Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ice Bowl II ???

I have been to the coldest game ever played at Lambeau Field – the famous Ice Bowl on 12/31/67 – and the hottest game ever played at Lambeau Field – the re-dedication of the stadium after renovation, on 9/7/03.  So I speak to this coming Sunday’s game with some authority on the matter.

Lots of Packers fans claim they were at the Ice Bowl, when the Packers defeated the Cowboys in a playoff game on New Year’s Eve in 1967, but I was really there.  Section 9, Row 58. Me, my mom and dad, and Grandpa Morrissey.

More on that, later.

As of the time this is being written Thursday noon, there are still about 5,500 tickets unsold for Sunday’s playoff game with the 49ers. It’s a big topic on talk radio, and sports radio is abuzz with speculation about the possibility of a TV blackout of the game. On Dan Patrick’s radio show, he said a Green Bay businessman is standing by to purchase any unsold tickets at the deadline, so the game won’t be blacked out in the Green Bay and Milwaukee TV markets.

Patrick says he was at the coldest game in NFL history, which some say was the AFC Championship game played at Riverfront Stadium between the Bengals and the Chargers on January 10th, 1982. He was in the press box, freezing his butt off, as the air temperature was 9 below and the wind chill was 59 below.

That was one cold, cold game.  Some argue the Ice Bowl was the coldest game in NFL history, because the air temperature was 13 below, 4 degrees colder than it was in Cincinnati in ’82. But the wind chill at the Ice Bowl was calculated at 46 below, 13 degrees “warmer” than the famous Cincy game.

If the temperature Sunday is colder than one below zero, Sunday’s game will go down as the second-coldest at Lambeau field. Right now the #2 slot is held by the playoff game against the Giants on January 20th, 2008, when the temperature was 1 below and the wind chill was 23 below.

I remember the Ice Bowl clearly, even though it was 46 years ago. I was 18 at the time, and was a college student home in Hortonville for the winter break. My dad had four season tickets for the Packers, and I went with him, my mom, and my Grandpa Morrissey to all the home games during the “glory years”. I remember listening to WHBY-AM (Appleton), and all the talk that Sunday morning on the station was about the frigid temperature and its impact on the big game. Everyone knew the Cowboys were staying at the Midway Motor Lodge in Appleton, where it was just as cold as it was in Green Bay, and Packers fans said this was decidedly a great home-field advantage for the Pack, playing against the warm-weather Dallas Cowboys.

We bundled up in snowmobile boots, heavy layers of clothes, scarves, and hats, with hand-warmers and several flasks of brandy as “anti-freeze”. Grandpa Morrissey drove from his home in Oshkosh to Hortonville and then we all got into my dad’s car and made the half-hour trip to Lambeau Field. We parked about a half-mile from the stadium in what used to be a huge open field and made the trek in.

At halftime, my mom couldn’t stand the cold any more, and she left the stadium to go back to the car and warm up. But my dad and grandpa and I toughed it out, and we were rewarded. The famous Bart Starr quarterback keeper that went over Jerry Kramer’s block on Jethro Pugh was at our end of the stadium, right below us, and we saw it perfectly.  Out seats were just to the right of the top of the scoreboard in the photo above.  In 1967, the Lambeau Field grandstand was 60 rows tall, and our seats in row 58 were two rows from the very top of the stadium, right in the teeth of the wind. I clearly recall that my feet were the coldest part of my body, even though we were sitting facing the wind. That concrete was COLD and it soaked right through my Canadian Sorel snowmobile boots!

After the game, we walked back to the car and then headed for a tavern in Black Creek, where we traditionally met up with a lot of folks after the game, for a brewski and a burger, to rehash the game, and warm up. The heater in my dad’s brand new ’67 Ford Country Squire wagon was good, but when it’s that cold, you need to keep your heavy clothes on inside the car.

At the Ice Bowl, the vendors at the stadium ran out of coffee and hot chocolate before half-time. Suffice it to say tap beer was not a big seller.  At the re-dedication game on September 7th of 2003, the mercury soared well into the 90’s, and the vendors ran out of bottled water some time early in the 3rd quarter. With the oppressive heat and humidity at that game, again, tap beer was not a big seller. Toni and I had purchased a package deal for that game, which included round trip transportation in a luxury bus from Pier 37 in Monona to Lambeau Field, a tailgate lunch at Brett Favre’s restaurant a block or so from the stadium, and tickets to the game. The package also included free “beverages” on the bus, and we didn’t have a beer on the way home until after all the bottled water was gone.

The talk shows are speculating about why the tickets for the 49ers game on Sunday didn’t sell out immediately, and everybody has their pet theories.  Season ticket holders were apathetic because the team didn’t have that good a year, with Rodgers injured and unable to play until the Bears game last week; people don’t want to sit in weather that cold that late in the day; you name it.

But HiDef TV has got to be another factor, along with the way NFL games are televised these days.  Back in the days of the Ice Bowl, you were more likely than not to see the game in black and white rather than in color, and there were maybe 5 or 6 camera angles available to the director.  Instant replay was just coming into use on the telecasts. Slow-motion or stop-action replay was still decades away.

Now, there are 25 to 30 different camera shots available to the person directing the telecast; there’s sky-cam or its equivalent, overhead shots, isolation shots on all the key players, slow-mo, super-slow-mo, and stop-motion shots available from at least four angles on every play. The whole TV game experience is vastly different from 1967.

So, Sunday afternoon, I’ll have a beverage standing by next to my giant recliner chair in the media room of the Morrissey compound, snacks of all sorts, and we’ll be watching the game in Hi Def on a 66-inch screen with a 500-watt surround sound system. It will be about 68 degrees in the room, with a fire crackling in the fireplace, and I will be able to stop, pause, or rewind the action any time I want with my DVR.

Call me a fair-weather fan, but that scenario is much more appealing to me than freezing my butt off at Lambeau Field.  I wouldn’t trade my Ice Bowl experience for anything, but those days are gone for me.


  1. Older and wiser. Me too.

    I am originally from Rockford and still have my Bears season tickets. About 5 years or so ago I went to see the Bears vs. the Vikings at Soldier Field. The game time temp was I think maybe 5 degrees. We had a mini keg and it instantly froze so we put it on top of the grill and that thawed it out. The wind was biting. That was the day I said "enough". I still go to a few games a year, but all early in the season.

    1. Older and wiser, indeed. Looks like the entire game Sunday will be played in below-zero temps, and will set the record for coldest NFL game ever.

    2. I am seeing game time as forecasted at -8. We say eight below in these parts, as you well know. Looking forward to hearing the Fox broadcast team butcher it all to hell, in particular the double negative: "minus eight below". I think I might make a drinking game around this theme.

    3. I think you're onto something, Dan - a shot every time they refer to the temperature would put most of us out of commission before the end of the first quarter.

  2. I think you hit on the REAL reason for the ticket-selling problem: the vast majority of ticket-holders are in their 50's (or older)--and we're just not that stupid any more. Most young kids can't scrape up the $400.00 for 2 tix, parking, food, drinks....