Quarterback not the main centre of attention this year

Super Bowl already putting big pressure on weatherman hired by NFL

Workers attempt to clear a snow-covered MetLife Stadium in New Jersey last week. Photograph: New York Times

Workers attempt to clear a snow-covered MetLife Stadium in New Jersey last week. Photograph: New York Times

Tue, Jan 28, 2014, 01:00


There comes a moment in so many memorable games when a team will turn its anxious gaze to one player and ask a simple question: You got this covered? In the National Football League, it is likely to be the kicker, quarterback or running back. On Sunday, it was the weatherman.

At 8am, John Bateman, a meteorologist hired by the league, made his first presentation to some two dozen executives who are looking to him to tell them what to expect on Super Bowl Sunday.

“Not much pressure, right?” Bateman (43) said wryly. Every morning in the week leading up to the game, Bateman will face this group that is leading the multimillion-dollar enterprise, and with each passing day, it will expect ever more precision.

It is the first time the Super Bowl has been held outdoors in a cold-weather environment, and it comes during what has already been a cruel winter, first with the “polar vortex” plunging the city and much of the country into a deep freeze, and then a storm that dropped a foot of snow in New York, and then yet another blast of arctic air.

While long-range forecasts are unreliable, most forecasters agree that it should be the coldest Super Bowl ever, well below the two degrees mark set in New Orleans in 1972. With so much focus on the weather, the week leading up to the game is already shaping up to be something of a full-employment act for forecasters.

In addition to Bateman, there are meteorologists working with state and local officials, television and radio forecasters from around the country, and an army of weather fanatics likely to parse every possibility on the Internet.

Bet on weather
For those who want to bet on the weather, the online gambling site Bovada has set up odds on whether snow will fall, the temperature at kick-off and the coldest temperature during the game. But it is Bateman who has to face officials and tell them the good, the bad and the unknowable.

A week out, they might accept a forecast that offers percentages and likelihoods. Five days out, not so much. By Friday, they will want to know the shape of any impending snowflakes.

Bateman said he was told to prepare “whiz bang” charts that detail everything from wind speeds to temperature trends. But even with ever-increasing computing sophistication leading to more accurate forecasts, the weather is difficult to predict with the exactitude of a Peyton Manning pass.

The league does not just want to know if it will snow, but when, exactly, the first flakes will fall, how fast they will accumulate and when, exactly, they will end. Officials do not want just average temperatures for the day. They want to know how cold it will be at the 6:30pm eastern time kick-off.