After two weekends of playoff action, the NFL playoffs now start to get serious as a blizzard in January when the two Super Bowl contenders will be determined.
Speaking of blizzards in January, there seems to be one thing missing from modern football.
It’s snow and cold.
You can blame it on global warming, the greater number of domed stadiums, or the sport’s migration from northern industrial cities to southern retirement towns.
But that doesn’t matter. I want to know where the snow and cold is.
Anyone who grew up in the 1960s could count on seeing at least one good snow bowl football game a year. Living in Buffalo seemed to help. When O.J. Simpson set the record for most rushing yards in a season, he did it while dancing and dashing through the snow. In fact, he ran for more than 400 yards during a pair of late-season, snowy contests.
If he could do it, so can everybody else.
Most football players don’t even get the chance anymore.
Football and its fans deserve one slushy, free-for-all when players struggle to maintain footing and field crews fight to keep the hash marks clear. And it is always interesting to hear announcers call out numbers concealed by 100 yards of blizzard-like snow.
Let’s remember the fans who are never afraid to take on Mother Nature’s wrath either. Back in the day, the real fans weren’t too shy to brave the frozen tundra of a parking lot. They knew that nothing tasted better than a hot bowl of chili generously sprinkled with freshly fallen snowflakes.
Football wouldn’t be the same without the memories of these games:
The Indoor Bowl (1932)
A week of severe blizzards and sub-zero wind chills forced organizers to move the 1932 playoff, tie-breaking game between the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans indoors. Instead of playing in Wrigley Field, the league moved the contest to Chicago Stadium, normally the home of the NHL Blackhawks. The Bears won 9-0.
Because of the huge interest in the game, the league changed its rules. Starting in 1933, it began awarding its championship to the winner of a title game. Up until 1932, the title went to the team with the season’s best win-loss percentage. Chicago and Portsmouth ended the regular season tied and settled the score with a playoff game.
The Sneaker Bowl (1934)
An overnight, freezing rainstorm turned New York’s Polo Grounds into a sheet of ice on Dec. 9 and just in time for the second annual NFL Championship game. The host Giants, who switched from cleats to sneakers in the second half, scored 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 30-13, over the Bears.
The Please-Don’t-Play Bowl (1948)
While players from the Chicago Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles remained in the warmth of their locker rooms, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell begged them to postpone their game to Dec. 20. Surely the blizzard would stop by then, he thought. Meanwhile, anyone with a shovel attempted to dig through a record snowfall in search of the football field at Philadelphia’s ShibePark.
But the players persisted and the game went on as scheduled. Conditions were so bad, however, that’s Steve Van Buren’s five-yard TD run in the fourth quarter accounted for the game’s only points and Philadelphia’s first NFL championship. It was the first televised NFL game with Harry Wismer and Red Grange calling all of the action they could see.
The Ice Bowl (1967)
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in a game played at -15 degrees F on New Year’s Eve, 1967. A referee bloodied his lips when his whistle stuck to them. As a result, officials used vocal signals to call out the end of each play. Seven members of a college marching band were hospitalized for treatment of hypothermia. Quarterback Bart Starr’s one-yard plunge in the fourth quarter sealed a 21-17 win for the Green Bay.
The Freezer Bowl (1982)
While it wasn’t the coldest championship game every played, a howling wind sure made the AFC Championship contest seem that way. When visiting San Diego took the field to battle host Cincinnati, the temperature in the sun was a -9 F. But a sustained wind of 27 mph made it seem like a frosty -30 to -45 instead.
That’s just cold.
It was so cold, in fact, that television images showed icicles forming on the beard of San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts.
Cincinnati prevailed, 27-7.
A look at the weather for this weekend’s games:
San Francisco at Atlanta: look for sunny skies with temperatures in middle 50s.
Baltimore at New England: Look for mostly sunny skies with a high temperature around 40.
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