The Case For an Awesome, Old-School, Cold-Weather Super Bowl

Yes, icy conditions could put some of this year's festivities in jeopardy—but they could also strip the game down to its gutsiest, sloppiest, most gloriously determination-testing form.
Following a snow storm, crews at MetLife Stadium remove snow ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII on Wednesday. (Julio Cortez / AP)

It would seem, at first glance, that the NFL has done something "asinine" in its planning for Super Bowl XLVIII. For the first time ever, the game will be played in a cold-weather city, in an open-air venue—MetLife stadium in the Meadowlands—and by putting the Super Bowl in the New York-New Jersey metro, some say, the league may have turned their biggest event into the world's biggest mess.

Last year's Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco, called the decision stupid. Terry Bradshaw hates the idea. Columnists from CBS and ESPN have objected as well. But while bad weather would be a nightmare for people traveling to the game, and while it might make for a nasty afternoon inside the stadium, a Super Bowl in bad weather would be a delight for everyone else—a gloriously gritty, sloppy spectacle of old-school football.

There are, of course, valid reasons why the Super Bowl is traditionally played in places like Miami and San Diego. The game is a week-long party, and nobody wants to party in the cold. Super Bowl XLV, held in Dallas, proved that: A freak snowstorm hit North Texas, and the city was paralyzed. Half of the NFL's bevy of luncheons, golf outings, and autograph sessions were canceled. Yet the weather had no impact on the game itself, because AT&T Stadium is domed. Indianapolis, host the following year, was even worse. Again, though, Lucas Oil Stadium is domed, so the game itself was played in climate-controlled conditions. Ditto for last year's title tilt in New Orleans. 

MetLife Stadium, however, is roofless, meaning fans and players alike are in for a chilly afternoon at best, or possibly a blizzard. Any Super Bowl is a transit challenge, but bad weather could turn the tri-state's already overtaxed transit system into a gridlock festival. Sure, the league has preparations in place. According to the Star-Ledger, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has lined up 821 snow trucks and plows, 60,000 tons of salt and 440 spreaders, with a crew of 1,600 workers. The league says they have 30 front-end loaders, 12 haul trucks and six plows to work the Meadowlands' parking lots should it snow on Super Bowl weekend. None of that, however, will help freezing fans, many of whom will have paid a small fortune to shiver in their seats.

But so what? The crowd at a Super Bowl is different from that at any other NFL game. Devoted fans go to home games. The Super Bowl, by contrast, is attended by celebrities, rich people, and contest winners—some of them less concerned with the action on the field than the sheer fact of making the scene (think Cameron Diaz feeding A-Rod popcorn in their luxury box). A frigid Super Bowl could mean more room for diehard fans of Seattle and Denver. That, in turn, could mean a more electric atmosphere.

Additionally, the Super Bowl is a TV event as much as it’s a live sporting event—so while blizzard conditions would certainly make life inside the stadium miserable, it would be a slipping, sliding delight for those cozy at home. Bitter winds or snow would ground the high-flying, pass-happy brand of ball the NFL loves. Fans would get run-heavy, smash-mouth football—exactly the sort of grind-it-out game the NFL has all but eradicated with its measures (like new rules to protect the quarterback and prevent defensive backs from making downfield contact) to help offenses to score more. 

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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