You want to know what it was like. You want to know how it feels to be at a football game that turns into a blizzard. You want to know what the people in the stands are thinking as Mother Nature tries to kill them with snow.
Here you go.
On November 11, a friend asked if I’d be interested in attending the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions. It was a no-brainer. Once a year, I see my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play in person. My scheduled attendance was for the Chicago game on December 22.
Why not two games?
I monitored the weather all last week, stuck in limbo. The snow would start at my home in Virginia on Sunday morning and then turn to ice. It would start in Philadelphia around kickoff. An inch or two doesn’t seem like much to those who’ve never sat in a parking lot or the I-95 corridor with three major cities en route.
If the Eagles weren’t in the playoff hunt, I don’t know that I’d have attended. The Eagles are in the playoff hunt. Nothing would keep me away.
No option of a Sunday start time made any sense. I left Saturday night in my Honda Accord. After I heard the completion of Michigan State’s upset win over Ohio State, I fretted over the trip back on Sunday. I knew it would be a mess. Telephone calls went out to every friend in the northern Virginia, Baltimore and Philadelphia areas. I might need a place to crash, I said. I have no plans, I reiterated. I will figure it out when I get to my car after the game, I explained.
At 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, I found myself at a friend’s home in Hatboro, PA. Less than six hours later, I was awake and ready to drive to Lincoln Financial Field.
Since my initial check of the weather last week, I was excited. Through more than 20 years of attending football games, I’d never seen one in the snow. Rain, plenty of times. Heat, even more. Cold, windy and freezing, more than I can count. Snow would be a new experience.
I parked in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park across Broad St. from the stadium. I walked for what felt like miles to my friends’ tailgate. It started to snow. We found this amusing, like kids who see it out the window for the first time of the winter. It’s snow and it’s football and it’s America, we said. It was picturesque.
Then, things went from cool to cold. It snowed hard. We could barely see the field. The jumbotron looked like Madden replays.
“Fumble the snap” was repeated before every Lions offensive play. They fumbled plenty.
When Detroit took an 8-0 lead, the game seemed over. I cover high school football. It was worse than high school football. Passing seemed impossible. Running didn’t seem any easier. The kicks and incompletions would stick in the snow and disappear. Unless you watched a ref toss a flag, you had no clue there was a penalty.
Midway through the first quarter, my three pairs of socks were soaked. My jeans and Nike long underwear were soaked. Flocks of people huddled in the heated restroom as they smoked cigarettes and checked their phones. A quick glance at I-95 from the stadium made me swallow hard. Everything was stopped. Nothing would change.
Detroit’s 14-0 lead felt like a death sentence. People began to leave. I thought about following their lead. A long drive would be even longer. Maybe it was best to endure several hours in traffic just to get home safely.
Then, the snow let up. Suddenly, the Eagles completed passes. They cut the deficit to 14-6. It felt like they won the Super Bowl. Hope returned.
A team that looked like it would never get another first down in franchise history finally broke through. Then, the Eagles just kept breaking through.
After they tied things at 14-14, it was a new game. Jeremy Ross’ 98-yard kickoff return touchdown deflated us again. Even after the Lions called timeout to clear a spot for an extra point – yes, this happened – and the birds blocked it, it still seemed our team missed its chance.