With less than two minutes remaining in regulation of their 2001 AFC Divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, the New England Patriots trailed 13-10. Tom Brady, making his first appearance in the postseason, would eventually lead New England to a game-tying drive that would birth one of the dumbest rules in NFL history, but also serve as the first chapter in what is now considered to be one of the most decorated coaching-quarterback tandems the game as ever seen. The drive was the beginning of something special. And it all started on a bed of snow.
The Super Bowl is a hot talking point, and doesn’t need an added wrinkle to make it more polarizing. But with Super Bowl XLVIII being hosted at MetLife stadium in New Jersey, the discussion has become contentious, sparking endless debate over whether it’s in the best interest of the sport, fans, and players, to host the NFL’s greatest spectacle in a cold-weather stadium.
Unlike other sports, football is unique in the way that it doesn’t require perfect weather for a game to be played. Fans won’t have to re-schedule, or be reimbursed for tickets (like, for instance, in baseball) because of inclement weather. Yet there seems to be an outcry from players (who don’t want to play in cold-weather) and fans (who don’t want to sit in cold-weather) regarding this year’s Super Bowl.
Farmers Almanac recently projected the weather for Super Bowl XLVIII, describing it as “bitterly cold,” “biting cold,” and concluded that there may be a significant amount of snowfall come February.
First off, it’s hypocritical for players to complain about the possibility of playing in a game where there’s a chance of snow, because a) they already play in snow during the regular season and in the postseason, and b) the idea that a cold-weather team has an distinct advantage when hosting a warm-weather team is simply not true.
By using Pro-Football-Reference, I was able to go back and see how warm-weather teams or teams that play in domes faired against opponents that play in cold-weather stadiums in the months of November and December last season.
|Date||Home Team||Away Team||Winning Team||Score|
|December 14th||Pittsburg||San Diego||San Diego||34-24|
|December 14th||Buffalo||St. Louis||St. Louis||15-12|
|December 16th||New England||San Fran||San Fran||41-34|
|December 23th||New York Jets||San Diego||San Diego||27-17|
|December 16th||Kansas City||Indianapolis||Indianapolis||20-13|
Granted, this is a small sample size spanning only one season, and there were circumstances where a warm-weather team lost when it traveled to a cold-weather stadium, but the majority of matchups thru December and November were actually between warm-weather teams and warm-weather teams, cold-weather teams and cold-weather teams, or cold-weather teams that traveled to warm-weather stadiums or domes. Additionally, if there was a distinct advantage for cold-weather teams hosting ones that play in a warm-weather city or in a dome, the opposite would also be true. Lets say, for instance, the Super Bowl was being held at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, and the weather was 80 degrees with high humidity (the average temperature in Miami in February is 73 degrees, so the chance of this occurring is not out of the question) and the Dolphins were hosting the Green Bay Packers. You could make the argument the Dolphins have a slight advantage over the Packers because they’re used to playing in hot weather, but that argument, just like the aforementioned one, is dubious. Also, is it not an advantage when a team that normally plays in a dome is matched up in the Super Bowl against a team that plays, say, at Soldier Field or at the Coliseum in Oakland? Of course it is. Teams like the Falcons, Saints, Lions and other dome teams are used to playing on fast, manicured turf, and are accustomed to the noise a dome creates. So, if the Bears or Raiders were to play the the Falcons in the Georgia dome in the Super Bowl, would Atlanta have a slight advantage? Yes. Is it fair? No. But fair is a place where they judge pigs, and ultimately the best team will win, regardless of the setting.
The Super Bowl has evolved, and rightfully so, into more than just a game. It’s an experience. You no longer have to be a “fan” of the sport to enjoy the festivities: there’s always that one person who shows up at your Super Bowl party only interested in the wings and alcohol, and could less about the outcome of the game. Oh, and of course, the events that take place outside of stadiums leading up to the game.
Fair-weather fans and stadium Super Bowl parties are nothing new, but at its core, that’s not what football is about, but simply what it’s become. For football fans (and I mean real football fans) zip lines, street parties, bounce houses, alcohol, and interviews with players regurgitating the same vanilla statements are a mere distraction from what really counts — the game. I don’t care if Broadway is covered in powder and that some guy from Hoboken is angry because he can’t ride the zip line. I could care less about the warmth of a guy from a fortune 500 company who won’t see one snap of football this season, yet gets free tickets from his boss as a Christmas bonus. I don’t need to see Beyoncé or some washed up band from the 80’s gallivanting on stage at midfield. In fact, I hope there’s a blizzard, and it drives all the people away who attend the Super Bowl just because it’s the cool thing to do, and all that’s left is the bearded fat guy with his shirt off and a logo of his favorite team painted across his chest — you know the guy I’m talking about — the crazy, diehard fan who only cares about what happens on the field.
The Ice Bowl, the Tuck Rule game, and Giants-Packers in 2007 at Lambeau Field, remain NFL classics. They’re a testament to a game that’s never shied away from snow, rain, wind, or any other element Mother Nature can throw its way. It may snow on February 2. It might be freezing cold. But one thing is certain: football will be played.
And that’s all that matters.