Whether the NFL just got lucky or issued an under-the-table payment in care of Mother Nature, meteorology did not swallow the Super Bowl. And before the first cold-weather outdoor game was finished, we already could hear the clamor for another. Isn’t a new stadium being built in Minnesota? Why not Chicago, New England, Seattle, Denver? And did we actually hear a peep out of Green Bay, where temperatures Sunday night dropped below zero?
“Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore are all asking, `Is this something we can do?’ ” said Mark Murphy, president of the Packers. “You’d be amazed how many fans and shareholders here have asked the same thing.”
How’s this for an answer?
Nothing is wrong with a nip in the air and the sight of human breath coming out of a football helmet, but Roger Goodell and the league owners better not push their good fortune. They should be thankful for escaping their New York/New Jersey experiment without a polar vortex and dutifully return to the warm-venue rotation that has worked well: Miami, Arizona, Tampa, New Orleans and, when the Rams arrive from St. Louis, Los Angeles. The Broncos and Seahawks, as the sport’s two best teams, deserved a clean canvas upon which to decide a championship, and if MetLife Stadium had been bombarded by snow and chilled by arctic winds, weather would have been a bigger story than Peyton Manning and the Legion of Boom. You don’t report to camp in July and begin six months of violent competition and inevitable attrition, only to let wicked conditions overwhelm the grandest stage.
“We are doing something innovative and unprecedented,” commissioner Roger Goodell said of New York, “something consistent with the essence of football and the Super Bowl.”
Unfortunately, if I heard correctly in his follow-up remarks, Goodell wants to use the week’s successes — safe, fun and well-organized, if also logistically awkward crossing the Hudson River — and take the Super Bowl to all climates. His eyes lit up as he mentioned how weather in southern cities has been frigid in recent weeks, as if creating a rationalization for any climate to host the big game. Never mind that a week in Chicago in late January/early February would mean brain-freezing, senses-paralyzing misery for everyone involved, particularly on Sunday night. Goodell wants to spread the wealth anyway.
“I think we have to get to as many communities as possible and give them the opportunity to share in not only the emotional benefits (of hosting a Super Bowl), but also the economic benefits,” he said. “And it helps the NFL. It helps grow our game. This opportunity has been extraordinary and something we’re all going to look back at as a very important time in our history.”
Said John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, on ESPN Radio: “I’m pretty confident that most (NFL owners) will say to themselves that it was a great idea to have this event in this area, New York and New Jersey, and why not come back here again. It’s good for the league. I think it will open up some eyes as to why not at least consider other areas, and I think we will do that.”
It has been difficult enough accepting unattractive sites such as Houston and Indianapolis, but they are here to stay because their stadiums have roofs and their host committees stage well-organized Super Bows. Jerry World is a fixed site, too, never minding the ice storms that kept party-goers in their hotels three winters ago in north Texas. But when Minneapolis is a finalist for the 2018 game (competing against Indianapolis and New Orleans), that’s when I cringe. The league likes to reward cities that build or renovate stadiums with a Super Bowl gift — the only reason Jacksonville hosted in 2004 — but while the Minnesota building will have a clear roof, the week likely will be ruined by a deep freeze. As it is, there are concerns that next year’s game, in the 49ers’ new Silicon Valley stadium, will be marred by steady rains that normally hit the Bay Area in mid-winter.
Can’t we just appreciate the sunny, warmer places and stop the foolishness?
Any Super Bowl host will have to be in a larger market, Goodell said. So Green Bay is out, thankfully. “We have a very aggressive process in selecting cities. The ability to host the Super Bowl is more and more complicated and complex, because of the size of events and the number of events. So the infrastructure is incredibly important,” he said. “We’re well over 30,000 hotel rooms needed even to host a Super Bowl. So there are some communities that might not be able to do it from an infrastructure standpoint. But we know the passion is there.”
As passion goes, the priority should be the four hours on Sunday night. While some football romantics relished the chance for a classic snow game — “It would have been cool. That’s how football’s supposed to be played,” Seattle linebacker Heath Farwell said — it was best for all to have no snow, no rain, little wind and relatively mild temperatures. Here we were reading up on the team’s cold-weather plans — how hot to make the heated benches, whether to rub Vaseline on bodies and put cayenne powder in shoes. Turns out it was just another evening in the swamps of Jersey, prompting local leaders to push for another New York metropolitan Super Bowl.
“This is a legacy that will live beyond the game itself,” said Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the Super Bowl host committee. “For years to come, young people, men and women will feel this game was important for the region. And hopefully, when we do all the tallying in the weeks to come, the other 30 owners will say to themselves, if there is a chance to do this again, Super Bowl 48 in New York and New Jersey was a huge success. Let’s try to do this once every 10 years.”
Mother Nature is good for only one bribe.