Tuesday, January 21, 2014
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Roger Goodell once had his beer freeze while watching a game in Chicago, so sitting outside at the Super Bowl shouldn't be too much of a burden for the NFL commissioner.
But what if — and this is a very real possibility — the stadium is blanketed in the kind of blizzard-like conditions that wreaked havoc across the Northeast on Tuesday? What if the NFL doesn't get lucky and score a chilly yet tolerable Super Bowl evening at the Meadowlands?
Even worse, what if snow, sleet, ice or any combination in the first outdoor cold weather Super Bowl determines who wins the big game?
Could happen, and Goodell and other NFL officials won't be the only ones poring over weather forecasts leading up to Feb. 2. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas will be keeping a close eye on it, too, as a possible factor in whether the Denver Broncos can cover what is now a 2½-point spread against the Seattle Seahawks.
"Probably the most important guy being interviewed next week will be (television weatherman) Al Roker," said Jimmy Vaccaro, who runs the sports book at the South Point hotel.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the forecast doesn't include wind and snow or sleet. Goodell has embraced the idea of cold, though he had little choice in the matter after NFL owners decided to reward the owners of the Jets and Giants for getting a new stadium by giving them a Super Bowl.
He'll sit outside for the misery that could accompany the usual mastery of a Super Bowl. If all goes according to plan, he will hand out the Lombardi trophy to the best team in the land, and everyone will go home happy.
But some who are in the business of making the point spread for the game believe that if something like Tuesday's storm hits the day of the game it could tilt the game in favor a team that relies more on power football and defense rather than finesse. And in this Super Bowl, that would be the Seahawks.
"With the game being in New York and the early forecast for below normal temperatures in the teens that certainly favors a defensive team and a running team," said Jay Kornegay, sports book director at the LVH. "That would certainly be an advantage to the Seahawks."
Partly because of that, Kornegay and his oddsmakers made the Seahawks a 2-point favorite when betting opened Sunday for the game. But bettors enamored with the idea of Peyton Manning winning a second Super Bowl quickly caused the odds to shift to Denver's favor with a flood of money on the Broncos.
The knock on Manning, though, is that for all his greatness he's not a good cold-weather quarterback. He played much of his career inside in Indianapolis and is 4-7 in games that are below freezing at kickoffs, though some of those were games where he played sparingly because the Colts had already locked up playoff seeding.
Others were against New England, when the Patriots clearly had the better team. And Manning did complete 39 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee last month when the temperature at kickoff in Denver was 18 degrees.
"I won't try to answer it because I didn't give it any validation in the first place," he said afterward about his supposed cold-weather struggles.
Both football fans and oddsmakers found out how unpredictable a big storm can make the game last month when winter weather made conditions miserable in several cities. It took players in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore the first half to get used to the conditions, then they responded with an unlikely series of wild plays and drama in lighting up the scoreboard in the second half.
That has oddsmakers scratching their heads about what to do about this year's game. They often figure things out in advance with lines that come remarkably close to the final result, but a Super Bowl in the snow would be something new to everyone.
"If it's big snow you can take all the handicapping and anything we thought we knew and throw it out the window," said Johnny Avello, the book director at the Wynn hotel.
The so-called sharps — those who wager the biggest money in this gambling city — usually wait until closer to the game to make their bets, and they may wait even longer for this game. The 10-day forecast coming out this week will shed some light on the possibility of a storm, but most will probably wait until the weather picture becomes clearer to put their money down.
"There will probably be more money on Seattle if the forecast is for colder than normal with rain or sleet," Vaccaro said. "But the biggest thing that will make the wise guys get off their wallets now is if Denver goes to 3 (point favorite). If it's 85 degrees out they will still take plus 3 with Seattle."
It won't be 85, might not even be 35. But the bookies and the NFL have at least one thing in common for a Super Bowl that could be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Neither of them can do anything about the weather.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg