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Ashway: Will weather decide the Super Bowl?

POSTED: January 28, 2014 1:50 p.m.
 

It doesn’t look like we’re going to get our Super Bowl Blizzard.

ESPN tried to get our hopes up on Sunday, repeatedly running a crawl predicting a 60 to 80 percent chance of a hideous wintry mix for the big game.

By Monday morning, the Weather Channel had the chance of precipitation down to 20 percent.

But there’s still hope. Meteorologist Jeff Smith of WABC-TV in New York told Jane McManus of espnnewyork.com that an accurate prediction can’t really be made until 96 hours before kickoff.

"We’re pretty confident that temperatures will be close to normal, the 30s, by the time the weekend rolls around," Smith said. If so, we’ll still see the coldest Super Bowl ever. The 1972 game in New Orleans reached 39 degrees as the Cowboys beat the Dolphins.

Conditions in the 30s would be downright sultry compared to the last time the NFL held its championship game in the New York metropolitan area.

That was on Dec. 30, 1962, when the Giants hosted the Packers in old Yankee Stadium. The 16 degree temperature was cold enough. But the wind whipping through the stadium pushed the wind chill factor to minus 8.

Robert Riger, in his book Best Plays of the Year 1962, described it as "the biggest damn wind that ever blew. Forty mile gusts exploded across frozen Yankee Stadium, whipping an acre of dirt into swirling tornadoes."

The wind blew the ball off the tee three times before the ball was held for the opening kickoff. Packer quarterback Bart Starr told The Associated Press, "Several times we noted the benches on the sideline, those heavy benches that they sat on over there, they were blown over during the course of the game."

On the Giants sideline, fires were lit in oil drums in a vain effort to keep the players warm. Likewise, television crews used fires to try to thaw out their cameras.

The cold posed a big problem for the crew of Blair Motion Pictures. The film company had paid $3,000 for the rights to film the game. By the game’s end, only one camera was functioning.

Blair Motion Pictures, owned by Ed Sabol, was soon re-christened NFL Films. It’s very first production was the 1962 championship game.

The wind destroyed what should have been a classic matchup. This might have been Vince Lombardi’s finest team. The Packers went 13-1 during the season, losing only to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Still, they finished two games ahead of Detroit. Fullback Jim Taylor became the only other man to win a rushing title while Jim Brown was in the league.

The Giants went 12-2, won their last nine games, and finished three games ahead of Pittsburgh. Their quarterback, 36-year-old Y.A. Tittle, had set an NFL record with 33 touchdown passes. In one memorable game against the Redskins, he threw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns.

"Look, you know they are basically a tremendous rushing team, built around Jimmy Taylor," Tittle told Riger after the game. "He has gained almost as much yardage rushing as our entire backfield this year!

"Now, passing, we made 36 points some games throwing that ball, 3,300 [yards] for the season. They make 2,300 passing and have a very balanced attack. Now, what happens?

"We both come up to the biggest game, and the wind is impossible. You can’t believe it. It shoots in incredible bursts and our strength, our great passing game, is gone. You are forced to play their game through no effort of theirs or fault of yours, but a strange twist of fate that summoned up a wind on a cold, icy field that is beyond description."

Tittle completed only 18 of 41 passes for 197 yards as the Packers prevailed, 16-7.

Interesting that Denver coach John Fox, apparently a student of history, noted the weather upon landing in New Jersey on Sunday. "I think, in order to be a championship football team, we’ve got to be weatherproof," he told McManus. "I think our football team played in all different elements this year. I feel comfortable with where we’re at as far as the elements, but it’s been a part of the league and a part of a lot of championships."

And it still might be on Super Sunday. Suppose that Meadowlands wind kicks up?

Denver’s top-rated offense relies on its top-ranked passing game. The Broncos rushing attack ranked 15th in the league.

Seattle, on the other hand, brings in the top-ranked defense in the league, and the fourth-ranked rushing attack.

History predicts that the Seahawks will be more weatherproof than the Broncos. The key might just be how much weather there is to proof.

 

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