How Green Bay Got Its 'Frozen Tundra'

The meaning of the phrase and the game it came from, shouldn't be forgotten.

For you professional football aficionados, two questions for the Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers game this weekend: How many times will the Fox sportscasters allude to the "frozen tundra" and what's the origin of the term ?

Sunday's game in Green Bay, Wisconsin, weather reports predict, will be played in zero or sub-zero degree temperatures with an even more biting wind chill.

The forecast brings back memories of the famous Ice Bowl 46 years ago, between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys for the National Football League championship. The game began with temperatures below zero degrees and it fell below -15 degrees before the final gun.

There certainly will be parallels made in Sunday's game including references to the "frozen tundra." This term was coined by NFL Films impresario Steve Sabol in his film on the game. It was articulated by the baritone voice of announcer John Facenda and became one of the most memorable and oft-quoted phrases in sport. Describing the "cold grounds" or "frozen turf" wouldn't have conjured up the same image.

My guess is there'll be at least a half dozen "frozen tundra" references this Sunday afternoon. Let's hope this game is as compelling as the Ice Bowl.

The Packers were trailing in the final minutes on that bitterly cold day; they drove down to the Cowboys' one-yard line with 16 seconds remaining and called a time out.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay coach, and his quarterback Bart Starr decided Starr would sneak it over the goal line on the final play if the right guard, Jerry Kramer, could get a foothold on the frozen tundra. Kramer said he could, Starr scored, the Packers won, and the game and phrase became part of the Packers lore.

This Sunday afternoon, watch the Packer and 49er right guards.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.