Feared wintry conditions don't materialize as Super Bowl kicks off at 49 degrees

Photo by Getty Images
| Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 8:48 p.m.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The first northern city, cold-weather outdoor Super Bowl day turned out to be more like a typical early February day in northern California.

Ninety minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff Sunday night, it was 54 degrees at MetLife Stadium — and 50 degrees in Santa Clara, Calif., where the game will be played outdoors at Levi's Stadium in February 2016. It was about 10 to 15 degrees above normal, even if it dropped to 49 by kickoff.

So much for all the fretting in Denver about how Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would adjust to the snow and possibly subfreezing temperatures in New Jersey, where midday temperatures were in the teens only five days before.

Instead, the relatively mild weather allowed linemen for the Broncos and Seahawks to play in short sleeves, as most prefer. Fans who began arriving at their seats more than three hours before kickoff didn't need to worry about toting hand warmers, heavy parkas or arctic boots, and many wore team jerseys over street clothes with no jackets. And the open-flame heaters outside MetLife were ignored by the arriving throngs.

The conditions were great for the spectators, not so compelling for the estimated 110 million TV viewers — many of whom no doubt wanted to see a Super Bowl played in the snow and cold, given the high ratings in the past for bad-weather playoff games.

But the lack of bitter weather meant the NFL didn't have to worry about the potential embarrassment of thousands of fans, especially those without a rooting interest, abandoning their seats in the fourth quarter because they no longer could stand the cold.

It long was considered a given this would be the coldest Super Bowl — after all, it is New Jersey on Groundhog Day — but it wasn't even the second-coldest. It was 39 degrees at kickoff for the Dolphins-Cowboys Super Bowl in New Orleans in January 1972 and 46 degrees for Steelers-Vikings in the same city three years later.

The early spring-like weather actually helped create heat problems for thousands of Super Bowl spectators arriving via mass transit, the primary route to MetLife since on-site parking was limited to a minimal number of pre-sold spaces.

Several fans collapsed and needed medical treatment in nearby Secaucus, N.J., where transit riders reported needing two hours to wend their way through airport-type security and down overcrowded escalators to the train platforms.

Train riders, many of them tired and angry, told various media outlets that the number of security machines was inadequate. Riders posted Twitter pictures and messages such as “chaos,” “nightmare situation” and “disaster,” with many complaining about inadequate preparations for an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 transit riders, especially given the supposedly high level of preparation.

Cold weather won't be a factor in the next three Super Bowls, in suburban Phoenix (2015), Santa Clara-San Francisco (2016) and Houston (2017). Phoenix and Houston have retractable roof stadiums.

It was so unexpectedly warm that an ice sculpture of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell whimsically erected last week in Manhattan — and not by the league — to recognize the first super-cold New York Super Bowl was an unrecognizable and fast-disappearing blob by kickoff.

There likely will be snow in New York on Monday, when a predicted 2 to 4 inches could cause delays for the thousands heading home.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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