Place blame for ‘frozen tundra’ where it belongs


With the Packers having been eliminated and still thawing out in Green Bay, none of the past weekend’s NFL playoff games were played on tundra. Which is unfortunate. Because playoff games are better on tundra.

The tundra in Seattle was wet, and the tundra in Denver was hard, or at least it appeared so when the Chargers attempted an onside kick late in the game. Nick Novak’s squibber bounced a mile high into mile high air, as if it had been dropped onto a granite tabletop.

But the playing surface in Denver wasn’t yellow-brown sawdust, like it was at Lambeau Field on Wild Card weekend. The announcers didn’t speak of frozen tundra. Not even Dan Dierdorf, who insisted the Patriots’ punter was a knucklehead for letting the football be batted out of the end zone for a safety, which is worth two points, instead of allowing himself to be tackled on the 2-yard line, which probably would have led to an easy Colts touchdown, which is worth six points.

Dierdorf was an offensive lineman, and perhaps that explains his logic on that one.

So the second playoff weekend was lacking frozen tundra, and that was fine by R-J reader Jim Wursthorn. After referring to frozen tundra twice in a column last week, I received the following email:

“As a regular reader of your column, I am disappointed that you don’t know the meaning of tundra. It is frozen ground. Therefore, frozen tundra is redundant ...”

Mr. Jim Wursthorn is 100-percent correct. Not even Dan Dierdorf could dispute it.

This is all the Sabols’ fault. Ed and Steve, not sure which one. Probably Steve. And John Facenda’s fault, too. The Voice of God.

Ed and Steve Sabol founded NFL Films. They are the ones who showed tight spirals spinning through the air in slow motion, and steam rising off the heads of offensive linemen on the sidelines, and they put it all to that cool, funky music with flutes and timpani and whatnot.

Frozen tundra entered the football vernacular after the Sabols’ take on the 1967 “Ice Bowl,” Dallas vs. Green Bay at Lambeau Field. It was in the script. And then John Facenda read it, like Zeus from the mountain top. I think this is why we mostly remember frozen tundra, and why we also remember the Doomsday Defense.

Remember after Super Bowl XII, when Facenda said “Denver’s determined offense still needed more restoration work from Norris Weese?” And “What it got instead was a demolition job ... from the D-O-O-O-M-S-day defense?”

Of course you remember that. But what if Buddy Hackett had said it? Or Truman Capote? Or Fran Drescher? It wouldn’t have resonated.

You probably would have forgotten about the Doomsday Defense, the way you forget something at Albertson’s when your wife sends you for groceries. And if it was Fran Drescher doing the voiceover, you probably would have flung an ashtray through the picture tube.

That is why when it comes to frozen tundra, Facenda is complicit, too. And it’s too bad he isn’t still alive, because he could make a bazillion dollars by leaving outgoing messages on people’s voicemail saying that Al and Peggy aren’t home.

So it’s not necessary to describe tundra as being frozen, just as it isn’t necessary to say a person falls down. A person can’t fall up, except maybe in that movie where George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are astronauts trying to get back to Earth on the space shuttle.

But you have to concede that people say “falling down” all the time and it sounds OK.

And if the announcers simply had said the Cowboys and Packers had played football on a frozen field, it wouldn’t have been as memorable, and even had they referred to the frozen field as “tundra” it wouldn’t have been as memorable. Not even had John Facenda pronounced every consonant and vowel in tundra.

We, as football fans, like our tundra as we like our peas: frozen.

But I just wanted Mr. Jim Wursthorn to know that he was right, that he will get no argument here about frozen being redundant when it comes to tundra, nor from the late, great Vince Lombardi, who coached in the “Ice Bowl” and was known to edit Steve Sabol’s scripts.

Lombardi, the story goes, was first to tell NFL Films that frozen was redundant, and the tundra reference was edited to “the ice-bucket chill of a Wisconsin winter.” Which is pretty descriptive, too.

John Facenda didn’t add the final resonance until five years later when the script was re-recorded, and then it was the grammarians and not Norris Weese who ran smack into doomsday.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski