Bundle up, NFL fans, for 2 of next 3 Super Bowls
DALLAS – Bundle up, football fans. Two of the next three Super Bowls are likely to be super cold, just like this one.
Indianapolis is the host of next year's game, albeit in a domed stadium, and the game will be held outdoors in New Jersey in 2014. Everyone has known that wintry conditions could surround those Super Bowls, but this week in Dallas has pushed the issue to the fore.
"The most important lesson," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "is that you have to be prepared for everything."
North Texas organizers did just that, bringing in extra machines and materials to clear snow and ice from roadways just in case a bad storm hit. Sure enough, sleet and snow fell Monday night, just a few hours after the teams arrived, and temperatures still hadn't climbed above freezing as of Friday night. The breakthrough was expected by Saturday, after more than 100 straight hours — an extraordinary stretch for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Schools have been out since Tuesday, and many businesses, too, mainly because the roads are so treacherous. All the sand trucks in Texas couldn't have made the area safe simply because there aren't that many sand trucks in Texas.
"I feel a little sorry for these guys because they don't have the equipment, they don't have the expertise," Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard said. "If something like this happens to us, we'll have 80 trucks out there going 24 hours a day, plus some smaller trucks to get into places where the big trucks can't get into. We know how to handle this very, very well."
Because Indianapolis and the New York area deal with this every winter, their game-week plans are more likely to be based around bad weather, whereas North Texas organizers had a backup plan if bad weather hit.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had it easy, moving their practices from the outdoor fields at TCU to the indoor practice facility on campus. The Green Bay Packers shifted plans to work outside at SMU to an indoor facility at nearby Highland Park High School. Players skittish about working out at a high school were awed by the $4.5 million field, and were thrilled to be there.
Besides, teams from Pittsburgh and Green Bay know all about cold, wet conditions this time of year.
"From my perspective, it hasn't changed how we've worked at all," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We've been inside for several weeks now back in Pittsburgh, so it's no big deal."
It was a big deal to some of the glitterati and media members in town for Sunday's game.
"Just got to Dallas and its freezing! I couldn't imagine playing outside in this weather for a Superbowl...oh ya its in NY soon..ridiculous," tweeted Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Added supermodel Brooklyn Decker in a tweet: "The NFL cannot be happy right now... Cars sliding all over the roads.... Makes for an exciting morning."
Peter King of Sports Illustrated, after seeing a "plow-less, snow-windswept moonscape" of a highway, opined: "This is officially a debacle," and ESPN's Michael Wilbon insisted only California, Arizona and Florida should ever host the Super Bowl.
Host committee leader Bill Lively insisted that all major events went off as planned. On Thursday night alone, he attended a party honoring Pat Summerall in Dallas, the host committee's gala in Fort Worth and the owners' party at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and each was at full capacity.
"It just takes time to get to and from them," he said. "Sure, there's been some problems. No question about that. But what we can do is what we're doing. Every contingency is fully operative right now."
Some events have been canceled or postponed. Most of those were outdoors or involved schoolchildren, and many were thrown by sponsors.
Goodell noted that the timing was pure bad luck. Dallas does tend to have an ice storm or two every winter, but rarely do they last this long. Besides, much of the country has been socked this week.
"There are very few communities anywhere right now who have not been impacted by this storm," Goodell said. "This community has pulled together and done an extraordinary job and my hat's off to them."
Such praise indicates the commissioner won't be holding the weather against Dallas the next time it tries to host a Super Bowl. Organizers are eyeing the 2016 game, which is the 50th edition.
The choice actually comes from team owners. And as long as the main event on Sunday comes off OK, the bad weather this week may be forgotten.
"The NFL will evaluate this from what perspective? How great the game was itself and what was the revenue generation — and maybe not in that order," Lively said. "We'll have the largest attendance of any Super Bowl, I suspect the largest gate, the largest television audience, all in the greatest stadium in the world. That's more important than snow and ice the week before."
The $1.2 billion stadium has a roof, so the conditions will be perfect at kickoff. There were some scary moments around the building on Friday as melting sections of ice broke loose and plummeted over drains, sending six people to hospitals with injuries. None were considered life-threatening.
Super Bowls have been in cold-weather cities before, such as Detroit and Minneapolis. But those places deal with such conditions all the time, perhaps even more than Indianapolis and New York.
So the best comparison is Atlanta, a Southern city that had the misfortune of weather like this the last time it hosted. That's right — the league hasn't returned, albeit not simply because of the weather.
This week could prove to be a turning point. What if cold becomes the new hot thing for Super Bowl hosts? Imagine winter wonderlands in Indianapolis and New Jersey clearing the path for other nontraditional places to one day host a Super Bowl, maybe even Pittsburgh or Green Bay.
It's certainly no more crazy than the notion of 100 straight hours of subfreezing temperatures in Dallas hitting the same week that the Cowboys get to host the Super Bowl for the first time.
"I can't believe we're in Texas," said Drew Garceau, a Packers fan from Milwaukee on his way to the NFL Experience fan festival Friday. "We came for warm weather and got just as cold as Wisconsin. I wish it could be warmer."
AP National Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.