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Football – even the Super Bowl – was meant to be played in all weather, even snow

Football – even the Super Bowl – was meant to be played in all weather, even snow

Upon arriving in the cold, brutal, inhumane, sub-arctic conditions of New Jersey – well, actually it was 26 and cloudy at night – the Broncos of Denver – where it was 26 with a light snow at the time – were asked repeatedly how in the world they could or would deal with this cold, brutal, inhumane, sub-arctic conditions. They, of course, play the Super Bowl against Seattle in a (gasp) outdoor stadium.

"It doesn't even matter when you get out there," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said.

Oh, but it does, Wesley.

Or at least that's the claim of too many otherwise intelligent people who have turned into your local meteorologist – screaming that a wintery mix requires a run on the canned goods aisle of the supermarket. In fact, the battle over whether the weather should matter for the Super Bowl is a lot bigger than just Peyton Manning's stats when the temperature falls below freezing.

It is also part of the battle over what football really is. It calls into question why it was ever determined that one kind of weather is superior to another in a sport where the season and playoffs play out in an extreme diversity of conditions.

"I think once you're out there, you just deal with it," Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. "It is what it is. Everybody has to deal with it. Suck it up for three hours and make it happen."

At the heart of this is a philosophy equation.

Football, unlike many sports, is played in all kinds of weather, which is why all weather is football weather. From the heat and humidity of the early season to the potential cold and snow of January, it is rare for a game to be delayed, let alone postponed.

The NFL is so used to playing games in all kinds of conditions that it has rules and interpretations set up for just about every imaginable scenario. What happens if the wind blows the uprights to the side causing a kick to be missed? (It's no good, what the wind does or doesn't do is fair game.) What happens if a pass is caught in a pile of snow but never hits the ground? (It's incomplete; any snow sitting on the playing surface becomes the playing surface.)

This is part of what makes it so much fun. And such a challenge.

And it's why the elements are always – always – part of the game. Even the absence of elements – such as inside a dome – is part of the game.

The entire overreaction to the "cold weather" is comical even by the impressive standards of Super Bowl overreaction. On Sunday, Seattle's Cliff Avril, who played college ball at Purdue and spent five years as a Detroit Lion, was asked his reaction to the "cold" when he got off the plane, like if you plucked someone who lived their entire life in the Sahara Desert and in the interest of science transported them directly to Moose Jaw.

"It wasn't too cold to me," Avril noted.

That's because it isn't really that cold.

At issue is the concept that the biggest game of the year should be played solely under conditions that do not noticeably impact the game – such as a slippery field or a wind-bent upright. To believe such a thing however, is to believe that the absence of such things don't also impact the game.

If your offense is reliant on quick, skilled passing, then calm conditions can be ideal. What about a team that is also built – say, with a grind it out running attack – for conditions not suitable for passing? Some argue warm, windless conditions allow the skill of the players to shine. Isn't there skill in stuffing the run or laying a block or finding a way to win through the air even as flakes fall?

 

By placing the game only in tranquil locations you've automatically favored one team over the other in the same manner as if you picked a location that might whip up an icy breeze. It's all the same. It's all a choice. You've just given the nod to one kind of weather; or at least the probability of one kind of weather.

This may date back to the college tradition of playing bowl games in nice weather locales. The Rose Bowl was first staged in 1902 in Pasadena, Calif. The Super Bowl began in 1967, perhaps not coincidentally in nearby Los Angeles. The old NFL Championship games, played from 1933-1966 were staged on home fields. Once they went neutral site though, they went warm/dome.

College bowl games, however, were first staged in southern and western cities not because the football minds of the time thought the location presented an ideal environment for the game. City fathers created them to lure post-Christmas tourists who might also want to watch Old State U play a little. The games were a joke, for decades they were considered exhibitions. Individual stats didn't count and not until the 1960s did it dawn on anyone to factor their outcome into the awarding of a national championship.

Warm was in, though, because it was better to draw fans. That's it. The Super Bowl started in the L.A. Coliseum (and didn't sell out) but stuck to what is essentially the bowl rotation – unless a northern city had a new publicly financed dome and giving them the Super Bowl helped grease the political skids.

So football's tradition of choosing a probable weather condition for its title game was born. It stands in contrast with baseball, which routinely cancels games for all sorts of rain, cold or whatever, yet never leaves its home outdoor stadiums, even into the chill of a northern November. That's always how they ran the World Series, however.

All of this changes Sunday in East Rutherford and perhaps for good. It is a long overdue moment to properly remind everyone that football is an all-weather, all-element, all-condition sport.

So if it snows or rains or gets cold on Sunday (current forecast: low of 27 with a chance of snow showers) ignore the howling of critics. That's just as perfect a representation of how the game should be played as 72 and sunny. You can certainly have a preference, but philosophically you can't definitely claim one over another.

"You go out there, you play hard, you play disciplined, you play sound, and you try not to worry about the difficulties of the weather or whatever else happens out there," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.

Exactly. Football weather is football weather. Football is football. Go ahead and let it snow.

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