On a dreary day like this one, an imaginative writer from Oakland named Jack London might have stared across frozen Lake Erie from the top of Municipal Stadium and sworn he could see the Yukon. After all, Canada is only 50 miles due north.
The weatherman has dealt a psychological bruise to the Raiders, who are from the much more temperate climes of California, and the Cleveland Browns, their opponents in Sunday's AFC playoff game (WRC-TV-4, 12:30 p.m.) were making the most of it, if with tongue in cheek.
Lyle Alzado, the clubhouse comedian and resident defensive leader of the Browns, chortled while envisioning fellow Brooklynite Al Davis of the Raiders trying to think of some way to combat the subfreezing temperatures and said with a grin: "The weather won't matter. We're going to destroy the Raiders, anyhow."
Calvin Hill, after conducting chapel services with Don Cockroft for the Browns this morning, said with a straight face, "It won't be that bad if the wind isn't too strong."
The wind is predicted to be 10 to 20 miles per hour, with a high temperature of 10 degrees and a 40 percent chance of precipitation, which can only mean more snow. The windchill factor almost certainly will be well below zero.
Coach Sam Rutigliano took one look at the snow covering the tarpaulin on the playing field today, and sent his players home without a workout.
Coach Tom Flores of the Raiders exposed his team to the elements in a workout at Baldwin-Wallace University. Two security policemen were on hand to keep snoops in the media from learning how the raiders might block out all perceptions about the weather.
Rutigliano wasn't underestimating the reputed genius of Oakland's Al Davis, whom he followed to Erasmus High in Brooklyn, years later. "He was ahead of me in more ways than one," the coach said. "He's the kind of a guy who would take your eyeballs, telling you that you didn't need them, or didn't look good with them. He even knows the serial number of the unknown soldier."
When the Raiders arranged to send for the oil-heated "Hot Seats" leased by the Eagles for their playoff game in Philadelphia today, Rutigliano quickly made it clear that he was not interested in such comforts. It is suspected he might have known that the National Football League requires that such paraphernalia be made available to both teams.
Rutigliano was borrowing a page from Minnesota Coach Bud Grant's amateur psychology text. Grant used to forbid his Vikings from using such devices. In fact, some of his former players, like running backs Bill Brown and Dave Osborn, used to wear short-sleeved jerseys to play games with the opposition's collective mind.
In 1968, before the Raiders met the Jets in a freezing playoff game, Davis overnight had a shelter built over the Oakland bench. But NFL operatives tore it down before the game because there wasn't one for the jets, too.
The Browns are favored by three points on the accuracy of quarterback Brian Sipe's throws to Dave Logan, Reggie Rucker and Ozzie Newsome, and the running of fullback Mike Pruitt, which took them to the Central Division title in the American Conference.
The Raiders' hopes ride on rejuvenated quarterback Jim Plunkett's passes to Cliff Branch, Bob Chandler, and Raymond Chester, plus the running of Kenny King and Mark van Eeghen.
But mostly, the Raiders will be looking for linebacker Ted Hendricks and interception specialist Lester Hayes to break the rhythm of Cleveland's offense.