Thirty-one years later and it still lives on in Bengal lore. Jan. 10, 1982, AFC Championship Game versus the San Diego Chargers. Minus-nine degrees, minus-59 degrees wind chill - the coldest game in NFL history.
The Freezer Bowl.
The legend of the Freezer Bowl lives on as any legend does, through story telling. The beers were drinkable for only a few minutes. Standing on the frozen concrete chilled fans from the toes, except for those wise enough to stand on beaten newspapers. The food was ice. Ffrom the whipping winds to the metal guard rails, everything was described as a piercing knife.
Jim Rohrer of Cincinnati.com remembered the game earlier this year for its 30th anniversary. He writes how head coach Forrest Gregg prepared his team for the painful game, and lineman Dave Lapham's account of the Chargers' shocked faces as the Bengals offensive line took the field without sleeves. But what carries the game's memory most is comment section filled with accounts of fans who were there.
My father and I were there. We had seasons from day 1 and kept those seats for the playoffs. Great seats 35 yard line 29 nine rows up - field level. As soon as we got out of the car, we parked on 5th street, the wind hit us and my father commented that this might not be such a good idea.
But we went in and like some others I had to go into the bathrooms about every 1/2 hour to get warm. There wasn't much you could do to even stay slightly not freezing! But I will never forget the look on the faces of the Chargers - even the ones in face masks - when the Bengals linemen came out in short sleeves.
I was there. I had 4 season tickets in section 232. My wife and friends would not go with me. I had wool socks, shoes, stuffed into golashes wraped in Saran. 2 pairs of jean, many layers of shirts and sweaters, ski jacket and ski mittens. My feet were on 2 Sunday Enguirers. . .I remember the applause...woof..woof...the sound of gloves clapping. I wasn't that cold. I think I could have taken -60. I loved every minute of it.
I was eleven years old with my dad and it is still the best football memory of my life. That is what its all about. Cold, dirty, nasty dudes fighting for their lives on every play...awesome. I would do it again tomorrow.
On the field, the Bengals controlled the game both mentally and physically. By all accounts, before the game's first play, the Chargers defense stood wide-eyed in a state of frozen shock as they watched the Bengals sleeveless offensive line approach as if blowing smoke. They couldn't shake the cold, and the Bengals capitalized, jumping out to a quick 17-0 lead and eventually winning, 27-7.
How will that compare to Sunday's game? It won't. San Diego is expecting temperatures in the mid-60s. The Chargers' season has been defined by mental weakness, blowing leads late in the game, lacking the resolve to gut out close victories and last week, allowing the Baltimore Ravens to convert a 4th-and-29 where all they needed was a stop for the win. The 2012 Chargers are a far cry from the warriors that braved the cold in 1982.
And for the Bengals...well, they still have No. 14 under center.