he National Football League considered as an option postponing today's American Football Conference championship game between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers because of bitter cold temperatures and a wind-chill factor of minus 54 at kickoff.
"We definitely talked about postponing and delaying the game," said Dr. Ralph Goldman of the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass., the man the NFL called early this morning to discuss the ramifications for players and spectators in the cold.
"I told them that as long as they took the proper precautions, they could get through it without too many problems. It was cold, but the players were producing enough heat. I also advised them to change clothes at halftime, especially wet socks, and they were told to drink warm liquids. The league was concerned about spectators, of course. But they also have the option of getting up and leaving."
Don Weiss, the NFL's executive director, was in Cincinnati and called Goldman this morning. He said the decision to go on with the game was made at about 11 a.m. after he spoke with Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who made the final decision.
"There was no serious consideration to not playing," Weiss said at halftime. "We just wanted to tell everyone involved how to prepare for this. The doctor (Goldman) gave us a number of points to go over with the teams.
"Of course, we consider the crowd. But this is a northern city. People know how to prepare for this. I'm sure the people who have waited 14 years for this game wanted it played." There were 13,277 no-shows.
Stadium security officials said about 60 people were treated for problems with the cold, mostly numbness in their feet.
Less than five minutes into the game, the cold knocked out some phone lines, severing communications between the San Diego coaches' booth and the field. Since the Chargers were off the air, the Bengals' coaches were required to remove their headsets.
"Football is played under any conditions," said Charger Coach Don Coryell. "Has been, always will be."
Added Forrest Gregg of the Bengals: "You think I want to play this game tomorrow? You're darned right I'm happy we played today."