When a force as menacing as a polar vortex meets a pagan ritual as intimidating as the Super Bowl, I keep thinking Godzilla will rise up and devour it all, leaving Will Smith to survey the devastation.
In truth, I refuse to indulge in such Snowsteria. Let the hypesters claim the real competition pits The Weather vs. The Big Game, not the Broncos vs. the Seahawks or Richard Sherman vs. Whatever New Enemy He Can Invent to join Michael Crabtree, Darrelle Revis, Skip Bayless, Jim Harbaugh, Tom Brady, Trent Williams and Roddy White. Because the NFL dares to stage its roman-numeraled extravaganza on the first Sunday night of February in a roofless, cold-weather venue, all sorts of alarmists — some scared to get their pumps wet en route to the GQ bash at the Boom Boom Room — are projecting a week of blizzards, minus-25 wind chills, jammed hypothermia wards at New York area hospitals and, worse yet, the magic bass fingers of Flea freezing up when the Red Hot Chili Peppers take the halftime stage.
Please. None of those things are going to happen, except the part about fear of wet pumps.
While realizing winter meteorological forecasts are volatile, I’m going to exhale and believe the current Feb. 2 forecast for the 6:25 p.m. kickoff in charming East Rutherford, N.J., this according to Accuweather.com. The temperature is supposed to be around 34 degrees, dipping to a low of 25 at the approximate 10 p.m. finish. The chance of precipitation is 30 percent. Winds of 6-to-12 mph are expected.
Were this the outlook for a December game in Nashville or Cincinnati, no one would blink. At the Super Bowl, where the field traditionally is dry and the spectators normally are warm and high rollers expect all the perks of Miami and Arizona and Tampa and New Orleans, this is a social crisis. That is their problem. If everyone hasn’t figured it out by now, the Super Bowl is the biggest annual television production in the history of this planet, and if 80,000 fans are too cold and two football teams have to deal with inclement conditions, they pale compared to the 120 million viewers watching around the world in glad-we’re-not-there comfort.
If Roger Goodell’s aim is to please VIPs and party-goers, then a New York Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium was not a good idea. Even if fans receive a “warm welcome” handout at the gate — scarf, mittens, hand warmers and lip balm included — no one with the money required to attend a Super Bowl wants to be part of a championship game in anything remotely resembling a snow globe. Until a football actually is kicked off, people will be concerned that the NFL, armed with contingency plans, could play the game as early as Friday night or as late as Monday night. Friday? Hey, what about the ESPN party? Of course, it would require aliens announcing a Sunday invasion to force the move — the NFL has contingency plans for every Super Bowl — but, again, this is Snowsteria at work. I’m not buying into it, nor is Eric Grubman, the NFL’s vice president of business operation and pressure point man for the week’s logistics.
“What goes into whether deciding to (move) it, first of all, is public safety,” he said at a news conference. “Unless it was a state of emergency which affected public resources in a way that made it impossible to get the resources here, or any kind of declaration by any of the authorities from the states involved that made it difficult to travel safely to and from the stadium, we would absolutely respect that.”
Grubman, like me, chuckles at the Snowsteria. “Games are played with snow all the time. It’s not just MetLife Stadium,” he said. “I think the crowd will be an exceptional crowd, and they will enjoy the game. I don’t think they will be fazed by a little bit of snow on their seats, if that’s what comes to pass. We aim to not have that happen, but if it happens, it’s sort of what happens in NFL stadiums all the time.”
Lambeau Field two weekends ago, i recall.
What we should be focusing on is how the game will be impacted by the weather. Let the fans get stuck in the traffic snarl around the Meadowlands, already among the worst in-and-out challenges in sports fandom. I’m more concerned about how snow and ice and blustery conditions — mostly, the wind — will impact the Super Bowl. The Seahawks, a brute-force team built around a physical defense and a Beast Mode running back, are ready for all conditions and won’t be adversely affected by nasty weather.
The Broncos? A different story.
Everything they do is predicated on Peyton Manning being able to throw — efficiently, effectively and prolifically. As you may have heard by now, he hasn’t played well in certain cold-weather games and has won just one championship in his previous dozen postseasons. His record when the kickoff temperature is sub-freezing is 4-7, and in those games, his numbers do wane dramatically: nine interceptions, 56.4 completion percentage and a puny 5.53 yards per attempt. As brilliant as he was last Sunday in sunny, 63-degree weather, the same cold-weather questions will exist until he purges them.
“I won’t try to answer it because I didn’t give it any validation in the first place,” said Manning, never happy to address a sore subject.
Before the Broncos boarded flights to New York, he went through cold-weather practices in suburban Denver. Manning thought it was a necessary test. “Anytime you can have a situation that you can simulate during practice what might be in a game, that’s always a good thing,” he said. But one variable that can’t be simulated, unless the Broncos practice at Soldier Field in Chicago, are the Meadowlands wind gusts. The stadium sits in an unprotected expanse at the confluence of several roadways, surrounded by seemingly endless parking lots, vulnerable to gusts. Russell Wilson, the dual-threat Seattle quarterback, can make plays with his legs. Manning must make plays with his arm, period. That is a disadvantage.
But in another sense, it’s an advantage to know a quarterback who plays regularly in that stadium.
“I might have a few things for him, but I don’t want to reveal that, because I don’t want to give it to Russell Wilson,” said Eli Manning, his brother. “So any tips I may have wind-wise, I would tell him in private.
“The old stadium (torn down in 2010) definitely had a specific end zone and corner that you wouldn’t want to throw into if it was going to be a windy night. If it is one of those windy days, there is a little bit of local knowledge that you can give. But it’s definitely not as bad as the old stadium.”
This from a struggling passer who threw 15 interceptions in MetLife Stadium this season and 28 there the previous three seasons.
“I think obviously, it it were to snow or be very windy, it could be a disadvantage to the Broncos,” Eli said, “just because of how much they like to throw the ball, compared to Seattle and their running game. For the most part, it’s really going to be the best team that is going to win, whoever plays the best football that day. It’s going to come down to that and execution. The weather isn’t going to decide the game.”
Just so you know, Peyton Manning has played 13 games the last two seasons with a glove on his throwing hand. He has won 10 of them.
The Snowsteriacs are preparing their counterarguments right now.