Hayes: Cold-weather Super Bowl is a good decision


Bob Hayes, Columnist

Over the years, the National Football League has selected warm-weather locations such as Phoenix and Miami — as well as colder cities with domed football stadiums, like Detroit and Indianapolis — to host its annual championship. However, this season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his colleagues boldly chose MetLife Stadium in frosty East Rutherford, N.J, just across the Hudson River from New York, as the host for this year’s big game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.

The choice to play the decisive game of America’s favorite sport in frigid conditions has been met with harsh criticism from many with connections to the sport, including last year’s Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco and Super Bowl legends Don Shula and Terry Bradshaw.

While the recent, apocalyptically cold temperatures do not seem to bode well for the weather in New Jersey this Sunday evening, the Weather Channel predicts highs in the low 40s and lows in the late 20s with a slight chance of precipitation throughout the day. Nobody could have really asked for any better weather on a night in early February, especially given this year’s historically cold winter.

Assuming the weather forecast holds true this Sunday, the NFL will be vindicated for its decision to play the game in New Jersey. However, we should still evaluate that decision independently of the current forecast, because the NFL had no knowledge of the weather forecast for this Sunday when they made the choice years ago.

The foremost criticism of a cold-weather Super Bowl is that it is unfair to the teams because it affects the way the teams play. The widespread assumption is that blizzard conditions would all but guarantee the Seahawks a victory, since they rely on their tough defense and a stout running game as opposed to the Broncos’ commitment to a pass-heavy attack.

While that assumption does make sense, why does that make playing the game in chilly conditions “unfair?” Both teams are playing in the exact same weather. For generations, football fans have prided themselves for loving a game that is played in any and all conditions. Minus 20 degrees? Deal with it. It’s football.

This isn’t just relevant because a cold-weather Super Bowl epitomizes football’s decades of being played in less-than-ideal weather, but it also means that teams, particularly those coming from Denver and Seattle, are designed to be able to withstand all weather conditions with as low a variance as possible. Part of the test of a great team is how well it can play in adverse situations. Why does this test disappear when the biggest game of the year comes up?

Another common criticism is that a cold-weather Super Bowl is bad for fans. First of all, it is absurd if a fan’s decision to watch his or her team play in the Super Bowl is solely affected by the possibility of the weather being chilly during the game. I do, however, understand the fear that inbound flights may have trouble arriving on time due to the possibility of snow, but is that not of equal concern for the Super Bowls played in cities like Detroit and Indianapolis? Few people made the same criticism when the game was played at those locations, and New York has three airports in the area to help mitigate travel issues.

New York truly is the ideal entertainment destination for football fans during Super Bowl week. Super Bowl Boulevard gives fans the opportunity to meet players, take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and even ride on a 60-foot toboggan run — right in the center of New York City. Grantland’s Andrew Sharp wrote, “The Super Bowl is already overwhelming and obnoxious in 10 different ways, so pairing it with Times Square feels right. As someone at the NFL said, ‘How can we take the most over-the-top event of the year and make it just a little more ridiculous? SEND THE FOX ROBOT TO MIDTOWN.’” Super Bowl week, which provides the fans a complete experience leading up to Sunday’s game, taking place in glitzy, glamorous New York, seems to make much more sense than it would in Jacksonville, Fla., Tampa, Fla., or Glendale, Ariz.

Even when Super Bowls are played in “warm-weather” locations, they are not necessarily subject to perfect conditions. Just seven years ago, constant downpour in Miami did not stop the Indianapolis Colts from taking on the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. What happened in that game? A Peyton Manning-led pass-heavy attack defeated a suffocating defense despite the horrible weather. It’s funny how history repeats itself, even when we may not realize it.

Playing the sport’s championship in a cold-weather location every year would likely make it succumb to diminishing marginal returns, similar to what the National Hockey League has experienced with the diminishing uniqueness of the annual Winter Classic. However, for just this one year, the NFL has made a good decision. Be it the fascination with the weather, the draw of Peyton Manning or the novelty of playing in New York, this year’s Super Bowl is projected to be the most financially successful ever.

Cold weather has come to define many of our NFL fan experiences. As Forbes’ Monte Burke said in a column, “Cold weather … has made for some of the most memorable games in the history of the sport. The Ice Bowl (1967 NFL Championship game), the Tuck-Rule game (2001 AFC Divisional playoffs) and the snowy games that took place during Week 14 of this year.”

Over one hundred million viewers will perhaps share a new unforgettable football experience Sunday when two fantastic teams take the freezing field to play for the Super Bowl.

Bob Hayes is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].