By Jim Litke
For all the dire predictions making the rounds, you'd think they were playing "The Hunger Games" in New York on Feb. 2 instead of the Super Bowl.
"Cold or snowy is one thing," San Francisco 49er Phil Dawson said, "but if it's a blizzard it could be bad. ... That would make things crazy. I'm not sure how that would work."
Keep in mind Dawson is a kicker. And to be fair, scratch a half-dozen other players and NFL owners - who have the final say on Super Bowl sites - and you'll get differing opinions about the wisdom of playing the season's biggest game in the elements. Plenty of people grew up playing or watching the game that way and still love to; others were only too happy to go indoors and stay there.
But the players and owners all agree with something Indianapolis Colts lineman Cory Redding said recently about trading a few uncomfortable hours outside for a shot at the title.
"Snow, wind, freezing rain, it doesn't matter," Redding said. "It just makes the confetti feel that much better."
The owners feel just as strongly, even though all but one or two of the 32 owners will be ensconced in MetLife Stadium sky boxes that night instead of down on the field. But another handful or so will be paying even closer attention than usual, and not just to the game, but to the weeklong buildup.
Like co-hosts John Mara of the Giants and Woody Johnson of the Jets, those owners have franchises with outdoor stadiums in cold-weather towns. And if this Super Bowl makes it big in New York, then the reasoning goes that the big game can make it anywhere. Foxborough, Philadelphia, Washington, Nashville, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver - take your pick.
Owners at those sites, and several others, have broached the subject before and especially lately, though none has been required thus far to put any money or resources where his mouth is - and won't until the bidding process for the 2019 Super Bowl begins late next summer.
After New York, the next three Super Bowls are set for Glendale, Arizona (2015), Santa Clara, California (2016; the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl), and Houston (2017). The 2018 field has already been narrowed to Indianapolis, Minneapolis and perennial favorite New Orleans. All three finalists have - or in the case of Minneapolis, will have - a domed stadium.That winner will be announced in May.
By then, serious ownership contenders for 2019 will have begun raising cash from civic, business and community groups and helped formed bid committees. It's not a small commitment. After winning the 2014 game, in a vote taken at the 2010 NFL owners meetings, the host New York-New Jersey committee raised $70 million to cover the cost of staging the event. Their final bill will have to cover everything from erecting a 60-foot(18-meter)-tall toboggan slide in Times Square to contingency plans on clearing snow and delivering 80,000 fans to MetLife Stadium on game day.
Other than coming up with the cash and an organizational plan, the bar for entering the Super Bowl lottery is low.
A bid city must have 29,000 hotel rooms within an hour's drive of the stadium (sorry, Green Bay) and be able to seat up to 68,000 fans on game day. It also has to provide two NFL-caliber practice facilities for the teams, buildings large enough to house a media center and the "NFL Experience" - essentially a weeklong fan convention - and range of sponsor and corporate hospitality gatherings. Even towns where the field gets chewed up during the season can confidently bid, since NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has arranged to bring in an entirely new playing surface for the big game in the past.
"At the end of the day, the considerations are the same as they would be for a game in a warm climate or indoors," McCarthy added. "What did the product on the field look like? Did the logistics work to the benefit of everybody? How was the fan experience? How did it come across on TV? How were the sponsors treated?
"This is the pinnacle of our game. It's the one stage that everybody is looking at."
Until they assess the final product in New York, the owners' support of a Super Bowl in a cold-weather city is conditional.
But not to the players and coaches.
"If they have it in Alaska, if that's where they want to play the Super Bowl, I want to get my team there. That's how I look at it," Buffalo coach Doug Marrone said.
"... either I'm there playing it, or I'm at home feeling pretty ..." and here Marrone paused to glance at Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold. "Can I say the word I want to say?" he began.
"Lousy?" suggested Berchtold.
"Lousy," Marrone repeated. "OK."