By Don Russell
They were laughing at us in Minneapolis this week when the NFL canceled the Vikings-Eagles game because of snow.
One Twin Cities columnist mocked, "Oooooo, six inches of snow. Oooooo, I'm scared. Better call off the game and call in the National Guard. Heck, in Minnesota we dump six inches of snow out of our socks at the end of the day."
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe declared, ". . . If this was in the Midwest, there would be no way that this would be delayed."
"You ever hear of snow plows?" more than one Vikings fan blogged.
Yo, I'm as much of a believer in Bednarikian fortitude as the next Eagles fan. I still proudly show strangers the scars where my keister froze to a metal bench on the top row of the Vet's 700 Level on a 17-degree January afternoon during the 1981 Eagles-Vikings playoff game. I eat raw meat before games. I don't wear a helmet. And I regularly pray to Bucko Kilroy, the former Eagle who - accused of biting an opponent's nose back in the '50s - replied, "I didn't bite his nose. I bit his ear."
So I won't have a bunch of Minnesotoids questioning Philly's ability to withstand Mother Nature.
We should be used to their slander by now, I suppose. Every time a snowstorm hits an urban area, you hear the same drawl from grizzled hayseeds from out in West Bumpus. Eh-yup, you city slickers just don't know how to handle a snowstorm. Why, up here we don't let a little snow keep us from our daily chores. Back in '63, we had 12 feet of snow in July, and we still held our county fair!
In fact, when snow hits a major city, it is always worse than when it hits a smaller town, for the simple reason that cities have more people who have to contend with the foul weather.
Pile two feet of snow on some country lane, and who cares? There are eight people in the zip code, and they'll just hunker down till spring.
Drop six inches on I-95, and the number of people trapped in cars could constitute an entire congressional district. They're headed for jobs that are the engine for an economy that sustains millions.
Minneapolis isn't exactly Podunk, but the same math applies.
Philadelphia has four times the population of Minneapolis - about 1.5 million people compared to 375,000. That's four times the number of people moving from one place to another, four times the number of cars stuck in snowdrifts, four times the number of vehicles trying to find a parking space.
And Philadelphia does it on only twice the amount of road miles, based on streets department stats from both municipalities. That means our city streets are twice as congested as Minneapolis's.
When you visit the Midwest, you marvel at the miles of open highway. Cars cruise freely. Drivers grin. According to the U.S. Census, the average daily commute in the Twin Cities is under 20 minutes. In the Delaware Valley, it's nearly a half-hour. The daily backup on the Schuylkill Expressway is as foreign to Twin City dwellers as a good cheesesteak.
One other thing: In this age of climate change, Philadelphia actually gets more snow than Minneapolis.
Last year, we were buried by nearly 80 inches. Minneapolis had under 40. Remember that 17-inch storm that collapsed the Minnesota Metrodome earlier this month? That was the city's largest snowstorm in 20 years. Philly has had four 20-inchers in that span.
And, yes, we do plow the damn stuff. Last year, Philadelphia taxpayers spent about $11 million on snow removal. Minneapolis spent about $7 million.
Does all of this mean the NFL was right to cancel Sunday's game?
Yo, I like watching football in the snow as much as Bill Bergey enjoyed sacking Fran Tarkenton. But I was steaming when I heard our governor pander to Eagles fans by claiming the cancellation was "part of the wussification of America."
"We've lost a lot of our pioneer spirit," Gov. Rendell said in one TV appearance. "We used to be a hearty, strong frontier people, and we had that spirit that we could do anything that we set our minds to."
This from a guy who attended prep school in New York City.
Perhaps the governor was referring to the spirit of those hearty Midwesterners who headed for California in the winter of 1846-47 only to find themselves trapped in a blizzard. They were strong frontier people, too, with a fine pioneer spirit (but apparently no snow plows).
They went by the name of Donner.