Compendium of cold quarterbacking

Bart Starr

Growing up outside Pittsburgh, Jim Kelly threw his share of snowballs.

"I had five brothers," the Hall of Fame quarterback said earlier this month in his office in suburban Buffalo, N.Y. "That's all we did from November probably until February. We played in the snow."

Ben Roethlisberger was a high school and college quarterback in Ohio.

"It's just part of being a kid in the Midwest," Roethlisberger explained at the Steelers' facility, "knowing that part of the year your football's going to be played in the snow. You loved it because you had fun and you were sliding. You always wore snow pants and the warmest stuff you can find."

None of the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos players will be wearing snow pants in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, but by game's end they may wish they had. The coldest previous Super Bowl was played 42 years ago at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans when the temperature at kickoff was 39 degrees.

If the forecast is correct, it will be colder than that Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., probably hovering around freezing. The wind will blow, and snow remains a possibility.

"Fine with me," said Doug Flutie, the former Boston College quarterback and 1984 Heisman Trophy winner. "There's nothing wrong with football and cold weather in the same sentence."

Flutie, it should be noted, is deeply biased. His professional career was played in a succession of places that can be astonishingly cold: Chicago, New England, Calgary, Toronto and Buffalo.

"Yeah," Flutie said, laughing, "didn't get to San Diego until late in the game. My reward near the end of my career for good behavior."

The Super Bowl XLVIII quarterbacks, the Broncos' Peyton Manning and Seahawks' Russell Wilson, have been asked so many weather questions over the past week they might be qualified to forecast.

"Obviously, it's snowing like crazy," Wilson said last week at the Seahawks' facility while the New York metro area was receiving a foot of snow. "I have tons of friends back on the East Coast, and they're letting me know. Hopefully, it will pass. Hopefully that will go away.

"If not, we'll have to play in it."

Back on Dec. 15 at MetLife Stadium, of all places, the Seahawks beat the Giants 23-0 in a game that saw the wind chill dip below freezing. Manning, who has spent the majority of his career playing home games in a dome, and the Broncos are 1-1 in games played in less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Denver lost 34-31 in overtime at New England in Week 12 and two weeks later beat the Titans at home 51-28.

Manning's historic inability to function well in cold games has become a leading storyline going into Super Bowl XLVIII.

This season, the Broncos have made it a point to practice outside whenever possible. On several occasions, Manning has prepared for a cold game by soaking his throwing hand in a bucket of ice water.

"Anytime you can have ... a situation that you can simulate during practice that might be in a game," Manning said last week in Denver, "that's always a good thing."

Don't even think about it

Bart Starr grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and missed out on the whole coming-of-age snow scene.

"No," he said, sitting in his office in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, "never had that opportunity."

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