Was Playing A Football Game In KC’s Bitter Cold The Wrong Choice?
Five days after the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins in Kansas City's frozen Arrowhead Stadium we're seeing the data about just how bad, or not bad, the situation was for the Chiefs Kingdom faithful who braved bitter cold temperatures to watch the game.
I skipped it. Heck, my girlfriend who was able to score a ticket from her brother knew enough to not even ask me if I wanted to go. She knew my answer up front, "have fun at the game, and say hi to your brother and nephew for me." It certainly wasn't the company that kept me from going. It was the weather.
We went to the Christmas game at Arrowhead, and honestly, aside from being gray and windy at the top of the stadium, it was football weather. It wasn't pleasant weather, but the weather was certainly better than the play on the field. That said, after tailgating and walking around outside of Arrowhead and then watching three-quarters of the game, yeah, my girlfriend and I were ready to head to the car, listen to Mitch Holthus call the rest of the game, and warm up.
Now, some of that had to do with how bad the Chiefs were playing that day. They didn't have it. Had it been a closer game? Yeah, I think we would have been more inclined to stick it out. That said if regular football weather and a poorly played game were enough to drive me to my car... yes, let someone more committed to seeing the game in person enjoy it. I was quite content to watch on TV while munching on a plate of wings and onion rings. Not freeze my keister off to witness history.
So how bad was it? Multiple reports, including one from KCTV 5, say the Kansas City Fire Department's EMTs, who had ambulances stationed at the stadium, responded to a total of 69 calls. That included fans both in the parking lots and inside of the stadium. Of the dozens of fans treated, 15 were transported to hospitals. Three were treated for frostbite and seven others needed treatment for hypothermia. Additionally, the Kansas City Fire Department told KCTV 5 that half of their calls were for hypothermia. These numbers, by the way, don't include fans who utilized first aid stations in the stadium.
Of course, this has led to calls for the rolling roof to be built over Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. As well as some questions about whether the NFL should have postponed or moved the game.
Mythically, for those of us who live in the Midwest, you play the game in whatever weather mother nature gives you. Cold, play the game. Snow, play the game. Fog Bowl, play the game. I mean would anyone have blinked if the game was in Buffalo? Or Green Bay? I worked at Solders Field for Bears games in the late 80s, and I remember plenty of games that were played in the bitter cold. I doubt the story is much different for Chiefs games at Arrowhead.
So let's break it down. Google says 71,492 people saw the Chiefs play at Arrowhead on Saturday. The Kansas City Fire Department had 69 calls. If they looked over four fans on each of those 69 calls. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume EMTs may have looked over or treated more than one fan per call, that's 276 fans.
The University of Kansas Health System and the Chiefs haven't disclosed how many fans sought some sort of treatment at one of the stadium's seven first aid stations, according to WBAL.com. So I won't try to speculate there.
Yet, even if between the Kansas City Fire Department and the first aid stations medical personnel saw 2,000 fans, and I'm just pulling a number out of the air, should the NFL, The Chiefs, or Kansas City's public officials done something to move the game, or play it in more tolerable conditions? That's still over 69,000 fans who showed up and managed to take care of themselves.
Of course, if just one fan had died at the stadium because of the cold, that might change the narrative altogether. Because while football is fun. And part of football I believe is the elements, it's still only a game. Yes, if you're part of the Chiefs Kingdom, or the Bills Mafia, or a Green Bay Packers fan it is a little more of a lifestyle thing, but it is still just a game.
So was it the wrong choice to play Saturday? Should the game have been moved? Putting off the game was probably not the right choice. Sunday or Monday's weather wasn't any better than Saturday's. Moving the game to Indianapolis, which someone floated, would take home-field advantage away from the Chiefs, not to mention playing in a dome might have benefited the Dolphins who haven't played well in the cold.
The dome in St. Louis? That's intriguing, as many Chiefs fans could probably get to St. Louis. So there's a good chance the Chiefs would have kept home-field advantage. The downside, once again, the Dolphins wouldn't be playing in the cold. Not to mention, do you want fans journeying for three hours in bitter-cold temperatures between cities?
The one logical thing the NFL could have done was make it a day game. It might have shortened the parking lot tailgating, and it would have been slightly warmer for fans. A Noon start would have seen a temperature of 2 above and some snow, a start in the 3 O'Clock hour would have seen a temperature of 0. The 7:10 PM start had a temperature of -6. Those numbers are from Weather Underground. That said when it's that cold, would any fewer people have wound up needing medical attention? I don't know.
My bottom line, perhaps the NFL should have played the game at Arrowhead earlier in the day. Moving the game to a neutral site would have been unfair to the Chiefs, and might have made it easier for the Dolphins. The NFL might have preserved home-field advantage by playing in the dome in St. Louis if that was even an option, yet it still would have made it easier for the Dolphins. Not to mention, playing at Arrowhead in that weather, it was a great tune-up for the Chiefs as they head to Buffalo, and whatever nasty weather awaits them and the Bills.
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