Eagles-Vikings Game Postponed Because of Safety?
Steve Van Buren must be thinking “what a bunch of pansies” after the NFL postponed the Eagles-Vikings game because of some snow and wind. On second thought, he probably used a different word than “pansies.”
The Hall of Fame running back led the Eagles to win their first NFL Championship Game at Shibe Park in 1948. He took three trolley cars and then walked 12 blocks in knee-deep snow to get to the game on time. And then in blinding conditions, he ran for a record-setting 196 yards and scored the only touchdown of the game. The Eagles beat the Chicago Cardinals 7-0.
[SIGNUP]My guess is that Van Buren would say something close to what the Governor of Pennsylvania said about the pansy postponement. “This is football. Football’s played in bad weather,” Ed Rendell fumed on TV yesterday. “I think the fans would have gotten there, the subways work and the major arteries are still open and other fans would have stayed home. But you play football regardless of the weather.”
There is famous video of Ed in the stands at Veterans Stadium throwing snowballs during an Eagles game, so he has some seat-cred on this topic. When asked what the great Vince Lombardi would have said about the bad weather, Rendell said: “He’d be mocking us.” Lombardi was the winning coach of the coldest and maybe the most famous game in NFL History, commonly called “The Ice Bowl.” The temperature was -13, and the wind chill -36 when the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1967 NFL Championship Game.
That was before big TV contracts ran the NFL. The only thing TV executives hate more than “blinding conditions” on TV is a low-scoring game. The NFL changed the rules to prevent defenses from interfering with receivers too much or touching quarterbacks too hard to create this new high-scoring game of catch that millions watch on HD. Those viewers paid handsomely to watch that aerial show with no kind of snow whatsoever.
NBC had the Sunday Night Game between the Eagles and the Vikings, and NBC probably had the final say in moving the game to Tuesday night. The Peacock Network was looking forward to its biggest ratings of the season in the shootout between marquee quarterbacks Brett Favre and Michael Vick, a matchup with more subplots than the movie Inception. The winds and poor visibility would make the game tough to watch both literally and figuratively. Now NBC and the NFL get to test-market a Tuesday night game. The game will pre-empt Minute to Win It and The Biggest Loser on the network and lead to some more-awful-than-usual puns by TV sportscasters over the next two days. It will also triple the ratings.
Despite the claim by the NFL and the Eagles that “player safety” and the ability of fans to get to the game were the primary reasons for their rendition of a school closing, you have to believe that money was a major consideration. Other bad weather games have been played this year — many yesterday — without the thought of a postponement. Had the game not featured Favre and Vick — especially Vick, the league’s top television attraction — would it have been pushed back?
If the NFL really is going to start playing fair weather football, then this is really bad timing. The owners awarded New York/New Jersey the Super Bowl in 2014, the first time they have ever given the game to a Northern city with an open-air stadium. Philadelphia, Washington and Boston plan to put in for future Super Bowls. Would the NFL really postpone the biggest of all games because of a February snow? Somehow I doubt it.
This Philadelphia Holiday Blizzard just presented an opportunity too good for the NFL to pass up, to showcase its new star on a new night. Lombardi in heaven and Van Buren in Lancaster can rest easy. This is just a Vick exception.