Meadville Tribune

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February 1, 2014

Locals recall experiences on football’s cold days

MEADVILLE — It’s been a little while since Bill Kingzett last officiated a National Football League game, but his recollection of a bitter cold game in Denver in the late 1970s or early 1980s is very, very clear.

Frigid temperatures and snow accumulations of 6 to 8 inches by game’s end are pretty difficult to forget.

“Oh my,” Kingzett responded, when asked if he had ever officiated a game in weather conditions like meteorologists had been predicting for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on today. “There was one in Denver ... wow!”

Kingzett remembers going through the normal Sunday routine. First thing Sunday morning, he and the crew put on coats and ties and headed out to the field to “make sure everything was the way it was supposed to be,” said Kingzett, part owner of Whispering Pines Golf Course in Meadville.

“We knew a snow storm was coming, but up until then, we were comfortable. At 12:30 we went out to go over routines with captains and coaches and it started to get a little cold.”

Kingzett was an NFL official from 1974 to 1982. During that time, there was a very strict dress code for officials and it did not allow for jackets of any kind. So after their pregame meeting, the officials went back to the locker room and loaded on clothing underneath their uniforms.

“We had plastic bags and we cut holes in them for heads and arms and put those on under our shirts,” Kingzett said. “We were allowed to wear gloves, so we used them.”

Kingzett said temperatures continued to drop prior to game time, but by kickoff he still hadn’t seen any snow. “It started in the second quarter,” he said. “By halftime there was 3 to 4 inches on the field. By the time the game was over there were 6 to 8 inches.”

Former Cambridge Springs High School football coach Walt Nottingham remembers a game played in similar conditions quite well also. The game was already going to be one for the Blue Devils to remember as it was the team’s first appearance in a championship game. Cambridge Springs played Sharpsville for the Division III title in 1988. Weather conditions, however, made it even harder to forget.

“It was just so cold on the sidelines,” Nottingham said. “It’s snowing and blowing. It’s hard to imagine how cold it was. I can’t imagine how much harder it was on the kids getting hit and put on the ground. The ground was frozen.”

John Turner played in that game for Nottingham.

“That game just really sticks out because it was so so cold,” Turner said. “Half the time it was like you were on skis because the ground was just so frozen. When you got hit and tackled, there was no give at all. It was like playing on a parking lot.

“There wasn’t much snow. I just remember it being so cold. If it would have been snowing and blowing it would have been more fun.”

The big question is, is such weather ideal for the biggest game of the NFL season?

“That’s the way football is,” Turner said. “It’s not a fair weather game. If it’s warm we play. If it’s cold, we don’t play the game? This is the way it should be.”

Kingzett doesn’t agree.

“It’s the two best teams in the country and now they know their first concern is weather conditions,” Kingzett said. “If you want to put it in a northern state, put it in a dome.”

 Allegheny coach Mark Matlak isn’t really decided.

“I hear there might be snow,” he said. “But I’m sure that will be cleaned off before the game. It’s Astro Turf. It’s not like they are playing on the grass in Green Bay. In this day and age and as technologically oriented as the NFL has become, they have heated helmet racks, heated seats, cold weather gear. ... I don’t see it being a big deal.”

Of course, there could be factors in play.

Matlak said cold weather means a very slick football, and with a running back like Marshawn Lynch, he thinks the Seattle Seahawks could have a slight advantage. But in the end, Matlak said all decisions are made on the basis of money. And choosing to play the Super Bowl near New York City is a win-win as far as that goes, he said.

“It’s a big time market,” Matlak said. “It’s all about the money.”

“I’m sure New York could use the business,” Kingzett agreed. “It’s a multi-million dollar operation for the entire city.”

But will the fans still come?

“Depends on how cold and bad it is,” Kingzett said. “To sit there for three hours or four … That’s a long spell. You could have everything you own on and still get cold.”

More than one million people did flood Times Square in New York City for its New Year’s Eve celebration. Temperatures that day were in the mid-20s and a good portion of that population stood outside for far greater than four hours.

“The fans will be ready,” Matlak said.

There have been reports that ticket holders will receive a warm-weather kit on their seats at MetLife Stadium containing a seat cushion, ear muffs, gloves, hand warmers, a knit hat, tissues, cup holder and lip balm.

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