IRVING, Texas – February. Gray skies. Snowflakes. Brrrrrrrr.
Well, grab your boots and plow the snow. The Super Bowl is coming to the Meadowlands.
In New Jersey? In the dead of winter?
“We’ll all pray that it doesn’t snow that day,” Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said.
NFL owners voted Tuesday to put the 2014 Super Bowl in the new $1.6 billion Meadowlands Stadium that this season will become home to the New York Jets and Giants. It’s the first time the league has gone to a cold weather site that doesn’t have a dome; until now, those places couldn’t even bid on the big game.
So, why the risk?
“Let’s face it,” Giants co-owner John Mara said, “there’s only one New York City.”
“We promise the greatest game in the greatest venue in the greatest city,” added another co-owner, Steve Tisch. “Now we’ve got to deliver.”
Mother Nature may have a lot to say about that.
The coldest kickoff temperature in Super Bowl history was 39 degrees, and that would be considered a warm February day in East Rutherford, N.J. Average February temperatures there are 24 to 40 degrees, with several inches of rain, according to the bid documents.
Remember, the game kicks off after the sun goes down in the Eastern time zone, so temperatures would be dropping throughout the night.
“Everyone knows it’s risky,” said Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose bid was eliminated in the second round.
It might end up being another Ice Bowl, Fog Bowl, Freezer Bowl or something else worthy of a frigid nickname. That’s not what the bidders had in mind when they adopted the slogan, “Make Some History,” but for all the inconvenience to those in the stadium, it might look great on TV.
The extended version of Bart Starr’s game-winning sneak in the Ice Bowl in 1967 opens with Cowboys defenders scraping their cleats into the ice to try getting some traction. Teeth chatter just watching the replay of Tom Brady’s fumble that was ruled an incompletion in the snow-filled Tuck Rule game. In Brett Favre’s final game with the Packers, he ends a chilly playoff game by throwing an interception, then runs off with steam coming out of his mouth; it was against the Giants, too.
“People talk about the weather, but, you know, this is football, not beach volleyball,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the NFL Network.
The NFL has required an average temperature of 50 degrees or a dome for a team to even bid on hosting the Super Bowl, but the league bent the rule to let New York bid.
It’s billed as a one-time exception, but just a few years ago, the NHL experimented with an outdoor game on New Year’s Day, and it came off so perfectly that teams now fight to host what’s become the annual Winter Classic. Maybe this will work out that well, too.
“I think it will turn out to be a great event,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
The weather worries could even add to the hype. In addition to predicting which teams will make it, fans can guess how nasty it might be.
“We’ve played some (frigid, wet December) games there and I know first-hand that the fans had great experiences even though it was in inclement weather,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
Players are split on the decision.
In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room, quarterback Byron Leftwich said the weather doesn’t matter “because it’s the Super Bowl … and you’re not going to let 15 degrees change anything.” But linebacker James Farrior countered, “I play enough games in the cold.”
Giants and Jets players are thrilled.
“There’s something special about this city, man,” Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said following a rally in Times Square.
“We should’ve done this years ago,” said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who also was part of that celebration.
The 50-degree rule was created for the comfort and convenience of fans and players. Anyone who has ever planned an outdoor event can appreciate how much of a relief it is to not worry about the weather. Neutral conditions, like those in a dome, also are supposed to help the caliber of play. It also makes it more comfy for all the practices, parties and other events during the week leading up to the game.
It’s been at least 57 degrees for every Super Bowl since 1975, when it was 46. That’s why Florida and California have been such frequent hosts.
“In the back of everybody’s mind, people want to be in South Florida that time of year,” Ross said.
Tuesday’s vote had been widely considered a formality, but it didn’t play out that way. Even after Miami was eliminated, it took two more rounds of voting for New York to get the nod over Tampa.
“New York knows how to put on an event,” Ross said, putting aside his weather warnings. “It’s not like you lost to some small town that doesn’t know how to put on big events.”
Being just outside the Big Apple means lots of glitz and spectacle, Buildup will include everything from a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to parties at internationally renowned destinations. There will be game-day shots of the Manhattan skyline in the distance, and thousands watching on the jumbo-screen TVs in Times Square.
The flip side is that security will become a bigger issue, perhaps among the most expensive pieces of the budget. An expected economic impact of $550 million would help offset some of the cost.
Planners are already making the most of the weather. They’re plotting to give out hand warmers and heated seat cushions — and will be selling plenty more NFL-branded merchandise to help fight off the elements. They’ll also have hundreds of folks ready to shovel away snow, and anything else necessary to make the experience more than bearable.
The team owners were asked where they would sit — indoors or out?
“Probably both,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said.
Mara laughed and said, “I like that.”
Other cities have built big, expensive stadiums and would love to have the weather rule waived for them.
Odds are, the NFL will wait and see how this foray into the great outdoors in winter goes. Then the league might OK another bid — like for Washington, saying the nation’s capital deserves the nation’s most popular event — but it would take a year or two to figure out the logistics. And votes are taken four years out, so it might be until 2019 or 2020 before it happens again.
The upcoming Super Bowl, in February 2011, will be at Cowboys Stadium, followed by Indianapolis’ new stadium in 2012 and a 2013 return to the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ripped off part of the roof.
The 2014 game will be held Feb. 2nd, 9th or 16th, depending on how that season’s schedule is set up.
That leads to one more question: Anybody have a 1,300-day forecast?