I spent nearly 18 seasons covering the Buffalo Bills, so I know a little something about football being played in a roofless stadium under the harshest conditions a Northeastern winter has to offer.
Snow coming down hard enough that you can barely see the field. Winds gusting so severely, the goal posts twist out of shape.
Super city contenders
Put aside, for a moment, the unpleasant experience facing the players and anyone else who is paid to be at the stadium, and focus on those who actually pay for the "privilege" to watch. If those people can keep their cars on the ice-covered roads while dealing with poor visibility and avoiding spun-out vehicles, their next chore is to find somewhere to park in a lot shrunken by frozen mounds of white powder. And for the vast majority of people without access to a luxury suite or the press box, the greatest task of all is sitting for the better part of three hours while their extremities go numb.
When Marv Levy coached the Bills, he often praised the support of the "stout-hearted fans" who braved the typically barbaric conditions during the second half of the season and playoffs. Back then, of course, they usually watched the team win and pile up points, but sub-freezing temperatures are still sub-freezing temperatures.
In 1992, the Bills added "The 12th Man" to their Wall of Fame. It was more than just an acknowledgment of setting an NFL single-season record for home attendance in 1991. It was recognizing the fact that consistently showing up for games at what was then known as Rich Stadium wasn't like doing the same at many other NFL venues. It was a symbolic reward for putting loyalty ahead of all else, especially comfort.
It is with that in mind that I say staging the 2014 Super Bowl in the new Meadowlands Stadium is a good idea.
Super Bowls are supposed to be memorable. They're supposed to provide a fan experience that no other game can offer. The NFL strives to achieve this with a grand production that includes big-time entertainment for the National Anthem and halftime show. Everything about the look, sound, and feel of the stadium says spectacle of the highest proportions.
But what happens on the field ultimately determines whether it's a Super Bowl worth remembering. The pageantry is a given, along with marathon television coverage. Everything -- except for perhaps the teams involved -- is pretty much what can be expected each year, because Super Bowls played in open warm-weather stadiums or in domes allow for a virtual studio-like atmosphere for an event that targets a worldwide audience.
All of that could very well change if team owners do the expected when they gather in Dallas Tuesday and award the 2014 Super Bowl to the New York Metropolitan Area rather than two areas in the regular rotation: Tampa and South Florida.
That's where the fun comes in. And I type that with a straight face.
The weather potentially becomes a huge factor, which is almost never the case for a Super Bowl. How the players and coaches deal with it will obviously be a major storyline. But how the fans -- many of whom will be paying well above $1,000 for the cheapest ticket -- handle the conditions will be the biggest story of all.
Super Bowl crowds tend to be comprised mainly of high-roller, corporate types who usually have no allegiance to either team. Anyone who isn't sitting in one of the stadium's roughly 10,000 enclosed seats is going to have to be of a special breed -- the kind who wants to be part of a history-making event and has what it takes to tolerate weather that might be unfit for man or beast.
It's the sort of setting that will take football back to its roots, before the game that determines the league championship blew up into something untouchable for the average fan. This could prove to be another "Ice Bowl," the memorable NFL Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. It could be the "Freezer Bowl," a.k.a. the 1981 AFC Championship Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers in the incredibly bitter cold at Riverfront Stadium. It could be the 2007 NFC title game, when the Giants beat Brett Favre and the Packers in overtime.
Dukes: Cold not an issue for players
As a player, if you have reached the Super Bowl, you want to play and you don't care where the game is at. But from the outside looking in, some might have a problem with a cold-weather Super Bowl. But if you're a player on a cold-weather team, you're probably tired of the teams who play in inside in pristine conditions all season running a track meet.
If you're the Steelers, Patriots or even the Giants -- the successful cold-weather franchises -- you're OK with this. It's not ideal, but it evens the playing field in terms of what you've been playing through during the season up to that point. It wouldn't be an issue for the players who are in it.
-- Jamie Dukes
Traditionally, the Super Bowl entails much more than the game itself. It includes all sorts of preliminary events and parties held in and around the host city. Exactly how that will all play out in Manhattan -- which is one, big traffic jam every day anyway, let alone when the Super Bowl is in town during winter's wrath -- is hard to fathom.
That's why I think, for the first time, there will be greater emphasis on how everything unfolds on Super Sunday. And the teams will only be a part of it. Picture all of those close-up shots of bundled up fans in the stands and seeing their breath as they exhale. Any TV producer will tell you what a wonderful addition snow makes to a high-definition telecast.
A good portion of the most unforgettable NFL moments come from the playoffs, largely because they don't take place at a neutral site and weather often is a factor. I was there for several of those moments in Orchard Park, and I count covering the "Freezer Bowl" in Cincinnati among the highlights of my career.
Granted, I was sitting in an enclosed press box for each of those games, so I won't even pretend that walking to and from my car or to and from the locker room was the same as sitting in the stands. But if you happened to be there in the elements, you have boasted about it and will do so for as long as you live.