So here I sit in my hotel room in downtown Philadelphia, enjoying the Sunday early kicks and preparing to work the sidelines for tonight's Westwood One radio broadcast of the Sunday-night game between the Vikings and Eagles when my phone rings. "Say that again," I respond to the caller. "I'm staying until Tuesday night — Tuesday, you said — because it's snowing and it's kind of cold out?" Through my shock I have to ask, "This is a pro football game we're talking about, right?"
Admittedly, I have a stake in this one. No offense, Philly friends, you have a lovely city here, but getting snowbound at the Downtown Marriott for 48 hours because the NFL didn't want to play this one in the snow is not what I signed up for. Still, I know how blessed I am to have the incredible job I do. Stuff happens, and there are many with a lot worse deals than I'm getting here, so this is absolutely not being written just to fill my need to whine a bit and pretend I've got things tough. I know how lucky I am.
This is about the answers we're all entitled to. When did the NFL stop playing its games in bad weather? For what possible reason could we be waiting until Tuesday night to play this game instead of Monday? And how could this be any less fair to the Vikings and Eagles?
My first big surprise came when I got to my hotel room at about 11 p.m. on Christmas night and turned on the local news to hear Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter warning all the locals about the serious winter storm due to arrive in Philly early Sunday afternoon. Various weather Web sites Friday evening forecasted temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. When I heard Mayor Nutter talking about 12-15 inches of snow and 35- to 50-mile-an-hour winds, I figured, OK, guess I didn't pack very well, but it never occurred to me they'd postpone the game — it's a football game.
At noon on Sunday, the local Philadelphia news was reporting the city was worried about the problems the crowd might confront at Lincoln Financial Field but that it was fully prepared to put the game on and any decision to postpone it was the NFL's. So the same league that a week earlier, with a full week to make a decision, forced the Vikings to play outside in Minneapolis in dangerous weather conditions rather than move the game to an indoor venue postpones this game because ...? This game should have been played in the conditions God gave us to play it in, exactly as the NFL has done for years.
Why Tuesday night? I suspect we'll be told it's about the city's need to clean up on Monday once the weather calms down, but my sources tell me that's just window dressing. It seems NBC may have been none too happy about losing its Sunday-night prime-time matchup between Michael Vick and Adrian Peterson, knowing its first 15 broadcasts are among the 20 most-watched TV shows of the year, and that a Monday-night showdown with the Falcons and Saints would depress those ratings dramatically. I think the network pitched a billions-of-dollars-a-year-in-rights-fees fit, it won, and the Vikes and Eagles got screwed.
The Vikings' season is over, but this is now the third week in a row their game has been either postponed, moved or both due to the weather. The Giants game was unavoidable, the Bears game could have been handled better and this Eagles game is really inexcusable. Les Frazier is a good man coaching for his professional life, but you have to ask: How can he possibly be fairly evaluated under these circumstances?
The Eagles are playing for an NFC East title and possibly a bye in the first round. They will now sit around and get stale for 48 hours and then finish the season with a rivalry game against the Cowboys, minus the two days to prepare that have been stolen from them. The handicap they've now been handed, for reasons completely foreign to everything we've come to love and know about the NFL, and the resultant advantage it creates for the Giants and all the other teams they're competing with for a playoff spot, as well as whomever they might eventually face if they play in the first week of the playoffs, is just wrong.
This column was originally published in the current print edition of Pro Football Weekly, dated Jan. 2, 2011, which also includes feature stories on Defensive Player of the Year candidate and Steelers OLB James Harrison and how a group of proven veterans hope to lead the Jets' quest for playoff glory, as well as previews of all Week 17 games, columnists and insights into the upcoming NFL draft, handicapping and fantasy football. The Pro Football Weekly print edition is on sale at retail outlets across the country and at PFWstore.com, where you can purchase either the print or electronic (PDF) version of this issue.