Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Big game in the Big Apple

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls it "January Football."

OK, so technically the Super Bowl has become a February event (and one of these years will probably drive a flying wedge through some relationships on Valentine's Day). But by "January Football," our favorite Omar Epps lookalike means "playoff football."

When I think of January, I think of cold. I think of breath coming out of people's mouths like steam. And, yes, I think of snow. Sometimes lots of it.

This has been the backdrop for many NFL playoff games.

Why should the Super Bowl be any different?

That's why I'm in favor of having Super Bowl XLVIII in New York.

Let's get full disclosure out of the way now. Yes, I live in Yonkers (a Yonkers Yinzer!), which shares a border with the Bronx. So I'm a few Hail Marys away from New York City. But I grew up as a New Englander hating New York. And I'm obviously not a fan of the Giants or Jets. So when it comes to football, I have no emotional ties to the city.

I won't rule out my stance being influenced by the fact that I'm a fan of the Steelers, a "cold-weather" team (tell that to the 1994 Chargers). But regardless of the Steelers' fortunes, I think there should be a weather asterisk next to the names of any warm-weather or indoor Super Bowl champion that did not win at least one playoff game, or even a crucial late-season game, in cold weather.

The Saints barely make the grade. All their playoff wins came in the comfort of the Superdome. However, in Week 13, they did win 33-30 in overtime at Washington to improve to 12-0. Gametime temperature was 36 degrees. That's borderline. Maybe I'm just giving them a pass because they whipped the shit out of the Patriots.

The 2006 Colts get immunity because as an indoor team they had to play Super Bowl XLI in the rain at Miami. Come to think of it, they beat the Patriots in the AFC championship game. OK, so maybe I'm playing favorites.

Anyway, that leaves the 1999 Rams as the most recent Super Bowl champion to bear my weather asterisk. Not only did they have both of their playoff games at home, they didn't even have to go outside for Super Bowl XXXIV, which was played at the Georgia Dome.

The Steelers kept another asterisk out of the books by beating the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. The indoor Cardinals, labeled by Charles P. Pierce of Slate.com as "glorified Arena Football League team," defeated the Panthers on the road in the playoffs that year. But the temperature was in the upper 40s. Not cold enough.

Warm-weather or indoor teams who gripe about possibly playing a Super Bowl in the cold should take a lesson from the 2002 Buccaneers.

I think I might have mentioned this once or twice, but the Steelers were the last team to beat the Bucs that year, 17-7 in Week 16 on a Monday night in Tampa. With a first-round bye still up for grabs, the Bucs had to play at Chicago on the final weekend of the regular season. The franchise carried a heavy albatross, never having won with the temperature below 40 degrees. Temperature in Chicago at kickoff? 38 degrees.

Not only did the Bucs brave the elements and win 15-0 to lock up the No. 2 seed, they went to Philadelphia for the NFC championship game (game-time temperature: 26 degrees) and socked the Eagles 27-10 to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. They beat the Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl. Yeah, that Super Bowl was in San Diego. But had the Super Bowl been outdoors in a cold-weather city, the Buccaneers would have been prepared.

OK, so cold is one thing, but snow is quite another. Let's imagine snow falling on the new Meadowlands during Super Bowl XLVIII.

Who doesn't love to watch a football game in the snow, with players slipping and sliding all over the place? If that, with a bitter cold and howling wind thrown in, is the setting for Super Bowl XLVIII, you and I will be enjoying it from the comfort of home while those who can afford $1,000 tickets freeze their asses off. It would be a victory for the common man.

A snowy Super Bowl won't be the disaster that opponents of a New York Super Bowl say it will be. The Super Bowl can get away with a 6-3 game in a blizzard because, well, it's the Super Bowl. The NFL is taking a big risk here because it can.

The Super Bowl is already sawed off from the flow of "January Football" because of the two-week break after the conference championship games. The contrast is even more stark with the utopian atmosphere of Chamber of Commerce weather, or worse, room temperature.

Super Bowls in San Diego, Miami, New Orleans and even Jacksonville (they can have a Super Bowl in Jacksonville but not in New York? C'mon) are surrounded by an atmosphere of parties, MTV reporters and hookers. Football is almost an afterthought.

A foot of snow would change all that.