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NFL Should Be One Left Out in Cold

Funny that the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals have a chance to be the finalists in the Super Bowl, because that game is going to be played in sunny, sandy, partly-vice-but-mainly-nice Miami, in suburban Cuba. And hey, if ever two teams deserved a Florida vacation, these two do.

Seven years ago this month, San Francisco and Cincinnati made it to another National Football League championship game. Instead of enjoying the surf and turf, however, they had to pack off their players, their fans and their industrial-strength underwear to Michigan for the only Super Bowl ever played North by Northeast.

All week long, 49ers and Bengals shivered and quivered, moaned and groaned.

“We finally make it to a Super Bowl, and we end up playing it on the North Pole,” receiver Cris Collinsworth of Cincinnati said. “Their idea of a hot tub around here is to draw a bath.”

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To which San Francisco lineman Bubba Paris added: “Football games are supposed to be zero-zero before the opening kickoff, but I’m talking about the score, not the temperature.”

OK, so it was cold outside the Silverdome. Ice-on-your-eyes cold. Freeze-your-knees cold. These things happen. Tahiti isn’t exactly going to come to mind today, when the league championship games are played at Cincinnati and Chicago. Nobody ever said it had to be nice out. Super Bowl XVI was played in a warm, toasty arena, and San Francisco’s 26-21 victory went off without anybody dying of exposure.

Still, the 49ers and Bengals undoubtedly will be overcome with joy at the prospect of a frolic on Miami Beach, should they win today’s games. San Francisco’s last two Super Bowl appearances have been in Pontiac, Mich., and Palo Alto, Calif., neither of which has ever been confused with Maui. The 49ers are overdue for a short-sleeve Super Bowl.

That doesn’t mean the North should never get to hold another one.

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The Super Bowl of 1992 is still up for grabs. Rumor has it that the NFL, in spite of understandable resistance, intends to award this game, Super Bowl XXVI, to one of its Northern brethren, almost certainly a city with a domed roof over its field. Detroit, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Seattle qualify.

The NFL deems it essential to share the wealth. Cold-weather communities support pro football every bit as actively as warm-weather cities do. Why should their merchants never get a piece of the Super Bowl tourist-trade pie? Why should their fans be the ones who have to pay thousands of dollars to fly thousands of miles to see their favorite teams play for the championship?

The down side is obvious: Will there be a tourist trade if the Super Bowl returns to a Northern city? Does it matter if plane loads of football fans and scalpers and groupies and gamblers are not loading and unloading at the airport hour after hour? Is it torture for the athletes, their families, the media, the party-throwers and the party-goers to have to spend much of Super Bowl Week indoors?

Personally, we hope the NFL stands up to any, uh, heated opposition and hands the 1992 game to a city that deserves it. Detroit, for one, deserves another shot. All game and social arrangements were handled nicely there, and the weather isn’t always so miserable that time of year. Besides, it builds character.

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The chances of the other domed stadiums getting Super Bowl XXVI might depend on the spectator capacities of their buildings. It used to be that the NFL preferred at least 80,000 available seats for a Super Bowl game, and would settle for 70,000. At Minnesota, a sellout is 63,000. At Indianapolis, it’s 60,127. Seattle is in the same smallish boat: 64,984.

Oh, well. At $100 a ticket, the NFL could hold this game in Madison Square Garden and make out all right.

Could it be, just for argument’s sake, that the NFL might roll the dice and award the Super Bowl to New York, play the game outdoors at Giants Stadium, which holds close to 77,000? Seems fair to cut New Yorkers in on the action, and, in case of inclement weather, we should remember that some of the most memorable football games ever played were played in lousy conditions.

Others will make a case to rotate the game permanently among Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Tampa and San Diego, with consideration for Anaheim and Phoenix. What’s the matter, sissies? Afraid of a little cold? Too cheap to buy Chap Stick?

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We kind of hope San Francisco and Cincinnati are the winners of today’s games. We would very much like to see them play in Super Bowl XXIII in Miami, because maybe a hurricane will come along and blow both teams halfway to Havana.

The National Football League is supposed to be a league for the whole nation. Let’s keep it that way.


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