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USA TODAY

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be sitting in the MetLife Stadium stands, watching Sunday's first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.

Vince Lombardi Jr.? He will be chilling inside his air-conditioned Arizona living room, rooting on his Seattle Seahawks in their Super Bowl XLVIII showdown against Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos.

Lombardi, 71, has spent three decades splitting the year between Arizona and Seattle, where he once worked as a Seahawks administrator. He acknowledges how much this New Jersey Super Bowl would mean to his Hall of Fame coaching father, who was born in Brooklyn and began his coaching career in northern New Jersey.

"My dad was a New York, Jersey guy, so he surely would have been in favor of this game being played in New Jersey," Lombardi Jr. told USA TODAY Sports.

"I suspect that he and (late New York Giants co-owner) Wellington Mara will be looking down, enjoying the whole spectacle."

The 48th Super Bowl venue will be the polar opposite of its inaugural iteration. The first Super Bowl was played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where Lombardi's father's Green Bay Packers whipped the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in what was then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.

Those early Super Bowls were played inside spartan, concrete bowls such as the Coliseum, the Orange Bowl, Tulane Stadium and the Rose Bowl.

Super Bowl venues of recent vintage have been awarded to shiny, state-of-the-art palaces such as $1.7billion MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets.

There was Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., where Manning's kid brother, Eli, and the Giants stunned the previously perfect New England Patriots. There was Super Bowl XLV played inside Cowboys Stadium. The Giants won again inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Last February, the Baltimore Ravens edged the San Francisco 49ers inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

"Obviously, the more recent stadiums are built more fan friendly," Lombardi Jr. said.

"But we all understand: You build a stadium, you should get a Super Bowl as a reward.

"The Maras are one of the great, if not the greatest, football families in the league."

With temperatures forecast in the mid-40s and an 8-mph wind, this could break the record for the coldest Super Bowl. The previous low belonged to Super Bowl VI, when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3 at Tulane Stadium. Kickoff temperature was 39 degrees.

"The Superdome was supposed to be ready, but it wasn't," former Giants and Cleveland Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi says. "And Tulane Stadium's press box was open. It was damp, raw, windy and bone-chilling cold.

"That's the coldest I've ever been at a football game in my life.

"If it was 75 degrees, that would have been great. But that's football. We're not playing golf. It's meant to be played in the elements, except for lightning."

Lombardi Jr. was on the sideline watching his father's Packers win five NFL titles and two Super Bowls. They shivered through two of the worst weather NFL championship games -- the 1967 Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field (minus 15 degrees) and the 1962 NFL title game at Yankee Stadium (a brutal wind made it feel colder than the minus 8-degree wind chill).

The Super Bowl venue rule used to be the biggest game was played in cities where the average January temperature was 50 degrees or higher for outdoor stadiums.

"There's something to the Super Bowl always being played in warm weather," Lombardi Jr. said.

He thinks league owners awarded this Super Bowl to the Giants and Jets as a thank you for their privately funded stadium.

"I understand the fact that if you build a stadium you should get a shot at hosting this game," Lombardi Jr. said. "But in a perfect world, weather shouldn't have an effect on the ultimate game."

In Sunday's New Jersey Super Bowl, either Manning's Broncos or Vince Lombardi Jr.'s Seahawks will hoist the trophy bearing his dad's name.

"I don't know if he'd recognize the league as it is today," Lombardi Jr. said. "He'd probably be shocked at how it's evolved, how popular it is. In the 1960s, it would have been hard to see where this game was going.

"Any Super Bowl played in Jersey would have been fine by my father."

 

January 31, 2014

 

 
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