Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
And, the rate of warming is increasing.
The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.
The issue is especially acute in the southeastern region of the United States.
According to The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:
Since 1970, the U.S. Southeast has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. As warming continues, Florida is expected to be one of the hardest hit in the region. For unabated emissions, the number of 90 degree Fahrenheit days is expected to rise significantly. Throughout much of Florida, there were approximately 60 such hot days per year in the 1960s and 70s; by the end of the century, that is expected to climb to approximately 165 hot days.
From a sports perspective, these trends beg the following question: is it getting so hot outside that young people may end up choosing not to play football?
Why would they want to put themselves through two-a-days? Should they be put through two-a-days in temperatures as hot as we’re currently seeing?
With a choice, kids may opt out of putting themselves through hellish conditioning in a hellish environment. Or, parents may make the decision for them.
It may sound alarmist now, but not if you project the current weather trends, and their potential impact, into the future.
The weather’s future may affect young people’s future in football, which inevitably would affect the future of the game itself.
Florida and Texas are the powerhouses of American football and also continuously burning up outside, even hotter than the rest of the country. Major droughts just add to the sizzle. It can feel like there’s no air to breathe during parts of the day.
If August, September, and October continue to hang on to these temperature numbers, game time at night will be gruelingly difficult, as well.
While it’s true that all sports that practice outdoors are influenced somewhat by Global Warming, football involves different measures of practice and precision.
Practicing for football requires strenuous workouts using significant, sustained muscle energy for strength and power. It’s on the field in the heat where most of this physical work, and hitting, takes place. Add all the equipment, and it easy to see why the sport can be so laborious.
Why chance heat exhaustion or stroke? Sadly, there have been many instances of this in recent years.
Then, also, there is the concussion factor, which is one more reason that football is losing its appeal. Artificial turf doesn’t help matters any, either.
Kids have other things to do, and the Olympics showed how many other interesting sports there are to try. More and more of those sports are becoming accessible for youth.
Even African-American youths, the ones counted on to carry the sport of football, may begin to turn away from the sport. African-American youth are more heavily involved in all sports now, including skateboarding, swimming, tennis and others. In the past, opportunities for some sports were not afforded to them, or desired, but times have changed.
In the NFL, players will do what they can to make a buck, but the weather does crazy things to people. This heat can demotivate the best of them. Players may end up not playing as many years or may decide to do other things besides play football.
Injuries play a big part in this too. With less practice due to the heat, players could end up out of shape for game time and be more prone to misgivings with their bodies.
Attendance could be affected, also. If it’s going to be this hot, fans may decide the cool temperature of their home suits them fine at the start of the season, rather than sitting in the hot sun or dry heat.
So until the scientists figure out how to refreeze the polar caps from the north and the south … don’t be surprised if interest in American football slowly declines as the years move on and the temperatures keep inching upward.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com