Get ready for Ice Bowl II. Weather forecasts for Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field all say the same thing: Cold!
The Web site has something called a "Spectator Index," which expresses "how comfortable conditions will be" in a single number on a scale of 1-10. Ten is excellent, 9 and 8 very good and so on, down to 1, which is "Very Poor." The Spectator Index forecast for Sunday: 1.
But not if you're watching it on TV.
The funniest thing about the argument that the NFL has to keep the Super Bowl in balmy climates or domes because championships shouldn't be decided by the elements is that it's often made by the very same people who experience paroxysms of nostalgic nirvana at the mention of the Ice Bowl, the legendary NFL Championship Game played at Lambeau Field on Dec. 31, 1967, when men were men, football was football and it is wasn't yet what it is.
When the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 to earn a trip to the second Super Bowl -- at the time a lesser event than the NFL Championship Game -- the game-time temperature was well below zero and the wind-chill was more like minus-50 degrees. And that game is considered one of the greatest ever played. There are probably 2 million people who have, at one time or another, claimed to have been in the stands that day. I'll bet half of them believe it.
Accuweather forecasts a low of 3 degrees Fahrenheit Sunday night, with a "RealFeel" -- the site's version of wind-chill factor -- of minus 13. For the verbal among you: "Mostly cloudy and bitterly cold" for Sunday, a resigned, sighing "Cloudy and cold" for the evening, when the 5:30 p.m. CST game will be played.
Ah, but it'll be warm in front of the big screen, right folks? Let 'em drink cocoa. Some of the NFL's most memorable moments have come in severe cold weather games, when playoff teams have had to battle the elements as well as each other.
"Football in the cold," then-San Diego Chargers linebacker Steve Hendrickson told the New York Times before a cold-weather playoff game in Pittsburgh in January 1995, "what a feeling. You hit somebody with your helmet, and it rings."
The Chargers were the losers in the 1981 AFC Championship Game in Cincinnati, played in January 1982 and known as the Freezer Bowl. It was played in similar conditions as the Ice Bowl, but with the bonus of being played on AstroTurf, which was as hard as concrete on a 70-degree day. The Bengals beat the Chargers -- who had played in Miami the previous week -- 27-7, and Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts says his fingers, which he couldn't feel that day, never regained their color.
The Chargers will have to play in temperatures ranging from 31 down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit Sunday against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, but with a 22 mph wind, Weather.com forecasts, for a wind-chill factor as low as minus-1. But hey, no complaining. The Spectator Index is 2
The Tuck Rule game, the AFC divisional-round playoff game won by the Patriots over the Oakland Raiders on an invocation of the NFL's stone craziest rule, was played in heavy snow. The Patriots won a famous regular-season game over the Miami Dolphins in 1982 thanks to a clever snow-plow operator -- on work release -- who cleared a spot for the home team's placekicker, John Smith, to kick a field goal for the game's only points. Don Shula's still mad about that one.
Sunday will bring steam billowing from players' mouths like 22 steam trains. There'll be limited playbooks, bad footing and worse grip. The coaches will be so busy looking over their shoulder for the Gatorade bath that they'll forget to waste timeouts and punt on fourth-and-millimeters.
It'll be terrible, a disgrace, not real football, a shame that such an important game will be decided not by the talent of the teams but by the elements.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
They never announce they're pulling into negotiations [PERMALINK]
ESPN reported at various times Monday that the New York Yankees had, and then that they hadn't, pulled their trade offer for Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana off the table for the second time this winter.
The National Weather Service has set up a Web site to track the status of the New York Yankees' participation in the Johan Santana trade talks.
This column's prediction: If the Yankees make one more public statement that they are out of the Santana trade talks, Santana will be a Yankee by the trading deadline.
Previous column: Upset Sunday
- - - - - - - - - - - -