Tomorrow, the Bears and Vikings will match up on Monday Night Football in the first outdoor game in Minnesota in 29 years. And some Bears fans are probably thinking, "Bear weather! This is just the thing the Bears need."
Anyone who watched (or attended -- hope you're thawed out by now) last Sunday's game at Soldier Field against the Patriots should think twice about the notion that the Chicago Bears play better in cold and snowy conditions. The meme appears to have begun during the Bears' Super Bowl season of 1985. That year, they played two playoff games at Soldier Field, on Jan. 5 and 12, 1986, first against the Giants, then the Rams.
They won both games by shutout -- 21-0 over New York, 24-0 over the then-Los Angeles Rams -- and indelible images of snow flying while the dominant Bears shut down the two teams, nearly doubling their yards gained both times, and making their opponents look like they didn't even belong on the snowy lakeshore of Chicago.
Thus was born the myth of "Bear weather" -- the idea that the Chicago Bears play better when it's cold and/or snowy out. It can't come from the idea that real bears do well in winter, because they mostly hibernate -- except for the polar variety, and the Chicago Bears seem more modeled after the grizzly version.
I say it's a myth because, well, the idea that the Bears play better in brutal wintry conditions is just not true. I checked all the Bears' results in home games played after Dec. 1 since 1985 -- those would be the coldest games of the year, the ones most likely to be played in "Bear weather". Since 1985, the Bears are 121-78 in all home games -- a .608 winning percentage. That percentage actually goes down in games played after Dec. 1 at home -- it's 31-20 (.596), along with 3-3 in playoff home games since 1985, all of which were played (obviously) after the first of December.
But what about the Vikings? Since 1981, they've played all of their home games indoors; they can't be used to cold weather. That's true, but in the era when they were dominant in the NFL, the Vikings used the brutal Minnesota winters to their advantage. I checked Vikings results from 1969 -- the year they began becoming a perennial playoff team -- through 1981, the last year they played at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota. That period includes all four Super Bowls the Vikings played in (and lost; they haven't been in the Super Bowl since 1976).
Those dominant Vikings teams played better on the "frozen tundra" than their overall percentage. From 1969-81, the Vikings were 127-61-2 overall (.676), but 12-2 in home games after Dec. 1 and 7-3 in home playoff game (19-5, overall percentage .792). Those were, obviously, good teams that could win anywhere, but they were better during their dominant era outdoors than the Bears were in theirs.
So let's, once and for all, stop calling cold and snowy weather for football games "Bear weather". It's false. Oh, and after they spent the week shoveling and plowing and heating TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis so it could host the game outdoors, guess what the forecast is for Monday?
A winter storm watch with six to eight inches of snow expected by Tuesday morning. Dress warm, Bears, and bring your best game, because you're going to have to play in similar conditions to the game against the Patriots.