With below-zero temperatures and wind chills of minus-35 or worse predicted for Sunday’s playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, it’s not surprising to see comparisons to the legendary Ice Bowl.
On that frigid day, when the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys on a Bart Starr sneak with 16 second left, the temperature at kickoff was 13 below zero, with the wind chill estimated at minus-45.
If the Packers get another victory Sunday, those in attendance will likely hold onto their ticket stubs and repeat the story for years to come of what it was like to shiver on aluminum benches for four hours.
I’m OK with that. After all, that’s what I did on Dec. 31, 1967, and I’ve reminded pretty much everyone I know ever since.
Having said that, 13 below feels a lot different now than 13 below did then:
Cold front. In 1967, Green Bay’s favorite TV weatherman, Bobby Nelson, would use a black marker to draw a cold front on a map for WBAY-TV viewers. As good as he was, he and others were surprised that the temperature plummeted as much as it did that New Year’s Eve morning. Today, we have storm team meteorologists, enhanced radar technology, green screens, computer models and a 24/7 weather channel. There are still surprises, but we already have a pretty good idea what Sunday’s temperature should be.
Cold clothing. Take a look at the photos taken during the Ice Bowl game. Amid the puffs of breath, do you notice what the fans are wearing? Yes, there are some hooded coats. But what you mostly see are long coats with furry collars and stocking caps, and maybe a scarf. I wore to the game what I wore to church that day — a coat, a stocking cap that converted into a face mask, mittens, a sweater, corduroy pants, one pair of socks and Hush Puppies. That’s it. Today’s clothing can be chosen according to “thermal insulating value” — how well the fabric keeps your body warm — and is thin enough that you can raise your hands to signify a touchdown without feeling as if you’re lifting Gilbert Brown.
Cold stadium. Go back to those Ice Bowl photos again. See Bart Starr diving over the goal line? Look at the background. See the north end zone seats? That side of the stadium was still not as tall as the rest of the stadium. The north wind had free rein to numb everyone. Today that end of the stadium is a Rodgers-to-Cobb pass taller. Surrounding the stadium are heated luxury boxes and club seating and 7,000 new south-zone seats — all of which tame the tornado-like bite of a wintry blast.
Cold drinks. In 1967, my father and I ordered two hot chocolates at halftime. By the time the attendant returned with our change, the paper cups had frozen to the metal counter. We had to retreat during the third quarter to a gas station across the street to warm up before returning to the stadium for the fourth quarter. Whoa, what’s this now? A heated Atrium? Really?
Cold hands and feet. Two layers of mittens and a pair of boots would have helped in 1967. Now Mills Fleet Farm will distribute 70,000 free hand warmers to those with outdoor seats. Wow.
Cold vehicles. The windows on the school bus that my father and I took to Lambeau that day were caked in ice. I now own a car that has heated seats. Enough said.
Cold cash. The price of an outdoor seat at Lambeau this Sunday is well north of $100. My Ice Bowl ticket: $10.
I was lucky to grow up in Green Bay during the Glory Years, and every generation should have its Glory Years moment. Sunday’s game might be one of those frozen in history.
I hope it is.
But if you’re watching the game in a goose-down insulated parka with shearling-lined waterproof boots, it will be a different experience than 46 years ago — and a tad bit warmer.
Mike Juley, an assistant metro editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was 16 when he and his father, Jerry, attended the Ice Bowl. Yes, he still has the ticket stub as proof.