This weekend will feature two outdoor games that will see temperatures with windchill well below freezing. Some will argue that this is what makes NFL Playoff football great, but in a day where we are penalizing defensive linemen for every other hit on a quarterback and players are being fined tens of thousands of dollars for lowing their heads while running with the ball, why are we playing in temperatures that can literally kill someone if they aren’t properly covered.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of football in the snow. Some of the most iconic NFL Playoff moments in football history took place in the snow, but is it time to change? Let’s discuss.
How Cold is Too Cold?
According to the CDC, 0 degrees with a 10 mph wind chill will give an apparent temperature of -16 degrees. The graph above shows that someone who is exposed to that temperature for 30 minutes can get frostbite. This weekend, Kansas City is expected to have wind gusts at -20 degrees or solidly in the frostbite danger zone.
When there are tens of thousands of fans drinking and falling to peer pressure, someone is going to take off their shirt and end up doing something stupid. What about the players and coaches? Sure, they can stay covered, but you’ve got players coming up from Miami who are not conditioned or acclimated to cold temperatures. At some point, you’ve got to think that the cold is going to be more dangerous than hitting a QB.
NFL Playoffs Should Create Home Field Advantage, To a Point
Home-field advantage is a big part of any professional sports playoff. There is a difference, however, between creating a loud atmosphere and literally creating an atmosphere that will give an advantage. Football is the only sport where snow, rain, and cold temperatures can create an actual very real advantage for a team. For NFL Playoff teams, the question needs to be asked: is it going too far?
This particular point has nothing to do with this weekend’s games, but just the concept in general. A prolific passing offense shouldn’t be held back from realistically competing because snow or rain makes the passing game impossible. There is no other sport that does this. Hockey, baseball, basketball, you name it. When it gets to the playoffs, shouldn’t the advantage be limited to the crowd, as opposed to external forces that can literally handicap a team’s ability?
Could there be an argument made that a team should be able to adjust? Absolutely. But the counterpoint is why are we handicapping an NFL Playoff QB who is being paid tens of millions of dollars? No matter how good Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Lamar Jackson are, they absolutely will not play as well in the snow or rain as they would on a dry field. That’s just a fact.
If you’ve ever stood in the cold, snow, or rain, you treat your body differently than if you’re dry and warm. Dr. Muffadal Gumbera, an orthopedic surgeon and doctor said the following when asked about injuries in the cold:
“When cold, your body will do whatever it takes to make sure your core body temperature is consistent, allowing the limb muscles to lose the most heat by limiting blood flow to them. This internal regulation process makes the muscles in your legs and arms more prone to injury in cold weather.
Even if you don’t feel as though your limbs are noticeably cold, colder temperatures can impact your nerve chemistry and the way your muscles perform. Because muscular contraction and nerve impulses require a string of complex chemical reactions that occur more slowly under cooler conditions, your muscles perform less efficiently in the cold.
Less efficient muscles and a slower reaction time can lead to a higher rate of injury in the cold, especially during fast-paced activities like sports…”
In other words, when it’s cold, injury proneness goes up. When it’s wet, it’s easier to slip, and when going full speed, it leads to awkward falls and twists, also leading to injury. Again, in a world where defensive linemen are literally not making tackles on quarterbacks out of fear of getting penalized, why are they risking more injuries by the playing conditions, particularly in the NFL Playoffs when the stakes are so high?
Money Concerns For a Few NFL Playoff Games?
Would putting a retractable roof cost a team a ton of money for what would likely result in Kansas City only needing to use a roof once or twice per year? Yes, of course, but the cost starts to look a lot more manageable when you consider that tickets are going for $95 on the official Chiefs website. In a normal scenario, these tickets should be $195 at the least.
Assuming every NFL Playoff ticket would be going for $100 more than it currently is, Kansas City could be making $7.6 million dollars more than they will be. Throw in concession and other sales and that number could be pushing an extra $10 million dollars. That wouldn’t cover the cost of a roof, but eventually, it would pay for itself.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I love the look of a snow game, but the game is changing, and it may be time to seriously consider what is best for the game and especially the NFL Playoffs. Whether it’s the safety of the fans or players, leveling the playing field, or preventing injuries, there are just too many reasons not to justify moving every game indoors, or at least in a stadium with a retractable roof.