History Lessons : The Ice Bowl

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With the recent blast back into frigid temperates, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the Ice Bowl this week.

The Ice Bowl isn’t a catchy name descriptive of the surrounding area like the Rose Bowl in California or the Orange Bowl in Florida. The Ice Bowl was one fateful championship game in which everything literally turned to ice as temperatures plummeted from 10 to nearly 20 degrees below zero – without adding in the windchill.

It was the classic setting for a classic game.

It was 1967 and the Cowboys and Packers had earned a trip to the NFL Championship game. The temperature at the start of the game was 15 degrees below zero, making it the coldest game in league history. You’d think that would deter a few fans from showing up that day, maybe persuade the commissioner to postpone it.

However, that’s not how Green Bay rolls. Over 50,000 fans were in attendance – an attendance which has become the ultimate badge of honor for Packers fans. (If only I had been born two decades sooner!)

The Packers had won the title 4 of the past 6 years and were primed for another victory over the warm-weather-based Cowboys. It certainly started in the Packers favor: Green Bay had a 14-0 lead at halftime. But the Cowboys came back in the second half, piling up 17 points to the Packers 14. Led by iconic coach Vince Lombardi and future Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, Green Bay claimed the victory in the final seconds to earn a trip to Super Bowl II, which they would win.

It’s a good story, but words won’t do it justice until you see just what kind of conditions we’re talking about:

However, if there are words to do it justice, Mike Juley’s would be my pick. His memories of going to the Ice Bowl with his dad are priceless:

Whenever the Packers scored, the famous “thwump, thwump, thwump” of mittens hitting mittens permeated the stadium. Dad was happy to clap. It assured him that his arms were still working.

We made it through most of the first half, with the Packers leading, 14-10. Seeking warmth, we left our seats late in the second quarter for the concession stand, where Dad ordered a coffee — they had run out of hot chocolate. In the minute it took the attendant to bring back change, the coffee had turned ice cold.

Numbed, we decided to spend the third quarter thawing out across the street in the office of a service station. Amid gasoline fumes, we listened to the radio broadcast of a touchdown pass by the Cowboys that gave them the lead early in the fourth quarter, 17-14.

Returning to the stadium — the gate attendants had fled from their positions shortly after the game started — we reclaimed our seats in time to see the final Packers drive, culminating in Starr’s dramatic quarterback sneak with 13 seconds remaining that won the game.

By then, we couldn’t feel anything. Yet, Dad and I hugged each other, two clumps of frozen clothing jumping up and down. It must have been quite a sight.

 It sure must have. But a good one, for sure.

If possible, this bit of history makes me love the Packers even more.

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