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
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
”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.”