Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2018

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast

RON KANTOWSKI:

Baby, it’s best when cold outside

Football’s more interesting in a blizzard, as one former college official can attest

Image

Damon Winter / Dallas Morning News file

Referee Marc Ratner, right, works the snowbound 2000 Independence Bowl, a game in which Mississippi State, in white, defeated Texas A&M 43-41 in overtime on New Year’s Eve.

I’ve always believed the NFL playoffs are way more interesting than the Super Bowl because other than that one year when they played it at Rice Stadium in Houston, the Super Bowl is held indoors or some place where there are palm trees or Flipper in the end zone. The playoffs, on the other hand, are played outdoors, sometimes in places where there are icicles and frozen snot in the end zone.

Slip Slide Away

Dontae Walker runs for a 40 yard TD in the Indy Bowl

I don’t care what NFL Films says about Dwight Clark’s catch over Everson Walls in ’82. The best playoff games are played on frozen tundra, or at least tundra covered by a half-foot of snow.

A Web site called theloveofsports.com recently listed its all-time top 10 bad weather games. It should come as no surprise that seven of them featured a snow-covered, slippery, fog-shrouded or frozen pigskin. It listed the 1967 Ice Bowl, between the Packers and the Cowboys, as No. 1, and that will get no argument here.

But I do think the 2000 Independence Bowl between Mississippi State and Texas A&M deserves an honorable mention and a warm pair of mittens.

I mentioned that game in passing last week, prompting a response from a reader who said that Marc Ratner, the former Nevada State Athletic Commission chief and Mountain West Conference football official, had worked that game.

“I never saw the sideline,” said Ratner, now an official with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “There were 6 inches of snow on my cap.”

Other than the Shreveport Steamer, its franchise in the old World Football League, I’m not exactly sure what Shreveport is known for. I think Hank Williams Jr. might have been born there. But blizzards aren’t at the top of the list because Shreveport is in Louisiana, and although it can snow in Louisiana, it usually doesn’t.

That’s probably why the Independence Bowl used to be sponsored by a Weed Eater instead of a snow shovel.

But about a half-hour before the kickoff of the 2000 Independence Bowl, played on New Year’s Eve, it began to snow. It didn’t stop until Dick Clark was through rockin’ in Times Square. The wind was whipping, too. By the second quarter, Ratner thought he was in Austria. The playing field looked like a parking lot in the Swiss Alps.

He said he had the A&M side of the field, and remembers R.C. Slocum, the Aggies’ coach, questioning a play that might have gone out of bounds. Or not. After Ratner slalomed over, he told Slocum the A&M receiver appeared to have missed a gate at the top of the course.

You couldn’t tell where the sideline was because there were no snowplows. Ratner said they pulled in the little cart they used to drag the infield at Shreveport Captains games but the motor overheated from overuse.

Although Ratner really wasn’t dressed for the conditions, he was wearing neoprene booties. Despite this admission, the players didn’t give him too hard a time. Neither did Slocum after that one play.

The horrendous conditions notwithstanding, it was a well-played, exciting game. Mississippi State won 43-41 in overtime after one of the Bulldogs lateraled to the Abominable Snowman after recovering a blocked extra point, with the big guy taking it to the house.

Further illustrating the point about the popularity of football games played in ridiculous weather, the 2000 Independence Bowl drew a 4.2 television rating, the second highest in the game’s history. (The Independence Bowl does not list the top-rated game on its Web site.)

The temperature in Chicago was minus 1 Thursday but the Bears don’t have a quarterback, so they will be watching Sunday’s conference championship games from the golf course, where it is nice and warm. I also had high hopes for the Giants, who play in the New York area, where it is 18 degrees, but they lost to the Eagles, relegating the NFC title game to balmy Phoenix.

On the other hand, the high in Pittsburgh on Sunday, where the Steelers will play the Ravens for the AFC crown, is supposed to be 27 degrees.

Snow showers are in the forecast.

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