The first sign that this was going to be an inauspicious weekend for the Big Red came when their Ozark Airlines charter touched down on the icy runway at Appleton International Airport—yes, that’s what they call it—less than 24 hours before their Super Bowl Tournament game against the Green Bay Packers.
The pilot tried the brakes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. The plane kept skidding down the runway. I gripped the seat handles tightly while behind me several Cardinals players screamed out in terror.
Finally—miraculously—the plane came to a stop. When it made a left turn to head for the terminal, it was only about 15 yards from a chain link fence at the end of the runway.
Shaken but safe, the players and coaches departed the plane—thanking the pilot as they exited—and boarded buses that would take them to the Paper Valley Hotel (where most Packers opponents stayed) in Appleton.
Later coach Jim Hanifan held an impromptu press conference in his hotel suite. Slipping into my smartass mode, I asked Hanifan what effect the plane landing might have on the players’ performance the following day.Continue reading