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Friday, October 31, 2008
Cold moments: When weather and sports collide

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NFL Championship
 

1. NFL Championship Game

Date: Dec. 31, 1967

Weather: minus 13 degrees with a wind chill of minus 48 at game time; field frozen

What happened: The Packers had installed 14 miles of wiring under the field to keep the turf warm and soft. The wiring failed, but only after it had had enough time to turn snow to water. When the wires cooled off, that water became ice: hence the Ice Bowl, not "The Freakin' Cold Bowl." The Packers beat the Cowboys 21-17 after Green Bay QB Bart Starr sneaked over the line from about a foot away for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. Packers coach Vince Lombardi let Starr run the play even though a field goal attempt would have been the less-risky move and likely would have tied the game and sent it into overtime.

Lombardi, a risk taker? No, but something even less likely: Lombardi, the compassionate. Referring to the crowd of 50,861 who'd stuck around Lambeau throughout the frigid afternoon, he said, "I didn't figure all those people could stay on in the stands. You can't say I'm always without compassion." Literary lineman Jerry Kramer said the goal-line turf was "solid like cement."

Here's some more trivia: Q) How was the Packers' D able to figure out, for certain, when Bob Hayes was Don Meredith's primary receiver? A) He took his hands out of his pants at the line of scrimmage. Q) What is the sound of a ref's frozen whistle? A) Silence.

Cotton Bowl
 

8. 1979 Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame vs. Houston

Date: Jan. 1, 1979

Weather: Dallas is encased in an ice storm. Wind chill factor: minus 7

What happened: A few years back, we called this contest -- "The Chicken Soup Game" -- the third greatest bowl game ever. The contest was played in the Cotton Bowl's frigid, howling wind, and Notre Dame got off to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. In the second and third quarters, Houston scored 34 straight points. Notre Dame team aides were in the locker room warming Joe Montana with chicken soup trying to help him combat the flu and hypothermia. Montana managed to warm up and came back late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter he ran for one TD, passed for another as time ran out and also passed for two two-point conversions to lead the Irish to an extraordinary comeback victory. Montana recalled his feeling waking up on game morning to gaze upon a crystalline Dallas: "It was beautiful -- beautiful if you were spending the day looking out a window." That's what most ticket holders did: The stands were more than half empty as a result of a record 39,500 no-shows.


--Jeff Merron