I’m pretty certain I’m in the minority on this one, but I’ve always loved snow — gazing out my apartment window Monday morning and watching the flakes fall to the ground reminded me why.
As a child growing up in the 1960s, my neighborhood friends and I couldn’t wait for the first big snowfall. The group I ran with were all sports nuts, and we greatly anticipated the day when when we could meet in someone’s back yard and play football in the snow — an annual staple of winter.
The mere notion of it made my imagination run wild.
I grew up watching the NFL on TV at a time when games played in the snow on natural turf were common. That’s changed through the decades with the construction of indoor stadiums and the advent of artificial turf, but in the ’60s the players had to battle the elements in addition to the opposition, and that made it even more fun to watch.
I don’t know about the other neighborhood guys, but I would imagine I was the Minnesota Vikings’ Bill Brown running the football on four inches snow at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, or Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr navigating the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field, or wide receiver Paul Warfield catching a long bomb for my beloved Cleveland Browns in a blizzard at Municipal Stadium.
Never mind that we were bundled up like the Michelin Man, we had the time of our lives in those days. And, besides, it didn’t hurt nearly as bad when you were tackled wearing six layers of clothing and falling on six inches of soft snow. Of course, it didn’t hurt at all if you weren’t tackled, and, considering I wasn’t bigger than a minute back then, that was always my M.O. whether playing running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Catch me if you can.
Sure, we’d get cold — just this side of frozen I suppose — but when it was time to take a break we’d go inside someone’s house, one of the mothers would usually fix us hot chocolate, we’d let the football thaw out with us, and an hour or so later we were back on the field, getting our second wind and often playing until dark. There was something magical about it all, and I still get a tingle thinking about it.
Don’t get me wrong, football wasn’t the only thing we played in the snow. We’d go sledding, we’d have world-class snowball fights, we’d build a snowman, and we’d even skate at a nearby frozen pond when the temperatures plunged to a point where it was safe to do so.
At heart, though, we were sports guys, and we would always return to football in the snow.
That was more than 50 years ago, of course, and times have drastically changed — no one does that now. In fact, I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve seen a neighborhood pick-up game when it was sunny and 70 degrees, much less a full-on snowstorm. This is a shame, and I feel sorry for those who never got to experience what I did.
Snow? It’s just as cold now as it was a half-century ago, but it evokes fond childhood memories destined to warm my heart forever.