Winter Weather Could Impact NFL Playoffs

Jan 3, 2014
Originally published on January 3, 2014 8:43 pm
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

NFL playoffs start this weekend and the weather will be a big part of the story, at least for three of the four games. San Francisco visits Green Bay, where the temperature will likely be below zero on Sunday night. There are also outdoor games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Both will be cold enough to make indoor Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis seem like a paradise. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to talk about the weekend's games and some other NFL's storylines. Hey there, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: I've been to Lucas Oil Stadium. It is a Valhalla under any circumstance.


CORNISH: OK. Well, good to know then, because we're going to start with what should be the coldest game.


CORNISH: Packers hosting the 49ers. Green Bay is home to some of the most dedicated fans in the league, of course. But the game didn't sell out until this morning, and that doesn't happen in Green Bay, right? You know, what's the world coming to?

PESCA: Right. Well, there is a great explanation for this. People have cited the weather and it would make sense that, you know, it would be - not only is it going to be zero degrees, with the wind chill, it will be minus 30. That's the temperature where the National Weather Service issues advisories, talking about frostbite, hypothermia and death. And yet, we know historically that Green Bay fans will still show up to the game. This is a team with a 30-year season ticket waiting list. So how did they not buy the tickets to the game? That is the question you asked me and here is the answer.

It seemed extremely unlikely that the Packers were going to make the playoffs. And they sent notices to all their season ticket holders. If you want playoff tickets, you have to buy them now. Unlike other years, if they don't make the playoffs, we will not be refunding you your money, we'll be applying it to next year's total. So I guess a lot of Wisconsin residents just didn't want to give essentially the Packers a six-month, interest-free loan for what could be thousands of dollars on the extremely small chance the Packers made the playoffs.

Well, now since the Packers did make the playoffs, some of those fans, you know, had to buy single tickets. They're all over $100. You add it all up, I think a lot of people are pointing to this procedure where the league threatens blackouts. Local games won't be on TV unless teams like the Packers - also Cincinnati was a team that almost had a blackout for its game against San Diego, even Indianapolis, which you talked about.

CORNISH: Yes. And let's get to that paradise, right? By paradise, I mean, climate controlled. Indianapolis hosts Kansas City, and the Chiefs, who, in addition to facing some late season trouble on the field, are facing some off the field trouble. The team's being sued by a number of former players. What's going on there?

PESCA: Well, we all know that 4,500 or so players and their families were engaged in a lawsuit against the NFL, the league itself. And that was settled before the season started, though it's yet to be, you know, finally adjudicated. But there is a clause in Missouri law, Missouri only, that allows workers who weren't covered by workman's comp to sue an employer. And that's what 26 or so former Chiefs have done.

Some big names like Joe Horn and Neil Smith. Not sure how this relates to other teams. And then, as you said, Jovan Belcher, who was the former player who murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide, his mother is suing the Chiefs, too, claiming that, you know, essentially, the head trauma and concussions and the workplace caused temporary insanity.

CORNISH: Now, while we're talking about off the field issues, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a piece for the website Deadspin this week. And in it, he accused his position coach of bigotry and his head coach and GM of cowardice. This was related to Kluwe's advocacy for gay rights and marriage equality. The Vikings say Kluwe was let go because of performance reasons. What's going on?

PESCA: Well, Kluwe wasn't a bad punter, but Kluwe, I guess you could consider him, just statistically speaking, he was a league average punter, which still means he's one of the 16, 18 best punters in the world. But the guy who replaced him was almost as good. The Vikings couldn't have known that beforehand. But he was like, you know, half a yard net under Kluwe.

And I think any GM would say for a million fewer dollars, the rookie is being paid that much less, then Kluwe would go with the rookie. However, as Kluwe says, he's so out front on all these issues. And, like, not just vocally taking a stance, but his stance was a really in-your-face kind of stance. It clearly made the Vikings nervous.


PESCA: And what he alleges with his position coach, you know, caused a lot of friction and possibly even bigotry.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. Mike, thank you.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.