NFL ready for Mother Nature on Super Sunday

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Super Sunday and Groundhog Day will arrive simultaneously in a couple of weeks, and it's fitting that the first cold-weather Super Bowl played outdoors should fall on a day traditionally associated with the exigencies of winter.

The question is whether weather worthy of winter might also arrive simultaneously. The NFL, a leviathan that dominates American culture and cuisine each Super Sunday, has a blizzard of contingency plans in place should Mother Nature offer storms on or around Feb. 2 - even plans under which the game could be played on another day.

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That possibility is a long shot, but sub-freezing conditions is not. The average daily low temperature for that date here is 24 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Fans will get "Warm Welcome" packs that include ear muffs, hand warmers and lip balm. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to sit outside, the NFL says.

"We're an all-weather sport, watched by all-weather fans, and this year we're in an all-weather city," Eric Grubman, NFL executive vice president of business operations, tells USA TODAY Sports.

So, how often does he find himself looking at long-range forecasts? "Oh, 30 or 40 times a day," Grubman says.

Running the world's most-watched single sporting event is always a complex mix of logistics and planning, sort of an outsized version of the game plans that the Super Bowl teams will put in place, except with standard operating procedures and exacting security measures rather than Xs and Os. This time, the possibility of snow and ice adds extra layers of logistics.

As does playing it on the doorstep of the City that Never Sleeps - and too often, gridlocks. Traffic can be snarled on the bridges and in the tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey, even when all lanes are open.

Organizers are touting this as the first mass transit Super Bowl. It had better be: MetLife Stadium parking lots will have their number of spaces cut from roughly 29,000 to around 11,000. That's because the security perimeter and space for support vehicles and satellite trucks gobble up acres of pavement, as do the tented security checkpoints where screening will include metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs.

The New Jersey State Police, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Port Authority Police Department and New York Police Department will have roles in keeping the game, and the week preceding it, safe. They'll work with roughly 100 agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

MetLife Stadium is here in East Rutherford, more famous as a dateline than a hometown. James Cassella is its mayor, and he complains that New York City gets the parties and the banners and the credit while his burg gets, well, left out in the cold.

"Maybe we should close some roads around the stadium because we get dissed by the NFL," he says. "That's a joke! That's only a joke. Boy, that would make a headline, wouldn't it?"


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