GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jeff Giardinelli embraced the cold outside Lambeau Field dressed in a No. 8 Steve Young jersey, red San Francisco 49ers knit cap and Candlestick Park-themed scarf.
He’ll remember his first visit to Green Bay for a while, whether or not his beloved 49ers beat the Packers in the NFC wild-card game Sunday.
An arctic front pushing through the Midwest could make the game one of the coldest in NFL history. The meat-locker conditions put a chill on outdoor tailgating and had fans heading into Lambeau early to warm up with free coffee and hot chocolate.
“Refreshing,” Giardinelli, of Fresno, Calif., exclaimed as he walked across a parking lot with friend Jeff Morgan. “We suited up, we brought all the snowboarding gear we use out there and added to it. Without the wind, which isn’t here yet, we’re good. When it gets windy, we’ll be ready for it.”
Morgan wasn’t quite as convinced.
“He says ‘refreshing.’ I say it’s cold as heck,” said Morgan, also from Fresno. He’s not a 49ers fan but wanted to come this weekend for what he called the “Lambeau atmosphere.”
It was 5 degrees by kickoff at mid-afternoon, though a northwest wind made it feel like minus-10. Temperatures were to dip as the winds increased through the evening.
That apparently meant little to some of the players, The entire starting offensive line of the Packers were sleeveless under their green jerseys. A few 49ers went with the sleeveless look, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The coldest NFL game on record is the 1967 championship game, known as the “Ice Bowl” won by the Packers 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on New Year’s Eve. The temperature dipped to minus-13, and the wind chill that day was minus-48.
The game at 80,000-plus capacity Lambeau Field was sold out. But with tailgating more subdued because of winter’s blasts fans had to find other ways to celebrate before the showdown between the NFC rivals.
Some fans took to unusual measures to stay warm. At one house two blocks from Lambeau, revelers dressed in camouflage outdoor gear and gathered next to a fire pit set up in the driveway.
Greg Falkenberg and wife Laurie of Chippewa Falls went through all but two cans in a case of beer about 90 minutes before kickoff. They thought the alcohol could help keep them warm.
“You know beer in the cereal is good for you,” Falkenberg joked.
And no, cold would not be factor for them.
“Absolutely not,” Falkenberg said. “This is the Frozen Tundra.”
Back at a Lambeau lot, Craig Heling, of Waukesha, was setting up a camouflage hunting blind behind his white pickup truck, where he planned to tailgate next to a propane heater. It’s the kind of setup he uses to go ice fishing.
Four layers of clothing up top, two on the legs, Heling said. “Two wool socks on — right now, I feel comfortable,” he said.
His wife, Renee, was helping to set up inside the blind.
“Well, my nose is about frozen. It feels like — I jumped in the lake the other day — it feel about like that,” she said with a laugh. Heling was completely dry, unlike New Year’s Day when she took part in a “polar plunge” into Lake Michigan.
“It was cold,” she said. “It feels about like that right now.”