Brrrr: Bears and Vikings take it outside

Leslie Frazier once played for Chicago, where winter weather was

simply part of the late-season routine.

He recently recalled, perhaps with slight exaggeration brought

by the passage of time, a game against Green Bay during his career

in the early 1980s that went on with the biting backdrop of an

unfathomable low wind chill.

”That was like, I think, minus-61 if I remember,” said

Frazier, now Minnesota’s interim coach, smiling and shaking his


Frazier won’t be able to keep his body moving to keep warm on

Monday night, when the Bears visit the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium

on the University of Minnesota campus. He’ll be running the show

from the home team sideline, bundled up as best he can.

”If you guys can recognize me, you’re doing pretty good,”

Frazier said. ”I won’t be Bud Grant out there.”

The Vikings take occasional late-December trips to play the

Packers or the Bears, but the team from arguably the coldest city

in the NFL is not accustomed to frosty conditions. They’ve played

home games inside since 1982, when the Metrodome opened. The roof

caved in last weekend, though, forcing an emergency relocation to

this open-air location a few miles away.

Frazier was asked this week how much of a home-field advantage

cold-weather teams truly have when the temperature sinks and the

snow starts to fall.

”Look at these banners,” Frazier said, motioning to all the

purple division and conference championship flags that hang in the

Vikings’ practice facility, recognizing their dominance under

Grant, their gruff-and-tough coach, throughout the 1970s.

Frazier’s Bears beat the Los Angeles Rams 24-0 in the NFC

championship game after the 1985 season.

”I can remember Jackie Slater coming up to me before the game

and saying, ‘Man, you guys need to get a dome over this place,”’

Frazier said. ”Immediately I knew, in pregame, he ain’t thinking

about winning no football game. He’s thinking about the cold.”

So who has the advantage this time?

The Vikings will have their fans in place, but the Bears are

certainly more accustomed to the conditions. Last week at

whited-out Soldier Field, they were blown out by the surging New

England Patriots.

Though several of his players voiced concerns this week about

the safety of the field, given the lack of heating coils underneath

the turf, Bears coach Lovie Smith downplayed the significance and

the effect of a potentially hard surface or frigid air.

”You’re going to have two teams that are going to play under

the same environment and conditions,” Smith said. ”So again I

just don’t see that being an issue in the end. We’re not from

Florida, so it’s not going to be a factor for us.”

Well, Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin is a Sunshine State

native, as are others.

”Bad weather, but it’s still football,” Harvin said. ”You’ve

got to play it the same way, and we’ve got to approach it the same

way. Unfortunately, it will be a little colder. It will be like the

old days. A lot of running the ball and things like that.”

Just the way Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, two of the famed

Purple People Eaters defensive linemen who led the Vikings when

Grant was the coach, remember it.

Marshall shared memories this week of hard and painful spills on

the cold, hard ground at Metropolitan Stadium. ”But that was part

of the game,” he said. ”It was part of what we had to go through

to be winners.”

The Vikings are honoring their 50 greatest players this weekend

as part of their 50th anniversary celebration as a franchise, so

the return to their roots as an outdoor team, though unexpected, is


”My fingertips kind of tingle in this kind of weather,” Eller

said. ”That’s a memento from the old days at the Met.”

The forecast is calling for a temperature in the low teens with

the possibility of a few inches of snow. Fans, many of whom

embraced the return of outdoor baseball this season when the Twins

moved to Target Field and packed the place every game, are fired up

about the novelty of the event.

Many longtime season-ticket holders were upset, though, by the

general admission seating plan for the game. The Vikings insisted

it was the best they could do in a few days with the challenge of

moving from a 64,000-seat venue to one that typically holds


One fan, Sandy Barin, said he’s decided to stay home and watch

on TV.

”There’s no guarantee that if my wife and I get up to go to the

bathroom or get a hot dog that we’re going to get our seats back,”

Barin said. ”I will continue to support the Vikings, but the front

office really let the fans down.”

Vikings chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix said the team is

hoping ”common sense” and ”Minnesota nice” prevail when the

gates open and fans start flocking to the prime seats.

”It’s going to be a great atmosphere and just a really fun

night,” LaCroix said. ”We feel very confident that everyone will

be able to get in the building on game night, so come down if you

have a ticket.”

The Bears, who have a first-round bye in the playoffs in their

sights, are hoping to keep the fans quiet.

”It’s not like the Minnesota Vikings are going to be wearing

ice skates, and we have on cleats,” Bears defensive tackle Tommie

Harris said. ”We’re both going to have to try to find a way to

play through it.”