It’s a safe bet Sunday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will be the coldest ever outdoor Super Bowl.
And at least one high-profile New Yorker won’t be the least bit bothered.
“We’ve gone 47 of these either indoors or in the south,” said Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and co-chairman of the Super Bowl XLVIII host committee.
“It’s about time we played in Super Bowl conditions. Conditions the way the game is routinely played.”
AccuWeather predicts a high of 37 and low of 23 with a chance of rain or snow for Sunday’s game. A statement released by the weather service said to expect “a typical winter day” and, perhaps, “slushy roads.”
It’s hardly standard Super Bowl weather, but hardly enough to force moving the game to Saturday or Monday, as organizers say they’re prepared to do.
Most members of the host committee seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief on Monday.
Forecasts for the week of partying leading up the game are equally promising. Tuesday is predicted to be the coldest day with a high of 17 and low of 7 but a zero percent chance of precipitation.
“I hope you’re right,” said Al Kelly, president of the host committee, said when a reporter suggested weather was no longer an issue.
But it seems some are hoping for at least a flake or two to fall Sunday so New York can make history.
“Ideally, if I could dial it up, 40 degrees, goes down to 32, a couple of flakes and then goes back up to 40,” Johnson said.
Johnson is confident the 1972 record low of 39 degrees for a Super Bowl will fall. The ’72 game was played in New Orleans before completion of the Superdome.
“But whatever nature gives us we are going to take,” he said.
Super Bowl officials are encouraging fans to wear layers and arrive early to avoid any traffic delays that could result from inclement weather.
Kelly is declaring this “the first mass transit Super Bowl.” He expects 80,000 people to attend the game and 50,000 to come by bus and another 10,000-12,000 to arrive by train.
Organizers says crews are poised and ready to clear the stadium and streets of snow and ice should the New York-New Jersey area be surprised by a storm similar to the polar vortex that dumped more than a foot of snow last week.
“Even if something happens we are ready for it,” Johnson said. “We’ve gone through every contingency you could go through.”
Still, the weather is being talked about this week as if it is the game’s third team. And it doesn’t sit well with some.
Mike Ditka, who won Super Bowls as a player and coach, told the Detroit Free Press, “They made a big mistake. The game shouldn’t be there. I mean, it’s stupid.”
Many argue that playing a championship game in an outdoor, cold weather stadium gives an advantage to the team with the stronger running game. That’s the Seattle Seahawks this season.
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas doesn’t believe cold weather changes the game.
“It’s difficult whether it’s cold or hot, snow, rain,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. “Football is challenging.”
Denver coach John Fox says weather will effect strategy, but won’t decide the winner.
“I think in order to be a championship football team we’ve got to be weatherproof,” Fox said.
“And I think our football team played in all different elements this year. I feel comfortable with where we’re at as far as the elements, but it’s a part of the game. I think tradition-wise, it’s been a part of the league and a part of a lot of championships.”
If it snows Sunday it won’t be the first time snow has played a role in the NFL’s championship game.
The 1982 Super Bowl was the first played in a cold weather city. The temperature dipped to 16 degrees and snow played havoc with traffic in Pontiac, Mich., but the Silverdome provided shelter for the game between San Francisco and Cincinnati.
It snowed again in Detroit, when it hosted the 2006 Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Seattle, but the game was played inside Ford Field. And in 2000, St. Louis and Tennessee played in the Georgia Dome while an ice storm put Atlanta in a deep freeze.
Even before the Super Bowl era began in 1967, there were famous cold weather title games.
In 1948, the title game in Philadelphia was delayed 30 minutes and played in a snow storm. Players for Philadelphia and the Chicago Cardinals were asked to help ready the field, officials had to estimate yardage and some fans were given free admission.
When the New York Giants hosted the 1934 title game against the Chicago Bears, the playing surface froze. The Giants switched from cleats to basketball shoes to improve their footing and easily won, 30-13.
Even the first NFL championship game, played in 1932, was impacted by weather. A blizzard and sub-zero temperatures forced the league to move the game indoors. The Bears and Portsmouth Spartans (now the Detroit Lions) played in hockey arena on a modified 80-yard field.
If Sunday is the next iconic cold weather championship, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says the Seahawks will be ready.
“We play in an area that has somewhat inclement weather occasionally and so it’s not something that we’re bothered by,” he said. “The normal issues arise – the ball being harder to handle and the wind blowing and things like that do change the factors somewhat – but for us it’s no big deal.”