Commentary

Snow joke

When weather adversely affects NFL competition, it's not good for the game

Originally Published: December 12, 2013
By Skip Bayless | ESPN.com

Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit LionsHunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesGlover Quin (27) of the Detroit Lions falls down in the snow near Bryce Brown (34) of the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 8.

If you're dreaming of a white NFL Christmas, I say bah humbug.

You sing, "Let it snow!" I say let it go.

For me, watching football played in the snow is abominable, as in snowman.

During Sunday's early games played in the Northeast and Midwest, it once more hit me like an avalanche why I have long wished every National Football League game were played in a climate-controlled dome:

I can't stand seeing the great game of football reduced to an unwatchable joke by snowstorms. Or driving rain. Or howling wind chill.

That's right, Frosty: I have long believed every NFL team should play inside, even in San Diego and Miami -- at least with a retractable roof. One day, I believe, every team will.

You harrumph and say, "We purists believe football was meant to be played in the elements!" Yeah, maybe in the late 1800s. Give it up, Trapper John. We have indoor plumbing now -- and indoor football that makes the wintertime experience far better for players and fans alike. What beats a Super Bowl in the Superdome? Why should "real men" and "real women" suffer frostbite to support their teams?

Trust me, you cannot love football any more than I do. I'd like to think I'm a modernized purist. I just want to see the greatest players in the world be able to prove who's best in perfect conditions. Please, let's lock out Mother Nature.

No, I did not mean to offend you, Oh Great Lady. I just fear what you're going to do to our next Super Bowl, XLVIII, which will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the evening of Feb. 2. Naturally, several long-range forecasts warn of freezing precipitation, notably the Farmers' Almanac, which is right about 80 percent of the time: "Intense storm, heavy rain, snow, strong winds. This could seriously impact Super Bowl XLVIII."

Oh, fun!

That's what I really despise about the strong possibility of a Snow Bowl XLVIII: It could become the most talked-about Super Bowl ever. Millions of fans who don't take football all that seriously would gleefully tweet what a hilarious sight this is.

LOL! Look at those hundred-million-dollar prima donnas slipping and falling like cows on ice!

That's why a lot of snow-blind people loved watching the Detroit-Philadelphia game Sunday. What funny fun! Watchin' in a Winter Wonderland!

I had planned to watch two of the NFL's most explosive offenses do battle in a pivotal NFC game. Five real minutes in, I tweeted my disgust and didn't watch another second.

Joke.

The Detroit Lions, I believe, are better than the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions would've won on a cold, clear day in Philly. The unpredicted severity of snowfall leveled the playing field beneath what looked like a foot of white.

The Lions would've had a far better chance with Reggie Bush. As Eagles running back LeSean McCoy proved with a franchise-record 217 yards rushing -- he did switch to longer cleats -- defensive linemen couldn't get any traction and linebackers and defensive backs often looked as if they were just learning to walk. Reggie would've run wild, too, but he slipped in the pregame snow, aggravated a calf injury and did not play.

Neither quarterback was sacked. Neither team attempted a field goal and both teams went for two after each touchdown. Yard lines and sidelines often weren't visible. The Lions fumbled seven times. Enduring image: Calvin Johnson, the NFL's best receiver, coming up from a catch (one of only three) with a face mask full of snow.

This was not football.

Neither were several other "classic" games with which I had some involvement.

Ice Bowl
AP PhotoThe Ice Bowl remains a classic American sporting event. But should it have even been played?

As a Cowboys nut in 1967, I was convinced my team would beat the dreaded Packers in Green Bay, Wis., for the NFL championship. My team had the more electrifying deep-ball combo: Don Meredith bombs away to Bob Hayes.

But Dallas was dealt the coldest game in NFL history -- minus-13 with a wind chill of minus-48. Meredith managed to complete 10 of 25 passes for all of 59 yards. Hayes caught three for 16. Green Bay won 21-17.

Yes, Green Bay had earned the right to play that game at home in whatever weather. But did that game prove which team was best? NO. That wasn't a fair fight because that wasn't a football game. That was climbing Everest.

I covered the "Joe Montana Cotton Bowl" in something like minus-6 wind chill. It was so cut-through-you cold that a Notre Dame coach named Gruden wouldn't let his son Jon, then in high school, watch from the sideline, sending him instead to the heated team bus. Montana suffered hypothermia and needed chicken soup to raise his temperature at halftime.

The Houston Cougars, the better team, led 34-12 before their brains froze in the fourth quarter. With punts being blown back to Houston's punter, wind-at-his-back Montana scored 23 straight points and his legend was born in a 35-34 win.

The stands were virtually empty. The game shouldn't have been played.

Don't tell me "tropical" cities don't need a dome. I covered a Super Bowl in San Diego -- the Doug Williams game -- in which one end was a quagmire from week-before rain. Peyton Manning won his one Super Bowl in a steady rain in Miami.

I covered the "Tuck Rule Game" -- or Snow Job -- in Foxborough, Mass. The Raiders were the better team but heavy snow kept the score low and close. The Raiders should've won -- Tom Brady clearly fumbled late, down 13-10 -- but Adam Vinatieri did display astonishing balance in avoiding slipping to nail the tying 45-yarder into the wind/snow and a slightly easier winner in overtime.

Home-crowd advantage should be enough. Home-blizzard advantage is absurd.

So many weather-tainted eyesores: the minus-59 wind chill in Cincinnati that denied San Diego Hall of Famer Dan Fouts a Super Bowl shot … the Soldier Field "Fog Bowl" in 1988 … even the Leon Lett snow-slide fumble that cost Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys a Thanksgiving Day game.

As I sit here watching the snow fall in Bristol, Conn., I leave you with words of wisdom once delivered to me by the visionary who was Tex Schramm, who created and built the Dallas Cowboys and helped Pete Rozelle run the NFL.

In 1980, Schramm predicted to me that every NFL city would one day have a retractable-roof dome, but that in the more distant future, every game would be played on a made-for-TV soundstage -- without fans! Cameras would take fans so far inside helmets and huddles and locker rooms that football would be best savored in living rooms or sports bars.

For now, that's beyond my comprehension -- shades of "Hunger Games."

But one day in the near future, you will realize how right I am about football belonging inside. That day just might be Feb. 2.

Skip Bayless

First Take host
Skip Bayless joined ESPN after a career as a sports columnist that includes stops in Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and San Jose. He can be seen Monday through Friday on First Take.

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