50 For 50, No. 46: Night Games, For Heat's Sake

A confession: I didn't go to any football games in 2010, partially because I work weekends. But the idea of night games, for heat's sake is still good enough to be part of our 50 For 50 series.

In 2009, I went to the Charleston Southern game (7 p.m. kickoff in September), the Tennessee game (3:30 p.m. kickoff in September) and the Florida State game (7 p.m. kickoff in November). While the Florida State game was the only one with temperatures I would even vaguely describe as pleasant, sitting through the Tennessee game — which was frustrating as a football game alone — was a rather painful experience, while the Charleston Southern game was much more tolerable.

And you know what? Making sporting events more tolerable and enjoyable should be one of the focuses of any group involved in sporting events, so I'm glad that both the Florida Atlantic and UAB games will be night games this year.

I'm not going to complain that loudly about going to a Florida game, ever: I like watching the Gators play, and I can deal with the heat and conditions with little fussiness. But I seldom drink, know how to buy fluids and replenish myself with them, and am not dealing with a family.

For people who tailgate and pregame and head out to the cauldron that is The Swamp on a 95-degree day, a noon or afternoon kickoff can be literally dangerous. For families with small children, the heat can be hazardous, too. And we know full well that heat and alcohol can be combustive in ways beyond mere dehydration.

Some will argue that later games give those who are inclined to overindulge more time to do so; I say that the longer timeline is probably better than compressed ones that encourage more drinking earlier in the day. Some would say late games force the kids who come to games to stay up late; I'd argue that the child being brought to a Florida game is probably being brought by parents who have weighed the benefits to bringing her or him against the drawbacks.

I also think having late games rather than midday games gives the national college football fan — selfishly, that's me, sure, but plenty of other Gators fans fall into this category — a chance to enjoy football beyond Gainesville. There are tailgates and bars with televisions and smartphones with the Internet, but it's not quite the same as the pseudo-newsroom experience sitting on a couch with a laptop and a remote and air conditioning, one that a lot of fans enjoy.

That's my argument: night games can be better for fans who go to games both at and before them, and it has to do with the heat in the South in the early fall. And I'm glad UF appears to be moving in that direction. The Swamp looking pretty is sort of ancillary.

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