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White snow dwarfs sunshine

January 18, 2008|Chris Erskine | Times Staff Writer

Memo to Mother Nature: "Listen, Mom, you've probably got better things to worry about. There's the drought in the Southeast and that whole global warming thing. But this Sunday, in either Green Bay or Foxborough, could you arrange for a little snow?"

For some reason, snow turns an already great sport into something mystical. Who knows why. Maybe Irving Berlin could explain. But there is something about watching football in the snow that just seems to warm the heart.

Yep, football is like duck hunting -- meant for the out of doors, best by the light of God. It's finest in places like Ann Arbor or Cleveland. Boulder or Buffalo. It's best in stadiums where the fall-winter breezes put a little Irish in your cheeks. Real football is played against skies painted like battleships.

"It's a perfect day for football," the announcers like to say at the opening of a game in Florida or Arizona, then recite the conditions -- sunny, 75 degrees, light winds from the south.

Um, dude, it's a football game, not a spa trip.

To me, here's the ideal forecast for a football game: Storm clouds gathering at 300 feet, an arctic front barreling in from Duluth, a 20% chance of frostbite.

Football was never fashioned to be played indoors, in some billionaire's giant living room, with starlets in the stands. From its earliest days, football was always served raw. It appealed mostly to guys named Bronko and Otto and Dutch. Men from mill towns played it on weekends instead of brawling with their brothers.

Even today, the very best football towns -- Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay -- won't even consider an indoor park. Fans there appreciate the competitive edge a dreary day brings. The way the players' foggy breath hangs over the field in warmups. The drunk in Aisle 17 in a Santa hat and no shirt.

Perhaps it's the unpredictability bad weather brings, the mistakes, the fumbles, the extra entertainment value. Snow certainly adds that fourth dimension to the sport: nature. Without the vagaries of nature, football has all the resonance of a retirement home poker game.

In bad weather a punt is never just a punt. It's a jailbreak . . . a free-for-all . . . a palace coup. In bad weather, each quarterback snap is a tiny drama. Hut. Hut. Whoops.

There are two times a year it should absolutely, positively snow: Christmas Eve and during a playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Did you see Brett Favre last Sunday pinwheeling across the frozen tundra, in a move he stole from Peggy Fleming? And that little flip to Donald Lee? That wasn't a pass, it was a beer hall belch. The Russian judge gave the whole thing a 9.

You think Favre likes snow? You think Jessica Simpson likes Bloomingdale's?

"I've been hoping for that for 17 years," said Favre, who wore his layer of snow like a prince's cape. In the stands, cheeseheads and snowballs. It may as well have been raining schnapps.

Meanwhile, along the sideline, flurries were piling up on Mike Holmgren's cap. He looked like the coldest man in America, didn't he? Frosty the Football Coach. At halftime, I wanted to send over a St. Bernard and a fifth of Remy Martin.

Ah, snow. The most epic battles always seem to take place in the snow. George Washington in the prow of his rowboat. Napoleon falling off his steed near Moscow. Hut. Hut. Whoops.

Speaking of which, Robert Frost once wrote of stopping his horse to watch the woods fill with snow. Me, I'd rather flick on the TV and open the fridge. But I share his sense of storybook moments. I share his love of a good winter blanket.

The forecast for Foxborough on Sunday is for partly cloudy skies, windy, with highs in the 20s. In Green Bay, they're calling for highs of 7, with skies the color of battleships.

That's football. That's fun. So come on, Mama Nature, be a sport. Two big servings of cold confetti.

Just put it on our tab.


Chris Erskine writes "Man of the House" in Thursday's Home section. He can be reached at











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