Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cold comfort

So the word is out that it's going to be cold, really cold, for the Seahawks-Vikings NFC wild-card game tomorrow -- Zero degrees in January in Minnesota! Who knew? -- and this makes me all warm inside, on account of football was meant to be a war against the elements, and you can't make war on the elements if they don't fight back.

(This is why I hate, absolutely hate, football in domes. Football was intended to be played under God's own sky, not under something made by Tupperware. Dome football is just arena football in a suit and tie. Real men play outside.)

Anyway ... a forecast game-time temperature of zero or thereabouts, plus windchills around the minus-20 range, inevitably recall the seminal NFL weather event, the fabled Ice Bowl between the Packers and Cowboys. The conditions that day -- minus-13 actual at kickoff -- will make Sunday seem like Tampa in July, and many tales have grown up around it.

My favorite is not how many players wound up with frostbite that day, or how the frozen exhalations of thousands of spectators wreathed the stands at Lambeau Field in a smoky industrial haze. It's the fact that Vince Lombardi's fancy heating system for the field actually contributed to the playing surface turning into a skating rink; with the heating coils on and the field covered the night before the game, condensation apparently formed. And so when the field was exposed to the bitter cold the next day, it almost immediately began to ice over. You could actually see the field turning white as the game progressed.

I don't know if that will happen in Minnesota tomorrow, but, frankly, I can't wait. I can't wait to see Pete Carroll, the ultimate surfer dude coach, bundled up to his eyebrows and looking miserable. I can't wait to see everyone in gloves except the linemen, who of course will do what they always do, which is play with their bare arms hanging out (because, you know, they're tough guys).

I can't wait to see all those frosty exhales forming that icy haze again. I can't wait to see strong men battle not only each other but the elements, because, that's football, by God. (See above.)

Mostly, of course, I can't wait to see all this while crashed out on my couch in front of a cozy fire. Which gets at the real truth of why we love to watch football played in adverse conditions: Because the sadist in all of us likes to watch guys bigger, stronger and more physically gifted by the athletic gods suffer while we don't.

Deny it if you can.

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