When I first heard the NFL was seriously considering staging an open-air Super Bowl in a cold-weather city, I was intrigued. This isn’t the same stuffy, stodgy NFL that ventures outside the box only with an engraved itinerary and a six-pack of Sherpas. The NFL is willing to take risks and do something different.
But there’s a fine line between being edgy and going loco. After further deliberation, the NFL’s decision to hold a Super Bowl in a cold-weather climate with a stadium that has no lid makes us wonder whether plenty of people have lost their marbles.
The Super Bowl is the single greatest day on the American sports calendar. It needs to be protected from circumstances that can make the experience something other than super.
Any of you who have ever stood for three-plus hours in single-digit temperatures for an NFL game know exactly what I’m talking about. Folks familiar with going to outdoor games in cold-weather cities understand how to properly prepare for multiple hours in the hostile elements.
But what about the sandal-wearers from California whose idea of a winter coat is a windbreaker with a hood? When it’s time for them to pay for tickets that with a face value in the vicinity of $2,000, will they realize that they’ll also need to spend roughly that much more on coats, boots, long underwear, gloves, hats, scarves, hand warmers, and foot warmers?
At a time when the NFL has displayed greater sensitivity to the in-stadium fan experience, the league seems to be pandering to the experience of the home viewer, who’d love to see images of a Super Bowl played in gently falling snow emanating from their 3D-HD television screen (made by the NFL’s official 3D-HD television sponsor).
The message to the customers who’ll be likely paying record-high prices? As the late Peter Boyle playing New York resident Frank Barone would say, "Suck it up, Nancy."
Maybe the NFL is hoping to make it "cool" to go to games in bitterly cold weather. Or maybe the NFL wants to create a spectacle like hockey’s annual Winter Classic, already an indispensable New Year’s Day tradition.
Either way, the risk of a nightmare scenario outweighs the potential reward of a day in which it’s cold but not too cold and the snow is falling but not too heavily, with the wind blowing but not gusting.
But maybe the NFL wants to show it can navigate a nightmare. Imagine the hand-wringing over whether the league can get a concert-quality stage in place for the halftime show, if the snow is falling at a rate of one inch every 10 minutes. If the NFL can make it look easy even when the conditions are difficult, the league will look even better.
On a brighter note, there should be no worries about any wardrobe malfunctions.
The league is selling this as a one-time-only event as protection against the worst-case scenario. If the weather gives us something more like Chargers-Bengals in 1982 than Raiders-Patriots in 2002, the NFL will simply find a way to declare victory and take refuge behind the notion that this will never be done again. If it works — then they’ll eventually spin the revolver and try it again at some point in the future.
The Super Bowl isn’t an event with which such risks should be taken. And if the folks in New York/New Jersey wanted to host one or more Super Bowls at their new stadium, they should have included a retractable roof.
Why didn’t they? Because they want the cold and the wind as part of a January home-field advantage if/when the Jets or the Giants are playing late-season or postseason games there.
That’s fine, but they shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.
Look, I love New York. And I love the Super Bowl. But New York and the Super Bowl don’t necessarily mix like peanut butter and chocolate. If the fans have to suffer through the misery of a cold, windy day at Meadowlands Stadium in February 2014, it’ll be more like a greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray.
Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.