Blizzard Postpones Sunday Night Football: Are We A Nation Of Wimps?

The National Football League's decision to postpone last night's Eagles-Vikings game due to weather is receiving a lot of criticism, but they made the right choice.

Even before the snow had really started falling in Philadelphia yesterday, the National Football League decided to move last night’s Eagles-Vikings matchup to Tuesday night, citing concerns over public safety:

PHILADELPHIA — On a bizarre day when the Philadelphia Eagles were snowed out, they celebrated an NFC East championship.

The NFL moved the Vikings at Eagles game from Sunday night to Tuesday because of a blizzard that could dump more than a foot of snow on Philadelphia.

(…)

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency as of 2 p.m. EST Sunday.

“We are urging all Philadelphians, please be careful, please be safe,” the mayor told reporters in a news conference at City Hall on Sunday morning.

The decision to postpone the game came shortly after noon — before there was any snow accumulation in Philadelphia.

In announcing the postponement, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said:

“Due to public safety concerns in light of today’s snow emergency in Philadelphia, tonight’s Vikings-Eagles game has been postponed. Because of the uncertainty of the extent of tonight’s storm and its aftermath, the game will be played on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. This will allow sufficient time to ensure that roads, parking lots and the stadium are fully cleared.”

Almost immediately, the NFL’s decision started drawing public criticism from people who pointed out that football is a game meant to be played in the elements, and that some of the NFL’s most memorable games have taken place during snow storms. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, for example, was irate about the decision:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was irate in a live interview Sunday night that the Philadelphia Eagles game was postponed by the NFL.

The Guv was obviously upset during a phone interview with Fox 29 and at one point, he was arguing with Fox 29 chief meteorologist John Bolaris about the details of snow amounts in the Philadelphia area.

Rendell said that only 5 inches of snow was on the ground at the time the Eagles-Vikings would have been held Sunday night (Instead, the NFL moved the game to Tuesday night as a public safety precaution.)

When Bolaris told Rendell that measurement was taken at 7 p.m., Rendell argued the point. He also said with only several inches on the ground in the Pennsylvania suburbs near Philadelphia, there was no reason to postpone the game.

“I think it is a joke,” Rendell said about the NFL’s decision.

“In actuality there are more than 7 inches of snow on the  ground. That report was from 7 p.m. Governor,” Bolaris said. The game would have started at 8:30 p.m.

“No, that was at 8:30 according to FEMA,” Rendell shot back. “This is no way, shape or form a blizzard!”

Philadelphia sports columnist Will Bunch called the NFL officials who made the decision wimps:

In 1948, the Eagles won an NFL championship at Shibe Park in a raging blizzard, a game that was never forgotten by the 36,309 die-hards who didn’t think twice about braving those conditions to watch history in the making. Then there was the “Snow-Plow” game in New England and the Pats’ memorable playoff victory over Oakland in a snowstorm years later, and the frigid 1967 Ice Bowl in Green Bay. To paraphrase Frank Capra this Christmas season, for a true football fan it would not have been as wonderful a life had those remarkable games never been born.

That’s why the decision by the NFL and the Eagles, with input from the city of Philadelphia, to postpone last night’s game because of a snowstorm that isn’t really all that (we might get 11 inches in the city – not exactly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer territory, not even close) is more than downright disappointing.

This is the height of wimpiness, and the girly-men who made this sad decision should be ashamed of themselves. The NFL has been rightfully called the No Fun League for a number of years, but this takes that to a whole embarrassing new level. In fact, let’s name names here: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie and president Joe Banner, and Mayor Nutter – you are the Wimps Who Stole Christmas from football fans in Philadelphia.

(…)

Ultimately, life is all about risk management, and the reward of football in the snow – so often a beautiful thing – means that thousands of fans, not to mention the players and coaches who seem disappointed and befuddled by this decision, were willing to take a few risks to see it. You know, a term that gets used a lot in the great political debate – overused, in my opinion – is whether America has become “a nanny state.” Usually I’m on the other side (like when it comes to health care, in which . . . oh, never mind), but in this case I think here it’s perfectly OK to channel your Inner Rush Limbaugh and say that “the nanny state” killed this football game.

If we’re not “a nanny state,” then we’ve become a nation of overcautious risk managers, also known as wimps. They don’t play American football in China, but I believe that if they did, not only would they have played this game, but 300,000 fans would have marched barefoot through the drifts for 15 miles to get to the stadium, drilling each other with advanced calculus problems as they walked.

To address Rendell’s criticism first, it’s of course a truism that the NFL and city officials couldn’t know at one in the afternoon whether the forecast they were seeing at that point for game time — which called for as much as ten inches on the ground by then and more on the way — would turn out to be accurate or not. Yea, it could turn out to be wrong, but if it’s right and the game went forward your stuck with a stadium filled with 68,000 people who will eventually need to get home. At night. In a blizzard.

As it turned out, by game time there was almost a foot of snow on the ground and winds were approaching 45 miles per hour. Yea, they could’ve played, but play quality would have been low, and the people who did manage to make it to the stadium would have been freezing. Then, there’s the matter of getting them all home safely at 11 at night, or whenever the game would’ve ended.

