Richard Martin

Snow May Not Mix Well With The Super Bowl

Created on Jan. 24, 2014 4:58 PM EST

“Let it snow.”

So said Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the NFL, to USA Today. Is he tempting fate?

For the first time, the Super Bowl will be played in a cold-climate city outdoors. Of course, such a possibility has long been the daydream of many fans in New England, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Denver, Green Bay and Chicago. And, in the past, in Minnesota and St. Louis.

Maybe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thought New York/New Jersey deserved some TLC for suffering 9/11 in 2001 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Perhaps he’s seen the buzz that outdoor hockey games have created for the NHL, a league eager to keep fans in its good graces after two lockouts in less than a decade. 

Or you could say it’s an idea whose time has come. Football fans in the Northeast and Midwest have endured winter weather for season upon season. Though the weather’s likely to be cold, what are the chances of an epic snowstorm? I don’t know. Goodell’s been an excellent commissioner and has put players in their place for a variety of infractions, from illegal hits to improper clothing. But isn’t this a case of tempting fate?

Players can be fined and suspended, but Mother Nature can’t be so easily controlled.

The NFL has made contingency plans. If a major snowstorm is forecasted for the weekend of the Super Bowl, the NFL can reschedule the event for either before or after the scheduled date of Sunday, Feb. 2. Specifically, it could be held Friday, Jan. 31, Saturday, Feb. 1, or Monday, Feb. 3.

By major snowstorm, the NFL means more than a foot of snow. Perhaps a lot more. That sounds more likely in, say, Buffalo than New York.

What’s the major worry for the NFL? Public safety. Well, that’s what the league says. You have to figure that the league would lose some money, though surely that’s been planned for as well. 

The Super Bowl forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of snow or rain, with a high of 40 and winds of 6 to 12 mph. Hmmm. Thirty percent’s a fairly high probability. Still, weather forecasting is hardly an exact science.

What do we know about the weather and Super Bowls? The coldest one was in New Orleans in 1972, when the Cowboys beat the Dolphins. The temperature: 38. Veterans of the cold-weather wars scoff. That’s nothing, they say.

The past few years have witnessed some epic regular-season weather games. On Dec. 8, the Lions played in Philly during a snowstorm that dumped six inches. We can assume the fans know what to do with snow.

Here’s what the AP account of that game said: “‘Snow began falling two hours before kickoff and intensified after the game started. Workers used shovels and handheld blowers to clear off yard lines. Conditions were so poor neither team tried a field goal, and there were two-point conversion attempts after seven of the eight TDs. ‘We just felt footing was so bad,’ Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.”

That’s not promising. And it shows something else: The amount of snowfall is not the whole story. It can fall very quickly. A strong, whipping wind could make passing nearly impossible. I recall seeing highlights from a game played in Chicago a couple of seasons ago. The wind was so strong that it blew a field goal attempt sideways.

It also matters when the snow falls. Legions of workers will be available to deal with snow, but too much too soon, and starting a couple of hours before gametime, would be a mess. The NFL doesn’t want a game where footing is treacherous and kicking impossible, as it was in Philly. 

The NFL’s taking a chance. It will suffer a blow in prestige if the game’s postponed. 

Consider this as well: What if it were still snowing on the rescheduled day?

I think it’s a great idea to have the Super Bowl played outdoors in a cold-weather climate. But I’m not sure I have the same faith Goodell does in life going the way you planned.

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