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Forecast For Vikings-Seahawks Game Reminds Former Player Of 'Freezer Bowl'


The forecast calls for temperatures to be around zero degrees in Minnesota on Sunday, when the Vikings host the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL playoffs. Of course, that's practically shorts weather compared to the conditions at the Freezer Bowl in Cincinnati 34 years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The coldest day on this date in the history of this city, perhaps the coldest an NFL game has ever been played - minus 59 wind chill.

MCEVERS: Minus 59 degrees - that AFC championship between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers was merely the second coldest game in NFL history by four degrees. And that suits Dave Lapham just fine. He was an offensive lineman for the Bengals that day. And today, he's the color analyst for the Bengals' radio broadcast. Welcome to the show.

DAVE LAPHAM: Thanks very much, Kelly.

MCEVERS: That morning when you woke up and you saw cold it was going to be, what were you thinking?

LAPHAM: Boy, I was thinking, I'm going to be crazy playing in this football game. We woke up and walked outside from the hotel that we stayed in the night before the game, and half the cars wouldn't start for the players. And at that point we knew it was going to be a different day.

MCEVERS: I mean, a lot of people who are listening probably haven't really even experienced that kind of cold before. Like, I've been in some cold places, but nothing like that. I mean, not just playing football, but, like, what is it like to just be walking around and breathing the air?

LAPHAM: Yeah, it's tough. You know, it almost burns your lungs when you breathe in that cold air. And we had practiced in it the day before that football game. It was brutally cold as well. But, you know, we didn't expect 59 below. But if it's 20 below, 30 below, 40, 50, 60 below, what's the difference?

MCEVERS: Right, at the point.

LAPHAM: When it's that cold, it's that cold.

MCEVERS: Did anyone ever suggest, like, postponing the game?

LAPHAM: The league contemplated that, and they decided to go ahead and let us play. And the officials said that we could put Vaseline on exposed skin, so I put it on my face. And at that point, you know, I thought, I'm not going to wear anything on my sleeves on. I'm going to go sleeveless, just go bare skin on my arms.


LAPHAM: Yeah, because I didn't want my opponent grabbing cloth. I had a guy that was a grabber and pass rush, and he'd grab and try to pull. So I didn't want any extra cloth on my arms, and so I went sleeveless. And all the offensive linemen, we all decided to go out there sleeveless. And it would help us block a little bit, and it would be a psychological advantage. They let us put Vaseline on our arms, and out there we went sleeveless. And it was quite a scene.

MCEVERS: So how did that work out you? I mean, what was it like to play in that game when it was that cold and nothing on your arms?

LAPHAM: Yeah, it was crazy. There's no question. I remember the first time I came off the line of scrimmage to throw a block in the running game, I thought I broke my arm in about seven places. It felt like it was so brittle. You know, I ran around for three-and-a-half, four hours that day and never broke a sweat. They had some heaters on the sideline, but I didn't want to get too close to that because I did after first time we are on the field and I wanted to marry it. I didn't want to go back out on the football field, so I stayed away from that. And it was just very tough. The hardest part, though, Kelly, was going in at halftime and getting warmed up and knowing how bad it was going to be when you went out there for the second half.

MCEVERS: What's your advice for the players in Sunday's game in Minneapolis?

LAPHAM: Just try to block it out, you know? Try to think warm thoughts (laughter). That's pretty much what we tried to do. And Forrest Gregg, our head coach, played in the coldest game by temperature. It was 13 below - Green Bay and Dallas. And he was an offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers. And he was our head coach for this football game, so his advice to us was, guys, this is going to be like going to the dentist. You don't really want to do it, but you've got to do it. You've got to go out there and play. Go out there and play as best you possibly can. That was his message.

MCEVERS: Nice. That's Dave Lapham, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals during 1982's Freezer Bowl. Thanks so much.

LAPHAM: You got it, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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