Football games during the heat of the day have health consequences

Mark Hammontree

My Snapchat thermometer read only 84 degrees halfway into the second quarter, but I can only assume the actual temperature in the stands Saturday morning was closer to the 90s. I knew it would be pretty hot as I dressed with Gameday on in the background, and walking around before the game, it certainly felt warm and heavy but didn’t seem 
altogether unbearable.

Then I found my seat in the stadium shortly after kickoff. Whoa. The heat and sun hit me like an unblocked, blitzing linebacker. “This is going to be a long game,” I thought with a sense of dread. The game itself had pretty much the outcome everyone expected. The Tide manhandled the Owls in every aspect of the game. Blake Sims and Jake Coker split snaps and each played reasonably well. Amari Cooper had a nice numbers-padding 189 yards 
and a touchdown.

The offensive production of the first half kept the game from becoming too unbearably boring, but it was hard to completely concentrate on the game when I had to shift some focus to the sizzling burn of my arms and knees. The sun was unforgiving and the clouds that seemed to encircle Bryant-Denny never came in close enough to provide any shade, at least until the fourth quarter when the storm finally broke and a game that was over before it started was mercifully called.

I think this may have been the hottest game I’ve ever been to, and the effects were easy to see throughout the stadium. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the indiscriminate cruelty of the summer sun more on display. There was not a shirt, hat or pair of pants that was not visibly soaked from the sweat that began pouring out of people around kickoff. Nobody could even be embarrassed about it because we were all contributing to the pooling sweat and steam 
rising in the stadium.

But even worse than the sweaty clothes and uncomfortable sweaty-arm-brushes were the very real dangers the heat presented for the fans in the stadium. I witnessed an older man pass out in line for water during the second quarter. His friends and family rushed to get ice to try and cool his body down. I heard about at least two other instances of similar fainting spells, and I’m sure there were more throughout the stadium. Nobody is properly hydrated at 11 in the morning to sit and sweat in 90 degree heat for three plus hours.

People began leaving the game before halftime, and seemingly half the crowd never returned when the third quarter began. Why should they have? The game was a game of NCAA 2013 on easy, and the heat was downright dangerous. I left after the start of the fourth quarter; ironically, it was the rain that finally drove me out, but I had been ready to leave since 
the first quarter.

It was honestly a pretty sad first home game, and it certainly was avoidable. I have no complaints about our opponent; it’s fine with me to have a couple cupcakes on the schedule. I also understand that TV schedules–and the money that goes along with having a game televised–dictate game time, but honestly the SEC network wanting to broadcast the game was not a good enough reason to put the fans that attended the game in danger because 
of the mid-day heat.

The athletic department should put a little more value in their fans and show a little more responsibility when scheduling their games, otherwise you’ll just keep seeing empty stands. More importantly someone could truly get hurt. Save the morning games for October or November. In September, it’s just too hot.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education and language arts. His 
column runs weekly.