This Day In History: December 31

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On December 31, 1988, the Chicago Bears defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-12, in a playoff game plagued by a thick fog starting late in the first half. Playing conditions at Soldier Field in Chicago become problematic, and fans in attendance and television viewers struggle to see the game, dubbed the "Fog Bowl" by media.   

The freak conditions were caused when cold air over Lake Michigan was blown by a breeze toward warm air at Soldier Field on the lakefront, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists said the fog was so thick that it was like having clouds on the ground.

“It will be remembered as the best game you never saw,” Fred Mitchell wrote in the first sentence of his game story in the next day’s Chicago Tribune.

"We couldn't see anything—absolutely nothing," CBS-TV play-by-play broadcaster Verne Lundquist told the Associated Press. "We had to look at the TV just like everyone else." Lundquist's color man, Terry Bradshaw, told viewers the game should have been suspended.

Bears defensive end Al Harris likened the bizarre conditions to playing in a cemetery. "I never saw anything like this," he said.

The NFL considered suspending the game, but the league ultimately left the decision to referee Jim Tunney and the NFL commissioner's representative.

"We felt the playing conditions were satisfactory," Tunney said. "They were really tough in the middle of the third quarter ... No word came to me that either coach wanted to stop play." 

Other NFL games have been plagued by thick fog. In 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts, fog was so thick for a game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons that NBC relied on its Skycam for most in-game coverage instead of the usual sideline cameras. 

The week after the Fog Bowl, the Bears lost to eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.