Published January 06, 2014
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – Jeff Giardinelli embraced the cold outside Lambeau Field dressed in a No. 8 Steve Young jersey, red San Francisco 49ers knit cap and Candlestick Park-themed scarf.
He'll remember his first visit to Green Bay for a while, and not just because beloved 49ers beat the Packers 23-20 in the NFC wild-card game Sunday.
An arctic front pushing through the Midwest made the game one of the coldest in NFL history. During its telecast, Fox reported the temperature dipped to 2 degrees and the wind chill was minus-11.
"It is not that cold, it is all mental," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "Just look at Bow (All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman) with no sleeves."
The meat-locker conditions put a chill on outdoor tailgating and had fans heading into Lambeau early to warm up with free coffee and hot chocolate.
"Refreshing," Giardinelli, of Fresno, Calif., exclaimed as he walked across a parking lot with friend Jeff Morgan. "We suited up, we brought all the snowboarding gear we use out there and added to it. Without the wind, which isn't here yet, we're good. When it gets windy, we'll be ready for it."
Morgan wasn't quite as convinced.
"He says 'refreshing.' I say it's cold as heck," said Morgan, also from Fresno. He's not a 49ers fan but wanted to come this weekend for what he called the "Lambeau atmosphere."
It was 5 degrees by kickoff at mid-afternoon, though a northwest wind made it feel like minus-10. Winds increased through the evening.
"I won't lie to you. It got pretty cold," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "But as I said earlier in the week, there's no better way to warm up than to get this 'W.'"
The bitter cold apparently meant little to some of the players like Bowman. Each member of the starting offensive line of the Packers went sleeveless under green jerseys. The sleeveless look also fit for Kaepernick.
"It was cold, but it was mind over matter," said running back Eddie Lacy, who also went without long sleeves. "We did a great job of dealing with it from a mental aspect, so it wasn't too bad."
The coldest NFL game on record is the 1967 championship game, known as the "Ice Bowl" won by the Packers 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on New Year's Eve. The temperature dipped to minus-13, and the wind chill that day was minus-48.
The game at 80,000-plus capacity Lambeau Field was sold out. But with tailgating more subdued because of winter's blasts fans, had to find other ways to celebrate before the showdown between the NFC rivals.
Some fans took to unusual measures to stay warm. At one house two blocks from Lambeau, revelers dressed in camouflage outdoor gear and gathered next to a fire pit set up in the driveway.
Greg Falkenberg and wife Laurie of Chippewa Falls went through all but two cans in a case of beer about 90 minutes before kickoff. They thought the alcohol could help keep them warm.
"You know beer in the cereal is good for you," Falkenberg joked.
And no, cold would not be factor for them.
"Absolutely not," Falkenberg said. "This is the Frozen Tundra."
Back at a Lambeau parking lot, Craig Heling of Waukesha was setting up a camouflage hunting blind behind his white pickup truck, where he planned to tailgate next to a propane heater. It's the kind of setup he uses to go ice fishing.
Four layers of clothing up top, two on the legs, Heling said. "Two wool socks on — right now, I feel comfortable," he said.
His wife, Renee, was helping to set up inside the blind.
"Well, my nose is about frozen. It feels like — I jumped in the lake the other day — it feel about like that," she said with a laugh. She was completely dry, unlike New Year's Day when she took part in a "polar plunge" into Lake Michigan.