- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
- 0 Shares
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco used a deplorable word ("retarded") Monday when asked about wintry sites like New York and New Jersey hosting the Super Bowl. But beyond the poor word choice, I agree with him: If I were an NFL player, I wouldn't want to bust a gut from July 'til January to get to the Super Bowl and then risk having to play in a blizzard like the one that hit the 2001 playoff game at Foxboro Stadium before New England's Adam Vinatieri was asked to slalom out and kick the game-tying and winning field goals out of several inches of powder.
You finally get your once-in-a-lifetime chance at a title -- and you can do snow angels during the TV timeouts?
Flacco, a native of Audubon, N.J., was just being honest after he walked off the Ravens' team plane in New Orleans and stepped right into a little mess when asked about the Super Bowl being played in cold-weather sites, as it will next February at MetLife Stadium.
"Yeah, I think it's retarded," Flacco said. "I probably shouldn't say that. I think it's stupid. If you want a Super Bowl, put a retractable dome on your stadium. Then you can get one. Other than that, I don't really like the idea. I don't think people would react very well to it, or be glad to play anybody in that kind of weather."
Flacco is only half-right. People will flock to Super Bowls no matter where they're played. (Even the 1982 game at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., was well-attended, though it was savaged as a stylistic disaster.) He was also too flip about ordering cold-weather cities to just build a dome, and then the NFL will come. The Jets and Giants passed on the idea because it would've required an extra $400 million on top of the $1.7 billion that MetLife Stadium already cost them.
But again -- as a player -- there are a lot of reasons for Flacco to dislike a place like New York and New Jersey being awarded the Super Bowl.
It has nothing to do with modern players or fans being too "soft" to handle the elements. It's not about rejecting the fact that football games have traditionally been played through bad weather since the dawn of time. Remember, the conditions for iconic games like the Ice Bowl weren't by choice. And look: NFL teams are free to continue to freeze their fingers and toes off right through the conference championship games, which should be played in the home cities of teams that survived that far.
But the championship showdown? The league's worldwide showcase event of the year? The most important game of the season?
No. Why opt for that when there's a better, more sane choice?
Why risk having the title decided in some slapstick farce like New England's '01 Snow Bowl, in which the running backs slip-slide around as if they're on roller skates, footballs thud off receivers' frozen hands and linebackers are sliding 10 yards on their backs like overturned turtles after missing a tackle?
I know the NFL researched what the weather usually is on Feb. 2 in New York area, the date next year's game will be held, and found the average temperature around here in February is around 24 degrees. But I also remember the flash snowstorm we had here in October 2011, and how the area was paralyzed for days.
Stuff happens. Unpredictable weather is among those things. And if it happens to happen on a the day the Super Bowl is being played outdoors in February 2014, what you're potentially left with is the sight of even a man like Flacco, perhaps the strongest-armed quarterback in the league, shot-putting passes to his tight end because it's too cold or wet to grip the ball. Or the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick falling on his butt every time he tries to cut upfield.
A title shouldn't be decided like that when it can be avoided.
The NFL's awarding of the Super Bowl to the Giants and Jets has always been seen as a payback for the Mara family and Woody Johnson's decision to self-finance the construction of the stadium. Having the game in the business and media capital of the world should be more lucrative for the league, too. (As long as Flacco was being flip, he could've added if the NFL wants the benefits of having the game here, let the league build a dome over MetLife Stadium to optimize its cash-cow potential.)
But players don't care about that. Nor should they. It's easy to see why players would want to nip the cold-weather-site trend before Denver, New England and Chicago follow through on expected attempts to host the Super Bowl in undomed stadiums, now that New York/New Jersey is.
Players just want a chance to play in the fairest conditions possible. Then let the best team win.
That's all Flacco seems to be saying. His word choice was poor. But his logic was rock solid.
Joe Flacco is right. Scheduling the 2014 Super Bowl for New Jersey is a bad idea.