As much as I’d like to agree with the romantic vision of the hearty football players and dedicated fans dragging themselves to Lincoln Financial Field in the middle of a blizzard, I think it would have been a far bigger logistical nightmare than Bunch imagines, and the danger of highway accidents on the way to or from the game would have been real. Not to mention the fact that we live in a far more litigious age than in the past, and someone who was injured last night might have found a way to blame the NFL, the Eagles, or the City of Philadelphia for it.

Bunch is right, though, that this is a risk management situation. What he gets wrong are the priorities. Public safety in the middle of a blizzard strikes me as a little more important than a football game that can be rescheduled to another day.

Update: Ed Morrissey takes this issue on over at Hot Air and pretty much agrees with me:

Getting past all of the name calling, what exactly is the problem with postponing the game?  It is, after all, a game — and it still will be played in Philadelphia, unlike the Vikings game that got moved to Detroit.  The people who have tickets will get to see the game tomorrow, unlike some ticketholders for the Vikings game against the Chicago Bears, who lost out in the transition to TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.  The playing conditions will be better for the players, and the driving conditions much better for the fans.  The delay even provided a small boost to Philly’s economy, as the Vikings and their entourage had to shop for clothing for two more days, and the hotels and restaurants got a few more bucks from the delay, too.

The game didn’t get killed, contra Bunch, and perhaps the NFL showed some actual perspective in putting safety ahead of a game that was rendered essentially meaningless thanks to other games played earlier in the day. Also, contra Bunch, this wasn’t a “nanny state” decision, but a risk-management decision by private enterprise. Had the state made the decision in this case, using the reactions of Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter as a guide, the game would have gone as scheduled, and the headlines would have been about people being killed rather than a game.

Agreed. One can criticize the NFL for being overly risk averse, but this situation seems like a no-brainer, unless you happen to be the Governor of Pennsylvania or a Philadelphia sportswriter, both of whom, it should be noted, would have been watching them game from the luxury of the enclosed areas of the stadium.

Ed’s running a poll on this over at his place, so go and cast your vote.

One final thought, I’ve seen many comments about how a game like this would’ve gone forward if it were being held in a place like Chicago or Green Bay, Wisconsin. Maybe that’s true, but it’s worth remembering that those cities have access to far better snow removal equipment than the City of Philadelphia because they deal with storms like this on an annual basis.

FILED UNDER: Sports
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mr. Prosser says:

    What’s with the “yea”? Are you going biblical? Anyway, of course they were right and those calling them wimps are sports writers and politicians, meh.

  2. just me says:

    Cancelling seems like the right thing to do.

    Better for people to stay home than attempt to drive to a game in those kinds of conditions.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    If avoiding foolhardy and wholly unnecessary risks makes one a wimp, then I think one should wear the title of “wimp” proudly.

  4. Boyd says:

    To turn the ad hominem around on the critics…

    Those who believe that the NFL should have let the game go as planned are a bunch of shortsighted, selfish whiners. If the game had been played, they would have no doubt been fine in their suites or press boxes or watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms. Only the “little people” would have been inconvenienced, or maybe even harmed, had the NFL had the “guts” to go ahead with the game as scheduled.

    And they would have joined the chorus berating the NFL if they had gone ahead with the game and people got stranded. They would have no doubt cited the greed of the league and the owners as the drive behind flying in the face of weather forecasts and common sense.

    Just like so many others, they consider themselves to be The Center Of The Universe, and everything in their lives revolves around them and what they want, and they’re going to whine and yell and pout and hold their breath (would it be “breaths” in this context?) until they turn blue if they don’t get everything they want.

    Now I’ll just sit here and mutter my further name-calling and general disgust for these … erm … people … privately rather than continue my insults in public.

  5. Franklin says:

    I love a good game in the snow, and personally hate domed stadiums and astroturf. That being said, this decision wasn’t made because the football players are wussies and can’t play, it was clearly done for the traveling public. Good decision.

  6. tom p says:

    >”If avoiding foolhardy and wholly unnecessary risks makes one a wimp, then I think one should wear the title of “wimp” proudly.”

    A couple years ago, I got up and went to work with the full and certain knowledge that a storm was headed our way and it was not going to be fun. Sure enuf, with the entire job site covered in 2 inches of sleet, they called it a day at 10 AM.

    50 MPH for 70 miles… 1 mile from my exit (I could almost see my house) I hit black ice and that was all she wrote. I rolled my van down a shallow embankment and somehow someway didn’t end up with a 30 lb tool box (or any the other tools in the van) coming thru the back of my head.

    The van was totalled (as in “not fixable”) I only had liability on it so I had to eat that, I lost 2 more days of work while in search of a replacement, car rental for those 2 days, and then saddled with the truck payments because nothing reliable was available for the cash I had.

    Oh yeah… I broke a thumb nail.

    F*ck that “dutiful employee” BS. I am a died in the wool “wimp”. That one winter storm cost me $17,000.