early, but one April night at Atlanta Stadium, Terry Tucker and I left the premises after the first inning. It was cold and windy, and we couldn't stand it. The Braves and Padres played on without us.
     It makes a difference when you have a child playing in the game. Beatrice and I sat (or stood) through many a soccer game involving Orange Park teams when we lived in North Florida because one of the kids on the field was our Jason.
     You generally think "warm" when it's Florida, but you'd be surprised how cold it can be at night in January or February, and how badly you want to watch your son play soccer.
      Which brings to mind the soccer games in Europe and the rest of the world when they play in winter, in conditions probably as harsh or worse than here in the U.S., and last I looked, the players were wearing shorts.
       I mean, have you ever seen a soccer game in which the players wear long pants? Better yet (Jerry Barnes, take note), have you ever seen a soccer game, period?
       I'm wondering, does the cold ever bother those players?  Funny, but when I was a kid in Holland going to those soccer games, I don't remember the weather bothering me. I'm thinking now that because I was only 7 or 8 years old, my parents probably kept me at home when the weather was awful. (Could I make you believe that I made that mile walk to Olympic Stadium and back home in the snow?)
       Ah, never mind. I'm here to continue my discussion on the Super Bowl being played outdoors in a cold-weather place; I touched on this last week. I think it's a stupid idea, OK.
       If the NFL wants to subject the players on the best two teams in the league this season -- and subject the fans and, yes, the media -- to a possible winter storm, or even a pretty miserable cold night, I don't want to hear or read about the whining afterward.
       But as I got ready to write this piece and thought about the miserable weather games of the past, I realized that there is a whole history of NFL Championship Games -- pre-Super Bowl era -- being played in snow and ice and brutal cold.
       One example: I was reading about the 1945 title game in Cleveland -- Cleveland Rams vs. Washington Redskins -- when 18 inches of snow hit town the week of the game, and the temperature was -8 at game time.
       Still, that wasn't as bad as the Cowboys-Packers Ice Bowl in Green Bay at the end of the 1966 season. Nothing was ever as bad.
       So, much as the NFL loves its throwback uniforms, this could be a throwback-type game, weather-wise.
       There was an NFL game this season reminiscent of those snow/ice adventures: the Dec. 8 game in Philadelphia, with Detroit as the visitor, a game played in a blizzard. You might remember it: The Eagles won 34-20, although at times, the field was practically invisible from the stands or on TV.
       I was thinking about the worst LSU football weather game. A friend with a long LSU history chose the 1988 Miami-at-Tiger Stadium game played in, as he put it, "a torrential storm." I remember it because not only did it pour, it also poured Miami points (the Hurricanes, in Jimmy Johnson's last year as their coach, embarrassed the Tigers 44-3).
       But that was a rain game. LSU had one of those "blizzard" games ... before I was born. I've seen the photos of the 1947 Cotton Bowl game -- Arkansas vs. a 9-1 LSU team. Dallas-Fort Worth was hit by a snowstorm and the Cotton Bowl Stadium looked like Philadelphia's stadium last month.
       The score that day: 0-0. No surprise. I'm posting a picture of the stadium that New Year's Day.
       Many of us remember the 1979 Cotton Bowl game, played after D-FW's worst ice storm in 30 years -- the horribly cold, icy day when Joe Montana led Notre Dame to a 23-0 fourth-quarter edge and back from being shellacked by Houston (34-12 lead) to a classic 35-34 victory.
       That day, I was cold just watching it on TV.
       I'm thinking about the fans who will be in the stands at Sunday's Super Bowl and the media, especially the ones who will be near the field for whatever reason and those assigned to the auxiliary press box (outside?) because the regular press box is full.
       Hey, have fun, people. Uh, dress warmly.
       I sure hope this isn't a "blizzard" game because I don't think that is fair to either team (or the fans). But if it happens, we can all say "told you so" to the NFL powers-that-be.
       I have my own media experiences with terribly cold-weather football games, and I'll write about them in the next episode.
       I'll give you two hints: (1) Both games were played in Tennessee and (2) Terry Bradshaw was the quarterback in one of them.


  1. From Raleigh Whitehead: Back when I was in the 9th grade, my dad and I went to see Woodlawn play Sulphur at State Fair Stadium. It was cold, but we were bundled up pretty good. It was a state playoff game and Woodlawn lost. My dad never did attend another Woodlawn game after that no matter the weather.

    1. That was Woodlawn's first playoff game, the 1961 "Team Named Desire," and Sulphur won 28-6. ... If your dad never saw another Woodlawn game, he missed a lot of exciting ones.

  2. From Tommy Youngblood (former LSU defensive end): Weather stories alert -- I bet you get inundated now. The two ice games I remember were LSU games. One, LSU-Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham. Really frigid but no snow. I cut the sleeves off my jersey to show the team it would not bother me. They won, but it was close. I later learned ( I guess I forgot ) that that night Auburn and Tennessee played on the same field and I think it was a record cold. Later we played Florida State in the first Peach Bowl (in Atlanta, 1967 season). The game drug on forever and it rained and then snowed. My wife Linda still will give you an earful about getting drenched and then freezing to death. We had to change jerseys at halftime the field was so sloppy. Guess which jersey they brought for my backup? As for the Super Bowl ... when i went to Ottawa to try the pros (Canadian Football League), I got a real lesson in how the upper Midwest and the East Coast teams feel football is their sport and should always be played in the cold and rain.

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  4. From Sid Huff: Very nice piece, Nico. I, of course, remember the "Ice Bowl" and thought it grossly unfair that an NFL championship game was held on one team's homefield. Bring the Packers to Dallas in August to make things fair, I remember thinking. Still, despite that, I like to watch games that are played in bad weather from the comfort of my warm, dry den. Remember the guy who was running the snow plow and cleared the spot for the New England kicker to win the game against the Miami Dolphins?

  5. From Liz Piker: Playing the Super Bowl in New Jersey -- I hope it is a monumental failure because it was such a stupid idea in the first place -- only one of many that this football commissioner will be remembered for; how about the crazy new rules that he is considering? LEAVE MY GAME ALONE! Nobody would stand for this if it were tried in the game of baseball.
    It seems that all I do anymore these days is vent. Let them all spend those horrible amounts of money to sit out in the snow and freezing rain to watch a game that soon will be so different that they won't even know why they came. I am glad that my team (Saints) is NOT going to be subjected to that. We will wait till next year and then kick butt.

  6. From Pesky Hill: I was working for CBS that day at the Cotton Bowl when Montana brought Notre Dame from behind for the victory. CBS hired me to help the late Frank Glieber, the sideline reporter. Only problem, it was so cold that Frank stayed in the locker room for most of the game. I had to go to both benches to get Frank information. He would come out to do a “shot” about once each quarter; I was out there the whole time. I ruined a pair of shoes. It was easily the coldest day I have ever spent in my life. In hindsight, they didn’t pay me enough, but it was a great game.