The first thing that happens is, your fingers get stiff. Not so stiff as to become useless, but stiff. You won’t bend them without thinking about it.

Then, the same thing will happen to your knees. Your toes will go from chilly, to cold, to uncomfortably cold, to numb. Too numb. They’ll tingle, and it may hurt a little later when your little piggies warm up.

One of the traditions of NFL playoff football is cold weather playoff football. Slow motion shots of players surrounded by a cloud of icy breath and cut-aways to shirtless nitwits in the stands are a staple of NFL playoff television coverage.

When the Dolphins and Steelers kick off Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, it will be around 17 degrees — before you factor in wind chill. The forecast in Green Bay for Sunday’s game between the Packers and Giants calls for a high temperature around 13 degrees. That’s cold, but it’s luau weather compared to many playoff games in Green Bay over the years.

Lambeau Field is the NFL’s walk-in freezer. The most famous cold game in NFL history was played there, on Dec. 31, 1967. The Ice Bowl. The game time temperature for that game — the NFL championship between the Packers and the Cowboys — was minus 15. Wind chill made it feel like minus 48.

A friend’s uncle was at the Ice Bowl, the famous NFL championship game between the Packers and Cowboys. He froze his sinuses and had to move to California because he couldn’t live in the cold anymore. Living in Wisconsin was no longer tolerable.

I’ve been to a few games played in the brutal cold, and I can tell you, it’s not as fun as it looks on television.

Jan. 10, 2004 was a Saturday. The New England Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in the AFC playoffs for a primetime game. The days leading up to the game were a nonstop loop of warnings and weather updates. It’s going to be cold, all the meteorologists said. If you go to the game, bundle up. I was fully stocked with hand warmers, foot warmers, long-johns, scarfs, hats, ski pants, snowboard mittens, wool socks, and if Gillette Stadium security would have allowed it, a barrel full of fire.

It didn’t matter. Cold seeps in. Cold finds a way.

While tailgating, longneck beers froze shut. One had to use one’s pinkie finger to break up the ice in the bottle neck before taking a swig. After a half hour of this, we moved the tailgate party to the car.

According to, it was 4 degrees at kickoff, with a minus 10 wind chill. I remember it being colder, but by the end of the first quarter, my frozen brain was running on auxiliary power, so memories might be fuzzy. You can smile and cheer for three hours, but you’re just putting a mask on the cold. The Patriots won, 17-14. If they had lost, I’d remember it as the night I froze for nothing. At least the win provided a payoff.

On Dec. 17, 2000, I went to Buffalo for a Patriots-Bills game. It was 35 degrees at kickoff. Not warm, but not uncomfortable, either. In the first half, a lake effect storm rolled in. The temperature dropped, drastically. Ralph Wilson Stadium concessions ran out of hot chocolate. We glazed the snow around our seats into a fine sheet of ice with the nonstop foot stomping in an effort to hold off the cold. It didn’t work. Cold finds a way. As an added bonus, the game went almost a full five quarters, ending when Adam Vinatieri made a 24-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in overtime. I left my portable grill in the snow in the parking lot, a relic of a warmer time.

I was at the Snow Bowl between the Raiders and the Patriots, the final game at Foxboro Stadium, but it wasn’t cold, only snowy. Not one of my memories of that night involves the phrase “it was cold, but…”

The NFL has a rich history of cold weather games. With the Giants back in Green Bay for the playoffs this weekend, it recalls the 2008 NFC championship game, in which the Giants won at Lambeau when it was minus 4, minus 25 wind chill. Find a photo of Giants coach Tom Coughlin taken that night. His face is the definition of chapped.

On Jan. 10, 1982, the San Diego Chargers went to Cincinnati for the AFC championship game. It was minus 9, with a minus 59 wind chill. From listening to some of the gibberish that comes out of then-Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts’ mouth when he works as a color analyst these days, it’s easy to think he still hasn’t recovered.

Tuesday (maybe the NFL should stop playing games on Jan. 10, because I see a pattern) is the one year anniversary of the most recent coldest game ever. Last season, the Seahawks went to Minnesota and beat the Vikings 10-9 in the playoffs. It was minus 6, minus 25 wind chill. This past season, the Vikings moved into their new domed stadium, where the only hand warming comes from high fives.

Next Saturday night, the Patriots will host a playoff game. The long range forecast calls for temps in the high 20s. I’d like it to be colder. What do I care? I’ll watch the game at home, where I know I won’t run out of hot chocolate.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM