Successful Super Bowl in the snow could plow way for other cold-weather cities
By By Matt Vensel and The Baltimore Sun
Jan 26, 2014 | 4:30 PM
When Rob Rogers woke up the morning of Dec. 8 and looked at an ominous weather forecast predicting several inches of snow or the threat of freezing rain, he knew exactly where he wanted to be.
The 24-year-old Hampden resident rushed to his computer, navigated to Stubhub.com and saw that ticket prices for that afternoon's game between the Ravens and Minnesota Vikings were dropping. He snapped up tickets for himself and three friends and threw on long underwear, warm clothes, a winter jacket and, of course, his No. 82 Torrey Smith jersey and was off to M&T Bank Stadium.
"There were points in the game where you could hardly see the players on the field. The snow plows were on the field during every TV timeout," Rogers said. "The Ravens fans were just as loud and into the game as they always are, especially during that rollercoaster of emotions in the final two minutes or so. I'll never forget being at that game. Craziest game I have ever attended."
The NFL is hoping to replicate that kind of excitement next Sunday — Groundhog Day, by coincidence — when it holds the first cold-weather Super Bowl ever played outdoors at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The forecast from Accuweather.com as of 4:30 p.m. Sunday projects a 30 percent chance of snow when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks play for the Lombardi Trophy. Last week, the NFL discussed contingency plans for moving the time or day of the Super Bowl in case a severe snowstorm threatens public safety.
Both teams planned to arrive Sunday while the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic region are in the grips of a cold spell. Low temperatures will again be in the single digits this week, according to forecasts. But on Super Bowl Sunday it could reach the mid-30s.
While some have suggested that snow at the Super Bowl would be a nightmare for the league, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at a town hall discussion in New York earlier this month that as long as it didn't interfere with public safety, he "wouldn't mind at all seeing flurries."
"When you think back at the classic games in our history, weather has been a big part of that," Goodell said, according to The Boston Globe. "Whether it was the Ice Bowl or just even [on Jan. 5], the Packers and the 49ers going at it in front of close to 50 million people on television at Lambeau Field, that is a special moment. It's a part of the mythology of the NFL and you see that game and you see the snow coming down, it's really neat."
If — heavy snow or not — the game is a success, might it snowplow the way for Baltimore to host the Super Bowl in coming years?
"I think if they have a great experience, it couldn't hurt," said Tom Noonan, the president and CEO of Visit Baltimore.
Fans who braved the elements to attend the Ravens' 29-26 win over the Vikings in December, a game wide receiver Jacoby Jones described as "Disneyland on ice," said it was one of the most memorable games they have experienced.
John Kistler, a 47-year-old Catonsville resident, wasn't going to miss the first Ravens home game played in significant snow, and a wild game that featured five lead changes in the final three minutes didn't disappoint.
TJ Richards, a 23-year-old Severna Park resident, said it was one of the most fun games he has ever been to — even though he couldn't feel his feet when wide receiver Marlon Brown caught the game-winning touchdown with four seconds left.
Gwen Robinson, a 38-year-old Arbutus resident, went on a pregame shopping spree to find waterproof Under Armour pants and snow boots. She had to keep moving throughout the game so her pants legs didn't freeze to the stadium's concrete floor, but she would "do it again in a heartbeat."
Even the players, especially those on the winning side, got a kick out of playing in a game that felt like it was taking place inside a snow globe.
"It was like Christmas. It was like growing up, and me and my brother playing football in our backyard," Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones said. "We played in the snow, and in the rain until our noses were snotty. You know, you just don't care. You're banged up, but you keep going, just on heart. It was awesome. It was one of the best games. It wasn't one of the best fundamental games."
Critics of this year's Super Bowl site argue that inclement weather — like the snow and slippery playing surface that made for a sloppy first half in that Ravens-Vikings game — could threaten the quality of the league's championship game and diminish the impact that marquee players such as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman have on it.
"It comes with the territory," wide receiver Torrey Smith said of the elements after the Vikings game. "You have to be able to play and win in any condition."
Before commenting on the viability of Baltimore and other northern cities possibly hosting cold-weather Super Bowls, the league wants to see how things go in New York/New Jersey.
"Let us get through this one first," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email.
"More important than the weather is the ability of a city to handle the mega-event that is the Super Bowl. It's more than a game on Sunday. It's a week's worth of events. There are many cities that simply don't have the infrastructure for the Super Bowl — number of hotel rooms, large amount of meeting space, indoor practice facilities and other requirements. New York is unique. It regularly handles large events."
While the Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority both declined comment for this article, Noonan believes Baltimore is up for the task of playing host.
He argued that the region has enough hotel rooms to host the Super Bowl if you include the hotels near BWI airport and even as far as Washington that are connected to Baltimore by the light rail and Amtrak. And he touted the city's transportation system, restaurant and nightlife options, and its more temperate climate compared to New York as Super Bowl selling points.
"The NFL is looking at a lot of new ideas, and obviously this cold-weather Super Bowl is one of them," Noonan said. "Whether they ever repeat it again is solely an NFL decision, but I think they're going to look at this game, see what this experience is like and think, 'Should Washington, D.C., should Baltimore, should Philadelphia, should those franchises receive a Super Bowl at some point?'
"And perhaps the answer will be yes. That's clearly an NFL decision. But if they asked if Baltimore could host this game, I think we could, and I think we would do a great job."
But is a snowy Super Bowl something that most NFL fans want to endure firsthand or even watch on television? Despite having a blast at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 8, Rogers isn't so sure.
"The game was too sloppy. The Super Bowl is supposed to get the best out of both teams. There is no way that can happen in weather conditions like we had here that day," he said. "But if any good can come from the Super Bowl in New York, it would be that Baltimore may have a chance to get one. If they are going to continue the trend of having it outdoors, why not have it in Baltimore, too?
"Of course, the Ravens better be the ones playing in it, though."