Chicago is the city that works, but not for a Super Bowl
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org May 31, 2012 8:38PM
Bears fans will look a lot like Janise Ford in this 2010 photo when subzero windchills hit Chicago Monday night into Tuesday. | AP file
Updated: July 6, 2012 10:16AM
The 2016 Chicago Super Bowl Committee, chaired by Ted Williams’ frozen head, has released its official tailgating menu. See if you can recognize a theme:
Frozen woolly mammoth.
I’m not saying a Super Bowl in Chicago in February is a bad idea. I’m saying it’s not even an idea. It’s a fever dream, a hallucination, an idle thought on a par with, “Getting burned alive — I bet that would really hurt.’’ It’s the kind of idea that should never get to the stage of being dismissed.
But here we are, shivering while pondering the Snowball Summit that took place Thursday in Chicago.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and one of the topics of discussion was the possibility of a future Super Bowl at Soldier Field. Paraphrasing Emanuel, the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman wrote, “If Chicago can welcome the world by hosting the NATO summit, why not be the stage for the NFL’s grandest showcase — the Super Bowl?’’
Let me answer that, Rahm: Because it’s freaking cold here in February!
You know when it’s so insanely frigid that the snow sounds like Styrofoam underneath your feet? We call that “February.’’ Early February is when the NFL often plays its championship game. It usually takes place in a warm-weather city such as Miami, San Diego or Glendale, Ariz., or once in a while in a cold-weather city — Indianapolis or Minneapolis — that has a domed stadium.
Try to imagine if the Super Bowl had been played in Chicago during the Blizzard of 2011, when the area was trapped beneath 21 inches of snow and Tom Skilling’s isobars were aroused like never before. Put aside the logistical problems of getting the field ready and getting people to and from the stadium. Think of two teams reaching the title game and having to worry about how to stay warm and whether the footing will go from bad to does-anybody-know-a-good-lawyer by the third quarter.
Ten years ago, Chicago experienced a 10-inch snowstorm and a low of minus-7 within days of each other — in March.
And don’t get me started on the capriciousness of lake-effect snow.
The seasoned Chicagoan understands that Soldier Field is no place for a football game in February, unless the Bears are playing, in which case it would be considered a competitive advantage. But would it be? I don’t know. I’ve seen the Bears’ engine seize up in “Bears weather.’’
The NFL gave New York the 2014 Super Bowl as a reward for the Giants and Jets building an outdoor stadium. But New York in February isn’t like Chicago in February. Meteorologically, New York is a wuss.
Football was meant to be played outdoors and in the elements. Most of us can agree on that. The Super Bowl was meant to be played in near-perfect conditions so that the play on the field, not the elements, would dictate the outcome. That’s fair. There’s nothing fair about snow and cold, except that everyone has to play in it and be miserable in it.
The Super Bowl is all about commerce, and if there’s one thing the NFL knows, it’s how to make money. If the league decides enough people will pay huge bucks to sneer in the face of frostbite, it will tap Chicago on the shoulder. If it decides Soldier Field lacks seating, it will ignore Chicago.
Paper beats scissors, and money beats cold. It won’t be lost on Goodell that you can make up for the seating shortage at Soldier Field by asking more for tickets.
Chicago is a great city. Most of us who live here believe that in our hearts. But most of us know in our bones that this is no place for the biggest game of the season. We don’t need a Super Bowl to remind us of where we stand. We know it. Somebody needs to tell Emanuel the Miracle on Ice has been done.
If Goodell was in Minneapolis during the week leading up to the 1992 Super Bowl, he might recall the wind chills of minus-30 degrees. At least that game was played in a dome. The days before the game were an icy nightmare, with people praying to a higher power that they wouldn’t have to venture outside.
If there’s the possibility of that in Chicago, which has an outdoor stadium, what’s the benefit? Oh, yeah, I forgot: cold cash.