SPORTS WATCH
Effects of Climate Change May Be Evident on Gridiron
by Gus Jarvis
Sep 15, 2011 | 731 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that I’ve finally been able to submerse myself in weekend-long football binges full of college and NFL action, I have noticed a few trends occurring on and off the field. I’m wondering, through those trends, if we are starting to see the effects of global warming on sports, in the way they are played now and how they will be played in the future.

In the first two weekends of serious football for both college and pro games, have you ever seen so many players go down on the field because of leg cramping? And in one weekend, have we ever seen so many game delays because of lightning and severe thunderstorms? I think the answer is no on both accounts, and it leaves us the question as to whether or not climate change may have something to do with these new trends.

Now I know there is this big dumb debate going on around the country as to whether or not global warming is real or not – a Left versus Right conflict that never seems to end. I don’t claim to be any sort of expert in the climate change debate nor do I pretend to understand all aspects of climate change. I do, however, tend to agree and seriously listen to the vast, vast majority of scientists and experts that believe humans are having an impact on climate and it could be detrimental to our survival on this planet.

I understand what many climate-change naysayers constantly tout, that humans have only recorded a hairline fraction of Earth’s climate history, so how could we even begin to understand what this climate trend is actually doing in the big picture. I get that argument, but I think it’s a cop-out. It’s nothing more than burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best.

I mean, what if the climate change naysayers are wrong?

I guess I would much rather have the majority of climate change scientists and experts proven wrong in the long run. For some reason, though, I don’t think that’s the reality in the way things are shaping up. And if you don’t agree with me, I’m sure another episode of head-in-the-sand Hannity will comfort you.

OK, back to sports. I have never seen so many players go down on the field with cramping issues. While it’s a pretty normal occurrence for both college and pro players to be dehydrated in the midst of hot, early season games, the past two weekends of football have been overwhelmingly full of dehydrated players cringing with leg cramps. In the NFL, perhaps it’s just a result of having very little conditioning during the off-season due to the lockout. And perhaps, for both college and pro players, the cramps are a result of finally playing at 110 percent for a full game.

I don’t know what it is, but during college kickoff weekend in the five or so games I watched, there seemed to be a constant issue with cramping at a rate I’d never seen before. And a few of these games were at night under the stars. With temperatures now going to extremes and being just a few degrees warmer than they were, say, 10 years ago, those games held in the South, or even in the humid Midwest, are going to be that much tougher to survive without being completely dehydrated.

On the NFL’s kickoff weekend it was much the same, with team trainers constantly working on leg cramps. It was in that fantastic Sunday night matchup between the Jets and the Cowboys where dehydration became a key part to the game. The head-to-head fight between Cowboys second-year receiver Dez Bryant and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was one for the ages that night. Just watching these two fight it out play after play was worth the price of admission. Both players were going 150 percent throughout the game and dehydration certainly played a role as they played in the muggy New York heat. Both had cramps and both received intravenous fluids during halftime. (The Cowboys confirmed that Bryant received an IV, but the Jets didn’t confirm Island Revis did, but we all know that’s what he was doing.) Revis got the best of Bryant in the end, because it looked like poor Dez was running with lead weights tied to his feet. Dez was really tired and couldn’t make much of an effort when his trashy quarterback Tony Romo threw a game-ending interception in the fourth quarter.

If early season games continue to get hotter and muggier, will IVs be the halftime of the future? Can you imagine having an IV kit ready at each player’s locker for a quick halftime fill up? Seems extreme, but I wonder how many players are already being rehydrated in that fashion. Both Dez and Darrelle needed it, and from the looks of other players, they could have used an IV as well. If it keeps getting hotter in the opening weeks of football, maybe the season opener should be move to, say, Nov. 1?

But it wasn’t just the heat that affected football. Over Labor Day weekend, there was a barrage of games that were delayed because of severe weather. Fans were evacuated out of Notre Dame’s stadium twice during its game against South Florida because of lightning. Soaked-to-the-bone Wolverine fans waited through rain delays before they were evacuated from the Big House because of lightning in the third quarter. Michigan and Western Michigan eventually agreed to end this game with 1:27 in the third quarter, with Michigan winning 34-10.

A weather-related stadium evacuation also occurred at the University of Iowa and then on Sunday, fans were cleared from West Virginia’s stadium because of heavy rains and lightning. That game, like the Michigan game, was called in the fourth quarter because of unsafe conditions.

A weekend later, Penn State officials were planning a way to cancel or suspend their game against Alabama in case flooding became an issue. The severe water-logged weather went on while drought conditions continue to devastate farmers and fuel wildfires in Texas.

What happened in Notre Dame, Michigan, etc., could be just one damn big storm and that’s all there is too it. No reason to worry. Or it could be the effects of global warming. I don’t know.

I do know that it’s worth noting in the back of your mind. And if weekends of weather delays and cancelled games become more and more of a problem for us football fans, maybe there’s something too it? Maybe we should take note every time a player receives fluids through an IV during games. What should we think when there are IV stands on the sidelines behind team benches? Maybe we should take note?

Maybe, in this crazy country of ours, global warming’s effects on football will actually be noticed? The great game of football is one thing every patriotic American loves, right? Maybe football will be the catalyst for getting serous on fighting global warming? Just maybe, changing the game of football will be enough to pull some heads out of the sand?

Obliterating the environment in which we live is one thing. Hurting the game of football is quite another.
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