This is a great oral history of the famous Ice Bowl, Packers vs. Cowboys, December 31st 1967. If you have any interest in football, read the whole thing…
Eight Packers and four Cowboys who took the field that day would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both coaches would be enshrined, too. The Packers had guile and experience and a field general named Bart Starr. The Cowboys had youth and superior team speed and their “Doomsday Defense.”
Yes, it would have been a great game on any day, in any kind of weather.
It would be played, though, on New Year’s Eve day in Green Bay, in the kind of weather that tested the limits of what a man could endure.
The official low temperature at Austin Straubel Airport that day was 17 below zero.
I guess it was Meredith who got the wakeup call at the hotel in Appleton, something like, ‘Howdy doody, Packer backers, it’s 7 o’clock in the morning and it’s 16 below.’ He said, ‘Sixteen below what?’ She said, ‘Go outside and you’ll find out.’ He went outside and said it was like getting hit in the head with a two-by-four.”
Game time temperatures:
“It was 13 below at kickoff, 20 below at halftime and 22 below when the game ended. That’s crazy. We shouldn’t have played.
When we came out to take pre-game warm-up, there wasn’t a person in the stands. It was completely empty. We went back into the locker room and came out 15 minutes before kickoff and there was not an empty seat.
During the summer preceding the ’67 season, Lombardi spent $80,000 on an underground heating system, a first in the NFL. A grid of electric coils, buried inches below the surface of the Lambeau Field turf, were designed to keep the grass soft and provide a good playing surface in cold weather.
There was one problem, though. The field was covered overnight with a tarp, which trapped the heat and created condensation. When the tarp was removed before the game, the moist turf immediately started freezing.
Don’t put your lips on it:
We used a metal whistle in those days. I think it happened to (referee) Norm (Schachter) and Bill Schleibaum, the line judge. They tried to blow their whistles and the metal stuck to the their lips and pulled the skin right off their lips.
Again, Packer fans…
You can’t explain to people who haven’t been in that kind of weather how cold it was. Seeing those people in the stands … we didn’t have a choice, but what the heck were they doing out there?
The thing I vividly recall, the offense is running on the field and the punt return team is running off and Ray Nitschke was on the field, screaming at the offense, ‘Don’t let me down! Don’t let me down!’ He was an intimidating figure. He had no teeth, snot was coming out of his nose, there was blood and mud on his uniform.
Final drive, Packers down 17 – 14:
Starr called the Packers’ final timeout with 16 seconds left and trotted to the sideline to confer with Lombardi. He told the coach that if he called a wedge play – a handoff to Mercein – he thought he could keep the ball, shuffle his feet and dive into the end zone behind the blocks of Bowman and Kramer.
“Then run it, and let’s get the hell out of here.”
Packers running back Mercein:
I was convinced I would be getting the ball. We didn’t have a whole lot of plays for short yardage. We had a couple dives and we had a wedge play. Bart said, ‘Brown 32, wedge right.’ I never heard him say, ‘I’m keeping the ball.’ I had 34 of the 68 yards on that drive. I thought that was going to be the cherry on the cake.
It was the greatest drive I saw in Packer history. And I covered a lot of games. Less than 5 minutes to play, they’re losing 17-14 and they go 68 yards. There were no mistakes, no fumbles, no dropped passes. Nothing. Nobody is ever going to have a drive like that in those conditions.