SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
January 09, 1989
In the mists of Soldier Field the mistake-prone Eagles were beaten by the Bears—as best as anyone could see
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 09, 1989

The Game Was Lost In The Fog

In the mists of Soldier Field the mistake-prone Eagles were beaten by the Bears—as best as anyone could see

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham said he couldn't read the coverages because he couldn't see the safetymen. The Eagles' kicker, Luis Zendejas, said he kicked a field goal without knowing where the goalposts were. In the fourth quarter of Chicago's 20-12 victory over Philadelphia in Soup Bowl I, Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton turned to offensive guard Tom Thayer on the sideline and said, "What's the score?" Thayer told him 20-12. "Gee, I thought we were ahead by more," said Hampton.

He had to ask because he couldn't see the scoreboard in Chicago's fogbound Soldier Field on Saturday. From either sideline, any action beyond the center of the field disappeared. Occasionally, when the fog thinned just a bit, the hazy outlines of the near goalposts would emerge—and then disappear again.

CBS-TV cameramen ran out to the hash marks to take ground-level shots with their hand-held units, which got the only pictures that would show up on television at all. The public address announcer worked with a man on the field, communicating by walkie-talkie, and did play-by-play to let the people in the stands know what was going on. Chicago coach Mike Ditka said he had never seen anything like it—high school, college, player, coach—never.

The first 28 minutes were played in ideal conditions—sunshine and a balmy 30°. Then, with two minutes to go in the first half, a huge ball of fog rolled in from Lake Michigan with such suddenness that everyone thought a smoke bomb had gone off. The fog never lifted.

You couldn't see nuttin' nowhere. Only referee Jim Tunney, with the eyes of an eagle, could see what others could not. He claimed that he could see "both goalposts most of the time through the entire second half and that "we had no less than 50 to 75 yards visibility."

"Well, Tunney's the only one who could," said Eagles boss Norman Braman, who left the owners' box and went down to the sidelines in the third quarter. "I was right there and, believe me, those officials wouldn't have known if there were 22 players on the field or 16."

Braman thought the game "definitely should have been suspended." That's what he told Jim Noel, assistant to the president of the NFC, who had previously alerted him that "conditions might lead to the game being suspended."

"Then he read us the guidelines governing those conditions," said Braman, "and if anything fit the definition perfectly, that was it. But let's face it, the NFL would never suspend a game. Oh, I'll make some inquiries to the league, and they won't get answered."

Tunney explained that he was in touch with the NFL's executive director, Don Weiss, and that it was his job to advise Weiss as to whether the game was playable. If he had told Weiss it wasn't, the league would have had to decide whether to suspend it. But Tunney told Weiss the game was playable, and that was that.

Continue Story
1 2 3