The Wimps Who Stole Christmas
THERE IS NOTHING more magical than football in the snow.
If you grew up anywhere in the wintry half of this country, you probably have fond memories of hiking up your snow pants and sloshing around with your buddies and your Pete Rozelle-signed football in the backyard drifts - and the only thing that comes a close second to playing football in the snow is watching a classic NFL matchup in a furious downpour of the white stuff.
In 1948, the Eagles won an NFL championship at Shibe Park in a raging blizzard, a game that was never forgotten by the 36,309 die-hards who didn't think twice about braving those conditions to watch history in the making. Then there was the "Snow-Plow" game in New England and the Pats' memorable playoff victory over Oakland in a snowstorm years later, and the frigid 1967 Ice Bowl in Green Bay. To paraphrase Frank Capra this Christmas season, for a true football fan it would not have been as wonderful a life had those remarkable games never been born.
That's why the decision by the NFL and the Eagles, with input from the city of Philadelphia, to postpone last night's game because of a snowstorm that isn't really all that (we might get 11 inches in the city - not exactly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer territory, not even close) is more than downright disappointing.
This is the height of wimpiness, and the girly-men who made this sad decision should be ashamed of themselves. The NFL has been rightfully called the No Fun League for a number of years, but this takes that to a whole embarrassing new level. In fact, let's name names here: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie and president Joe Banner, and Mayor Nutter - you are the Wimps Who Stole Christmas from football fans in Philadelphia.
Honestly, it never even occurred to me that postponing the game (until tomorrow - a decision that also hurts the Eagles' chances of getting a coveted bye in the first round of the playoffs, but we won't go there, not now) was something they'd consider. Around noon yesterday, I got an e-mail from a Daily News colleague (I'm the night city editor on Sundays - by the way, it took me the same amount of time to drive to Center City from Delaware County as it does on a sunny 70-degree afternoon, possibly less) about production plans for putting out the paper, including if the Eagles' game were canceled. I laughed when I read that. Hah! Doesn't she know, I thought, that unless there's a roof collapse or Hurricane Katrina they don't cancel NFL games? Period.
Which is why I was stunned to see this news release from the NFL:
"Due to public safety concerns in light of today's snow emergency in Philadelphia, tonight's Vikings-Eagles game has been postponed. Because of the uncertainty of the extent of tonight's storm and its aftermath, the game will be played on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. This will allow sufficient time to ensure that roads, parking lots and the stadium are fully cleared. The National Weather Service states that a winter storm warning in Philadelphia remains in effect until 1 p.m. on Monday . . . "
Against the Minnesota Vikings, no less - the team for which legendary hard-guy coach Bud Grant refused to allow hand-warmers when the team played outdoors in the 1970s. Grant would probably be rolling over in his grave over this decision, if it weren't for the fact that the 83-year-old NFL legend is still alive.
Emergency? These "emergencies" have a way of working themselves out. Fans who really feel uncomfortable driving in this type of weather - and that's their God-given right - knew the risks of snow when they bought their tickets; some would have elected to stay home and watch on TV. But most Eagles ticketholders were looking forward to this.
In fact, a lot more than usual would have come to the game by subway instead of by car. That's one of the many reasons Philadelphia has an underground subway line - IT GETS PLACES IN THE SNOW!!! The remaining fans who did drive would have a slog, to be sure - but there'd be fewer cars on the road generally, so it might be a wash. You don't know until you try.
Apparently the Eagles' official No. 1 Fan agrees with me on this one. Gov. Rendell told KYW-TV last night that he also disagreed with the postponement – "This is football," he said, "football's played in bad weather" – and made many of the same arguments about the subway and major highways remaining open. Even worse, he said in response to a question that legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi would "be mocking us."
I know what some of you are thinking (partly because I road-tested my outrage on Twitter) - that some drunk yahoo would have driven into a ditch or skidded into an unsuspecting motorist after the game. I don't even know where to start with this one. For one thing, if you're that worried about drunk yahoos causing mayhem after games, then you should work to cancel every sporting event ever held in Philadelphia. What's more, I guarantee you that some drunk yahoo is going to drive into a ditch, or worse, after the city's New Year's fireworks, so we might as well deep-six that event now, while we're on a roll.
Ultimately, life is all about risk management, and the reward of football in the snow - so often a beautiful thing - means that thousands of fans, not to mention the players and coaches who seem disappointed and befuddled by this decision, were willing to take a few risks to see it. You know, a term that gets used a lot in the great political debate - overused, in my opinion - is whether America has become "a nanny state." Usually I'm on the other side (like when it comes to health care, in which . . . oh, never mind), but in this case I think here it's perfectly OK to channel your Inner Rush Limbaugh and say that "the nanny state" killed this football game.
If we're not "a nanny state," then we've become a nation of overcautious risk managers, also known as wimps. They don't play American football in China, but I believe that if they did, not only would they have played this game, but 300,000 fans would have marched barefoot through the drifts for 15 miles to get to the stadium, drilling each other with advanced calculus problems as they walked.
In a few years, they'll come here and conquer what's left of America while we huddle on our TV-room couches to keep safe and warm, watching "A Christmas Story" on TBS for the ninth time after a forecast of flurries has canceled the entire NFL schedule.
Meanwhile . . . the Eagles will be home for Christmas, with DeSean Jackson slip-sliding through the Vikings' secondary, Michael Vick crashing through the end zone and into a snowbank, and David Akers kicking the game-winning extra point into the howling teeth of a Nor'easter . . .
. . . but only in my dreams.