One of the more hallowed phrases in NFL history is "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." But it turns out that legendary coach Vince Lombardi didn't care for it.
That's the revelation of a Los Angeles Times piece detailing the origin of the "frozen tundra" phrase, one that sheds light on the NFL Films work of Steve Sabol, who coined the term and wrote it into his script for the Ice Bowl in 1967. Apparently, Lombardi both disliked the term on its misleading merits — tundra alone implies frozen ground — and because it was an embarrassing reflection on the Packers' field-heating system.
But Sabol says there's more to it than that. He said Lombardi was embarrassed that the $200,000 field-heating system he had pushed for didn't work. The field was supposed to be thawed, regardless of the weather.
"When I wrote it, he said that there was no way in the highlight film — which was a big deal back then, they showed it to all the stockholders," Sabol recalled. "He didn't want them asking about that heating system."
Just think: how would our concept of the NFL be different if that heating system had worked? No "frozen tundra," no Ice Bowl, and none of the surge in popularity that the Ice Bowl provided?
Lombardi may not have liked the phrase or the scenario that inspired it, but if he peers down from wherever his soul is to catch some of the Packers-Giants game today — one that will likely get a few "frozen tundra" descriptions — he'll probably recognized that it seems to have worked out for the NFL.