POSTED: 08:50 a.m. HST, Feb 01, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 02:36 p.m. HST, Feb 01, 2011
FORT WORTH, Texas — One Pittsburgh safety kept interrupting reporters' questions about the Super Bowl to complain it was too chilly. A Green Bay receiver bragged that the snow outside made the Packers "the home team."
Even the player known as "The Freezer" said Texas was just too cold.
Five days before the Super Bowl, a wintry blast of snow, ice and bone-chilling winds hit the Dallas area on Tuesday, closing the airport for a couple of hours and turning roads into ice rinks.
As workers shoveled and scraped the icy walkways outside Cowboys Stadium, Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, known for his frigid nickname, was asked about the Big Chill in Big D for the big game.
"Too cold," said the 337-pound Raji. "Feels like the AC is on."
And then some.
Downtown Fort Worth, a few miles from the stadium in Arlington, was virtually deserted. Dave Carden, a production assistant for ESPN's operation in the old cow town, cleared ice off the red-brick streets a day after handing out T-shirts.
"I think you've got enough fans from Pittsburgh and Green Bay to come out," said Tim Callahan, a 28-year-old former stockbroker who lives downtown. "I don't know how many of the locals will come out."
While the rest of the Dallas area slipped and slid through a miserable day, the NFL stuck to its Super Bowl schedule. League spokesman Greg Aiello sent out a Twitter message not long after sunrise saying media activities would go on as planned — and they did, with the roof of Cowboys Stadium thankfully closed high above the Packers, Steelers and hundreds of reporters in town for Sunday's game.
"The show goes on," Aiello wrote. "Media day is on schedule. Drive carefully."
The North Texas climate can be moderate — highs were in the mid-70s just days ago — but the area left no doubt about its wintry side as a massive storm moved across the country. The National Weather Service says it won't be above freezing until Friday and Sunday's forecast calls for highs in the mid-50s.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was shut down briefly, and primary tenant American Airlines canceled 800 flights — about half its daily service. A spokesman said it was too early to tell whether the trickle-down would affect the heavier passenger loads for the Super Bowl later in the week.
The Packers might even practice indoors this week if the weather doesn't improve — just like they do at home, where the temperature hovered in the low 20s Tuesday.
"It's a little too cold for me," Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Texas is supposed to be hot and humid. I was looking forward to that. I am a California guy."
Steelers safety Ryan Clark, a Louisiana native, stopped several times between questions and said: "Man, it's freezing in here!"
Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward also wanted the heat inside the stadium turned up a little bit.
"It's crazy. I didn't even think it could snow in Texas," Ward said.
"I'm wearing my cowboy hat and everything, looking for the great weather, and I look outside this morning and it looks like we brought Pittsburgh down here. ... You know what? Luckily this game is indoors," he added.
Then again, Packers receiver Greg Jennings said it felt like being in Titletown.
"We're in Green Bay right now," he said. "We're the home team and we're at home with this weather."
The Super Bowl next year is slated for Indianapolis and the year after in the open-air New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, raising the possibility of more chilly stories in the week before the game.
Atlanta has twice been turned down in Super Bowl balloting since a rare ice storm struck the city just before the 2000 game. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas bid leader Bill Lively shrugged off the notion that the icy weather would affect future Super Bowl bids by the city.
Jones said holding the Super Bowl in a 100,000-seat stadium located in an area with a well-known passion for the sport should offset any concerns about inclement weather.
"This is football country. It runs deep. It runs through men and women," he said. "It's a big deal. That's the way it is here — period. All that should help us if we have ambitions of hosting future Super Bowls."
NFL vice president of events Frank Supovitz said media day went smoothly. He didn't think the storm was fodder for those who contend Super Bowls should be played in warm weather.
"I don't know if it's ammunition (for naysayers) because we were able to have our event without too much inconvenience," Supovitz said.
"Wherever you go, you always want to have a contingency plan. In South Florida, we have a contingency plan for flooding. In Detroit, we had a contingency plan for snow. In Indianapolis next year, we'll have similar plan like that for deep cold and snow," he said. "Here, we had a contingency plan for frozen precipitation because ice is the thing that you have to be most concerned about."
Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said sand truck crews gave the "bad storm" everything they had to keep roads clear.
"I don't think the question is we will never have a Super Bowl again in a town that has had weather or the potential for bad weather," he said. "I think they want to showcase the investment they've made in their stadiums. I think the judgment will be how was our response. And I'm proud of our response."
Former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, vice chairman of the host committee, was disappointed by the unusual weather, and he blamed the board's chairman — fellow ex-Cowboy Roger Staubach, who is credited with coining the football term "Hail Mary."
"That's Staubach's fault," Aikman joked. "He's the one with the direct line to the man upstairs — at least that's what I've been hearing all these years."
AP Sports Writers Eddie Pells, Barry Wilner, Paul Newberry and Dennis Waszak Jr. in Arlington, Texas, and Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.