I’m totally fascinated by the Ice Bowl, the unofficial name given to the 1967 NFL Championship Game played at legendary Lambeau Field which pitted the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers against the upstart Dallas Cowboys. It was a rematch of the same contest played a year earlier at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
But it wasn’t a rematch of temperatures.
If you watch replays of the 1966 NFL title game, you’ll notice that it’s mild enough for winter-time football. But if you know anything at all about the Ice Bowl, you know that “mild” is a word that can never be used to describe anything about that game.
It was brutal. The game-time temperature was minus-13 degrees and actually dropped two degrees by the end of the game. If you factor in the wind chill (and do you really have to at that point?), it was NEGATIVE-48 degrees. According to Walt Garrison, the former Cowboys running back and tobacco spokesman, after he turned to the late, great Don Meredeth during the game and said, “Don, we must be the dumbest sum-bleeps in the world,” Meredeth retorted, “Look behind you. They paid to get in.”
That’s right, nearly 51,000 football faithful packed into Lambeau Field on New Year’s Eve to watch what would become an iconic championship game.
Fast-forward 14 years later and a Bengals and Chargers AFC Championship Game matchup at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The winner would earn a trip to Super Bowl XVI. The loser would earn a lifelong case of frostbite (so would the winner, actually). The game-time temperature for that contest was minus-nine degrees. However, when you factored in the wind chill, it was minus-59 degrees, making it the coldest football game ever played. I guess that’s why it was called the Freezer Bowl (doesn’t sound as sexy as the Ice Bowl, but it makes for an apt description). The Chargers lost by 20 points, but maybe that’s because, just a week earlier, they survived the Epic in Miami, a double-overtime divisional round thriller played in suffocating heat and humidity at the old Orange Bowl. Many players suffered from cramps and dehydration during that game. But, hey, at least they were warm.
I find weather games to be intriguing to watch and read about. For example, how could any of the players that participated in those aforementioned sub-zero games concentrate long enough to execute their assignments? I can understand why the Chargers looked helpless during the Freezer Bowl, but I have no explanation for the rather awesome performances turned in by the Packers, Bengals and even the losing Cowboys.
All I know is, this dumb sum-bleep wouldn’t have paid to watch either of those games in person. Come to think of it, I don’t know if you could have paid me to play in either contest.
What about extreme heat, like on September 3, 2000, when the Eagles traveled to Texas Stadium to take on the Cowboys in Week 1? With a game-time temperature of 109 degrees, it was reportedly the hottest football game on record. I MIGHT be able to endure that as a fan. But as a player, I’d be afraid of death. Anyway, the Eagles won, 41-14, and legend has it, they were able to avoid cramping up thanks to drinking pickle juice. Pickle juice or heat stroke? Hard choice.
As you may have guessed, I don’t like extreme weather conditions. I don’t want to sit and watch football in the cold, heat or even the wet. That’s right, there is no way I would have sat through three hours of that horrendous Mud Bowl from 2007, when the playoff-bound Steelers outlasted the hopeless Dolphins, 3-0, in a mud-filled game on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field. This game took place on November 26, which meant it occurred after several other football contests—including multiple WPIAL championship games—were played at Heinz.
When you combine that with the fact that this was an era in which the surface at Heinz Field was among the worst in football, let’s just say a steady stream of rain could only make for an unwatchable product.
It sure felt that way to me. I was sick with the flu that weekend. I vomited like crazy the night before. Thankfully, I got most of that out of my system before watching this game.
I’m also grateful that I wasn’t in attendance.
I would not sign up for snow, either.
How about fog? The Bears and Eagles actually battled it out in a sea of that soup on December 31, 1988, in a divisional-round playoff game at Soldier Field known as, well, the Fog Bowl.
It might be known as the Fog Bowl to the rest of the football world, but I call it The Dumbest Football Game Ever Played. I mean, why would you play a game in conditions where seeing is damn-near impossible? I realize the fog came rolling into the stadium during the second half, and it’s hard to make up football games, especially when they’re of the postseason variety. But we’ve all experienced fog, right? It doesn’t last all day. It usually sticks around for an hour or two before going off to do whatever it is that fog does.
They easily could have suspended this game for an hour or so until the fog lifted. This idea was broached to both coaches—including Eagles coach, Buddy Ryan, whose team was losing at the time—but they shockingly declined.
And now you know why they don’t call football rocket science.
This is probably obvious to you by this point, but if it were up to me, Heinz Field would be covered with a dome. If that became a reality, I guarantee you I’d find a way to have season tickets. The hatred for the elements is the only thing stopping me from going to more games. I really should be famous, a status that would afford me the opportunity and, well, the right to sit in the luxury boxes. While up there, I’d occasionally wave to the crowd and act like I was “of the people.”
Until the dome or famous thing happens, I will continue to watch most Steelers contests from the comfort of my own apartment, where the game-time temperature is always just right.