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January 30, 2014

Cold-weather championship games used to be the NFL norm

NEW YORK — For the first time, the Super Bowl is being played outdoors in a cold-weather city.

It used to be the norm for the NFL’s championship game.

Just ask 92-year-old Charley Trippi.

Long before there was a Super Bowl, the Hall of Famer played in two title games with the Chicago Cardinals — the first while wearing sneakers to cope with an icy field, the second in a Philadelphia blizzard that made it impossible to even see the yard lines.

“You never really knew if you had a first down,” Trippi remembered yesterday when reached at his home in Athens, Ga. — where, interestingly enough, there was snow on the ground from a freak winter storm that paralyzed much of the South.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising to have flurries at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, when the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks, though the forecast called for only a 20 percent chance of precipitation. The temperature, expected to climb well past the freezing mark in the afternoon, could dip back into the 20s after nightfall.

Trippi doesn’t understand why the NFL took a chance on its signature game being marred by inclement weather, when the league has plenty of warm-weather cities and domed stadiums to choose from.

“The championship game should be played in a climate that you know is going to be agreeable to put on a good exhibition of football,” he said. “Actually, if I was a fan, I wouldn’t go to the game with that kind of temperature.”

Before the first Super Bowl in 1967, the NFL title game was a matchup between division winners in late December, hosted by one of the teams. Since most pro franchises in those days were located in the Northeast and Midwest, it wasn’t at all surprising for the championship to be decided in some especially brutal weather. In fact, it often became the central theme.

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