Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The Freezer Bowl 32 Years Later

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Life, Sports

It has been seven weeks since I have posted anything on this blog and substantially longer since I have written anything about sports — well over three years, in fact.  Way back in early 2007 a few friends and I started a sports blog to act as a platform for publishing our snarky sports conversations that up to that point had only occurred in text message threads and instant messenger dialogue boxes.  Over the course of the next 36 months we amassed over 1,000,000 hits to the blog simply by ranting from the fans’ perspective; big time for a small time operation.  Unfortunately our venture in to the sports blogosphere began to fizzle in early 2010 as we all got real jobs, started families, and were forced to move on to adulthood full time.  Later that summer I flirted with the Army, ultimately signing on the dotted line in August, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What little writing bug I have had time for since joining the Army has largely been satisfied by this particular side project but thanks to an erratic work schedule and two trips overseas, I have not been able to follow the world of sports over the last three years as close as necessary to be considered well-informed, let alone to be well-versed enough, to write about .  ALL that being said, this weekend’s rematch of the January 10, 1982 playoff game — commonly known as “The Freezer Bowl” –between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium in the 1981-season’s AFC Championship game, caused a moment of nostalgic reflection for me compelling enough to put metaphorical pen to paper.

Sseeing the breath of the linemen as they crouch over the ball, the way football was meant to be played -- or at least how we believe it's meant to be played from the comfort of our temperature-controlled living rooms.

Seeing the breath of the linemen as they crouch over the ball is the way football was meant to be played — or at least how we believe it’s meant to be played from the comfort of our temperature-controlled living rooms.

Nearly 32 years ago, to the day, the same teams in the same city as Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game squared off for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVI in a game largely considered to be one of the coldest ever played.  With modern calculations of windchill, the temperature fell somewhere between -37 and -38 degrees Fahrenheit  (although estimations have varied and some put it at cold as -59 with windchill) as the Bengals went on to defeat the Chargers 27-7 in front of nearly 50,000 of the Bengals’ most frozen fans.

Now the cause for the aforementioned nostalgia does not stem from any memory of The Freezer Bowl — hell, I wasn’t even born yet — but from the tales of legend my Dad would speak of surrounding that fateful game, and the years that followed, that stuck with me through my childhood.  For instance, I will always remember my Dad recalling how Anthony Munoz and the rest of the offensive line lathered their arms up in Vaseline prior to The Freezer Bowl in order to face the subzero temperatures sleeveless in a move of intimidation towards the warm-blooded Chargers of San Diego.  But that was only the beginning.

I grew up with a father who was a one-time Bengals season ticket holder sometime in the 1980s and who, for some reason, still has an official VHS copy of the Bengals’ 20-16 Super Bowl XXIII loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  He used to wax poetic about the Ken Andersons and the Anthony Munozs, the Chris Collinsworths and the Tim Krumries.  Stories that made the players out to be Greek Gods in my imagination as I pondered a brighter, bygone era for my beloved Bengals.  My Dad even used to tell me about that time he played for the Bengals himself back in the 70s, starting as both the quarterback and #1 wide receiver, and throwing a Hail Mary so high and far he was able to run down the field and catch his own touchdown pass .  If you know my Dad you have probably heard that one, too .  An endearing tall tale of grandeur that, while silly, has been an inside joke with my father for years and is ultimately only possible through our shared love of the Bengals.

For me, sports is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.  Many of the fondest memories from my childhood revolve around sports, from watching Wildcats basketball games in the floor of my grandparent’s Kentucky living room to going to my first few Reds games as a child with my parents to being consoled by my Dad after yet another devastating Bengals loss.  For a better or worse outcome on the field these are moments I will cherish forever.  I can still remember my Mom taking me to a charity basketball game played by members of the 1990 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds and ensuring that I got an autograph and picture with my favorite baseball player at the time, Reds first baseman Hal Morris.  I can still remember my Stepdad taking me to see Boomer Esiason, then my favorite football player, in his second-to-last game as both a Bengal and an NFL quarterback as he took on the Dallas Cowboys in Cincinnati in 1997.  And I can still remember my Dad taking me to the second game ever played in Paul Brown Stadium in 2000, a preseason tilt against the Detroit Lions.  Of course, I couldn’t tell you the score of that one, but I do remember getting pizza delivered to the hotel room after the fact and watching the tape-delayed replay of the game and analyzing and pontificating about the future of then-rookie quarterback Carson Palmer. To someone who is not a sports fan that tries to tell me “it’s just a game,” these life experiences are the reasons I give as to why sports are so important to me to begin with. And this is why when people ask how I have remained so faithful to my teams over the years with more disappointing losses than glorious victories to speak of I tell them it is easy: win or lose I wouldn’t trade the surrounding memories for the world.

That’s not to say my life revolves around sports or my happiness is dictated by the outcomes of a game because, let’s be honest, the end results in sports have little impact on the rest of our lives.  Yet, sports and sporting events have given me something to share with those who matter most in my life.  I am a Kentucky Wildcats fan (and alum) because of my maternal grandfather, as well as the majority of my Mom’s side of the family, and I grew up an Ohio State, Bengals, and Reds fan because of my parents and close friends.  So many sporting events have given me, my close friends, and my family members excuses to get together, suspend reality, and share in something that runs deeper than the game itself.  I can still remember aunts, uncles, and cousins from my Mom’s side of the family coming to town when I was a kid to take in a Reds/Cubs game at Riverfront Stadium (my cousin Derek is a die-hard Cubs fan, God bless him).  At this point I couldn’t tell you who won any of the games but I do recall having a great time with my family, and that feeling is not easy to recreate elsewhere and those moments are nearly impossible to replace.

These connections in my life aren’t just limited to watching or attending sporting events, either.  I also have plenty of positive memories through playing and being a part of sports in general over the years.  From participating in rec leagues as a child with close friends on my team and my Dad in the coach’s box, to running races and trading runner’s strategy with my Mom, to the countless memories I have on a golf course, these various levels of sports have, and continue to be, a huge part of my life.

In retrospect this post’s title is somewhat misleading as this had little to do with the original Freezer Bowl in 1982 and was largely about that 32-year journey through sports for me, my close friends, and my family since the last time the Bengals and Chargers met in the playoffs.  As we turn the calendar to a New Year and I turn the biological clock to 30 in the coming months, I look forward to the next 32-year long journey, and beyond, and what it will bring for me, my close friends, and my family and I’m excited to share it all with those I care about most.

And it all starts with a Bengals victory this Sunday.  Who Dey.

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Dad, Aaron, me, and Jackson at the Bengals vs. Jets playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2010

Uncle Pat, me, and Brandon tailgating for the Kentucky vs .Louisville football game on September 15, 2007

Uncle Pat, me, and Brandon tailgating for the Kentucky vs. Louisville football game on September 15, 2007

Me and Mom before the Ghosts N Goblins 5k on October 26, 2010

Me and Mom before the Ghosts N Goblins 5k on October 26, 2010

Melissa and me at the Georgia vs. Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena on March 4, 2009

Melissa and me at the Georgia vs. Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena on March 4, 2009

Josh and me at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament in Akron, Ohio on August 2, 2013

Josh and me at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament in Akron, Ohio on August 2, 2013

Me and (most) of the guys during our pseudo-annual golf outing at Hidden Lakes Golf Course on June 9, 2012

Me and (most) of the guys during our pseudo-annual golf outing at Hidden Lakes Golf Course on June 9, 2012

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