The Best Football Is Tundra Football
2:39 PM EST on January 14, 2022
The weather in Buffalo is supposed to be so ungodly on Sunday that tickets for Patriots-Bills are going for as little as $25. And this is to a target audience that believes picnic tables are inflatable pool toys, only with metal legs.
This speaks first to the weakness of the American character and the diminishing role of football in our daily lives. What kind of Bills fan is suddenly hesitant about losing a couple of toes to watch their boys beat Bill Belichick, and in a playoff game at that?
More to the point, though, what about the all-important viewership of people either nowhere near Western New York or daft enough to answer the question, "How much alcohol do you need to drink to forget that you're standing in minus-16 wind chill and probably shouldn't be drinking as a tool for warmth in the first place?"
That is not a question we are keen to tackle, because we do our drinking in the safety of 72-degree heat with no wind chill at all because we're inside, you ninnies. But we do enjoy watching other people freeze. We never get enough of the Ice Bowl between Green Bay and Dallas, on a frozen field in minus-13 degree weather with a wind chill that dropped as low as minus-48. And we would watch San Diego and Cincinnati and its minus-59 wind chill in the 1981 AFC title game more often if the NFL Network would show it to us, even though it doesn't have the same level of telegenic schadenfreude to it.
But you're not here for some Jim Cantore sex fantasy in a sleet storm. You want to know if the weather will entertain you this weekend, and in three of the six playoff venues, it very well might. And this is objectively good—the closer to unplayable, the better.
In Tampa, it won't be cold but it will be wet (78 percent chance of thunderstorms) and windy (22 mph and up), and better yet, on a grass field for an increased possibility of mud. We do not care if this helps the Philadelphia Eagles' running game or hampers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' passing game. We are not seeking a betting advantage (the line—Bucs minus-8.5—hasn't moved much, but the total has dropped a full field goal since the line opened Sunday evening). We don't even care if this makes Tom Brady sad or Antonio Brown glad. We just want the players falling down on every play in the equivalent of stable muck. We do not want to see the players at their best, we want to see the conditions at their worst. What we want is weather so bad that fans flee for safety in the stadium's pirate ship.
And why? Because the games are simply more fun to watch that way. How is this even debatable? This is what we as a nation want, not some game in 53-degree weather where both teams can use their speed and grace to realize the sport's balletic possibilities. Sod that. We demand the First Battle of Ypres with yard lines, mostly because it will provide a valid rebuttal point to our spouses, children, pets or the cops wanting our attention because the neighbors' garage is on fire: "Look, Officer Dibble, Kyler Murray is trapped in a snowbank in front of the Packers bench! You can't even see the top of his head!" Hell, if these games gave us outbreaks of trench foot, dysentery or bayonet wounds from the Germans, it would still represent a refreshing break from all the COVID news.
We remember the scenes from the Fog Bowl in 1988 even though we barely remember who was in it (Eagles-Bears), let alone who won it (Bears, 20–12) or why (for the right to get their faces kicked in by the 49ers in good weather a week later). We remember the Sneakers Game (well, at least if we're 103 years old) because the Giants changed at halftime from cleats to sneakers a clergyman stole from the Manhattan Jaspers basketball team to combat an icy field at the Polo Grounds and beat the superior Bears. In fairness, the clergyman was also Manhattan's athletic director, but theft is theft and I'm sure he is paying for it now in what we can only assume is a very warm afterlife.
We definitely remember the Tuck Rule Game in part because Raider fans won't shut up about it and Patriot fans credit it for jump-starting their dynasty, but mostly because the game was played in almost shin-deep snow. I would know. I was on the sidelines and felt stupid and exhilarated at once because the game was such a chaotic and delightful mess for all the right and wrong reasons simultaneously. The players were largely encased in rictus grins of frostbite and were actually too cold to hate referee Walt Coleman or the league office until they'd been in the locker room for 20 minutes. It reinforced Raiders fans' soul-deep sense of victimology, kicked off Patriots fans' crypto-violent smugness and made the Tuck Rule so famous that the league later rescinded it out of a sense of "Nobody's ever calling that penalty again, right?"
But enough history—except for the Blair Walsh game in 2016 when the Vikings kicker hooked a 27-yard field goal at game's end to prevent Minnesota from beating Seattle in the divisional playoff. It was minus-6 with a minus-27 wind chill and provided us with the first known evidence that Mike Zimmer might actually have a face made entirely out of an all-night bail bonds sign. We also bring it up because it makes Comrade Magary cry.
But enough history again. Not only is Buffalo going to be cold and Tampa wet, there is a chance that Kansas City could be both. Sadly for society, that game (Roethlisberger-Mahomes) will be played Sunday and not Saturday, when the temperature is supposed to be 11 with an 88 percent chance of snow and winds up to 17 mph. We can only hope for a very slow-moving front and an even slower thaw. In Cincinnati (Raiders-Bengals), it will be a balmy 32-degree Saturday afternoon with only an eight percent chance of rain, which isn't sufficient for our needs. And Arizona and Dallas play in domes, so they can just go to hell.
And we haven't even played the Green Bay card yet, where next Saturday it will be 16 with a low of minus-3 and next Sunday 9 and minus-6. This could be the best playoffs ever, and all because of a national obsession with watching elite athletes rendered paralytic by the ground upon which they all rely.
Other than that, enjoy this right now and remember that Comrade Magary gave Patriots-Bills five Throwgasms without even mentioning the weather. If it's cold enough to make Bob Kraft and Terry Pegula shatter, the score won't even matter. We'll all have gotten our money's worth.