Woody Johnson owns the New York Jets, so he’s no stranger to making big proclamations. Consider this one, just after the New York area won the bid for the first Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in a cold weather market.
“I like doing things for the first time,” Johnson said. “I hope it snows.”
Not quite as bold as guaranteeing his team would be both a host and participant in the game.
As dysfunctional as the Jets are, it’s hard to imagine they still will be playing next Feb. 2 when the two best teams in football square off in the 48th big game of the modern – or any other – era.
But Johnson easily could get his wish when it comes to the weather, as New Yorkers were reminded this weekend.
Probably not a foot of snow like the New York area got hit with in the latest storm just days after the Super Bowl in New Orleans. But cold, definitely, with snow more than just a random possibility.
It’s a scenario that will occupy organizers for many long hours. There will be volunteers ready to sweep snow from the stadium at the Meadowlands, portable heaters everywhere, and extra stocks of hot chocolate and schnapps for corporate executives to sip in the stands.
Ultimately, though, it’s not something the NFL needs to be terribly worried about.
The league can do no wrong, and that won’t change just because the elements will intrude on the next Super Bowl. Might even make it more interesting for the 100 million or so people who will be watching in the comfort of their own living rooms.
Football is a game meant to be played in the elements, as commissioner Roger Goodell reminded us last week in New Orleans. One of the NFL’s iconic games was the so-called “Ice Bowl” of 1967, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to win a spot in the second Super Bowl.
The temperature at game time was 14 degrees below zero, and the wind chill was far worse. The field was a sheet of ice, and it was so cold referees couldn’t use whistles because they became frozen to their lips.
Sorry, New Jersey, but you’re not going to top that. And they still played the game.
Yes, it could be cold. Yes, there could be snow.
And, yes, the game would be better off in Florida or inside a dome with good electrical service. That’s especially true if the participants are teams used to domes or warm climates.
But the Jets and Giants spent a lot of money to build the new stadium they share, and they wanted a Super Bowl for the New York metropolitan area.
Ultimately that’s what drives Super Bowl selection these days. Owners want to reward their fellow owners, and five of the past 10 title games have gone to cities that have ponied up for new stadiums.
Giving one to the New York area was always a little dicey, which is why it took four votes by owners a few years back to give the game to the Meadowlands over bids by warm weather sites Tampa and South Florida. It came after organizers urged them to “Make Some History” and showed a video that included clips from historic cold-weather games.
Trust the NFL to pull this one off. This is a league, after all, that is so untouchable that a 34-minute power outage in New Orleans not only turned a rout into a competitive game but made TV ratings go up around the country.
And the time it rained at a Super Bowl? You may not remember the game, but probably do remember Prince playing “Purple Rain” as it came down in Miami in 2007.
Nothing can dent the NFL’s widespread popularity. Not a lockout, replacement referees or even brain injuries.
Certainly not a little cold and snow.
“The plans that have been developed for the Super Bowl, I think, are extraordinary, and they’re just beginning to be released,” Goodell said in New Orleans. “We will be prepared for the weather factors.”
Actually, the NFL has some issues to worry about other than the weather at the Meadowlands. Hotel rooms surely will be in short supply even at exorbitant prices, and transportation for teams, support staff, media and volunteers will be a challenge.
There are also a ton of logistical worries that go along with putting the most watched sporting event in America in the most congested area in the country, and not everyone is cooperating. The mayors of at least two towns near MetLife Stadium, upset that their towns don’t get some benefit from the facility, threatened in a recent press release not to help with police, fire or other municipal services needed for the Super Bowl unless the NFL starts writing some checks.
“With one of (the) world’s largest sporting events coming to the East Rutherford venue, there is little doubt that the mayors will be expecting a call that their services are needed,” Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli said in the statement. “The answer will be clear: Don’t ask.”
The Super Bowl will not be without problems. Even the NFL can’t make everyone happy, not matter what the weather is like.
But let a little cold and snow mess up the first – and quite possibly only – Super Bowl in the New York area?
• Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/timdahlberg.