The predicted temperature at kickoff for Sunday’s Vikings-Seahawks playoff game in Minneapolis is 1 degree, with a wind chill of minus-17.
There’s cold, and then there’s Ice Bowl cold. How cold is that? When the Packers and the Cowboys met for the NFL championship in 1967, the temperature in Green Bay was minus-13, with a wind chill of minus-48.
But even those are just numbers. When I covered the Broncos years ago, then-Denver coach Dan Reeves, a running back for the ’67 Cowboys, liked to tell the story about getting pulverized during that game on a brutal head-to-head hit by Packers defensive tackle Ron Kostelnik. Reeves’ facemask was smashed on the play, and he immediately reached up to his mouth to feel if there was any damage. He had no sensation in his hand or his mouth, but he was surprised, and relieved, to find no blood.
He found a lot of it a few minutes later when he stood in front of a sideline heater. The thawing made the blood gush from a cut where a knocked-out tooth had blasted through his upper lip.
The coldest game I covered was the 2008 NFC Championship Game between the Packers and the Giants at Lambeau Field. The temperature was minus-3, the wind chill minus-24. I walked into the stands to get a feel for how cold it was and saw a shirtless man with an enormous thermometer chained around his neck. He had been drinking either alcohol or antifreeze. I avoided eye contact.
A few weeks earlier, the Bears had beaten the Packers at Soldier Field with the temperature at 2 degrees and the wind chill at minus-13.
The 1989 NFC Championship Game between the Bears and the 49ers featured an auxiliary press box at Soldier Field to help accommodate all the reporters who had requested credentials. The wind chill was only 2 degrees, but because the press box seemed to be made of balsa, it felt much colder. Our hosts were gracious enough to hand out towels so we could wipe the ice off the windows as the game progressed and the mercury dropped. A colleague of mine came down with double pneumonia.
There’s cold, and then there’s cold.
“This kind of stuff, I think it takes years off your life being out there,” Bears running back Matt Forte once said after a brutally cold game.
Imagine the long-term effects when you don’t wear a shirt.