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Weather Delays Third NFL Game in Two Weeks

September 16, 2013
What's behind the NFL and lightning delays? Centurylink Filed image courtesy of Wikipedia

For the third time in just two weeks an NFL game was delayed by weather when the Sunday Night Football matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks was delayed for an hour due to lighting. Is this a new trend developing? Will delays of NFL games due to weather become as commonplace are rain delays in baseball?

In case you missed it, at 9:05 p.m. game referee John Perry called the delay with 3:13 left in the first quarter. Players returned to the field at 9:55 p.m. with game play resuming after a 10-minute (re)warm up session. The delay followed a 69-minute lightning delay in the first quarter of Sunday's New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay game at Raymond James Stadium. And of course, most NFL fans will remember that the start of first game of the 2013 season between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos was delayed by 34 minutes because of lightning.

Are Rain Delays a New Trend?

The NFL is very concerned with players and fans getting struck by lightningThe NFL has become very concerned with players and fans getting struck by lightning early on in the 2013 season.

Football is known for being played in any type of weather, but with so many lightning delays this early into the season, can we expect more delays going forward? Are there more lightning storms now, or are NFL officials more likely to stop gameplay?

As NBC's Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison noted during Sunday's intermission, rain delays were rare as early as a few seasons ago when Harrison and Dungy were still in the league. Neither remember ever having a game delayed by weather. Dungy served as an NFL coach for 12 years, while Harrison was in the NFL for 14 seasons.

The first game to be delayed by lightning featured in the ESPN archives was on September 12, 2010, and there were two subsequent delays due to lightning in 2010. Were there just no lightning storms at NFL games before that? Or were playes getting struck so often the NFL decided to step it up?

The NFL was founded in 1920. With 256 regular games a season, there have been thousands of games played since then, with not a one played being struck by lightning. Although former San Diego Charger Linebacker Doug Miller was struck by lightning in 1998, albeit while camping in Colorado.

Lightning delayed the highly-anticiapated Niners Seahawks matchup on Sunday Night FootballThe above lightning storm cause the Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday Night Football to be delayed by one hour, making it the third NFL game delayed by lightning in just two weeks of NFL football. Image via CBS Sports.

One of the aspects that fans like about football is that it is (used to be) played no matter the weather. Like the mailman, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night should stop players from the swift completion of their appointed playbook.

In December of 2010 Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell blasted the NFL's decision to postpone a game between the Eagles and Vikings due to snow. "I think it's a joke," Rendell said. "We cancel the game and there's less than 3 inches of snow … I think the fans can make their own decisions about their own safety... This is football! Good lord, Vince Lombardi would be spinning in his grave that we canceled the football game for the snow."

Nevermind snow, now we're canceling games because of rain?

I understand having people struck by lighting is not really what you aim for as a league. But honestly, Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1749. Look at CenturyLink Field. Is lightning supposed to go between the two arches and hit the field? I'm not a meteorologist, but it seems unlikely that lightning would do that. Is lightning really going to hit the field here? Seems like those arches would probably be what gets hit. CenturyLink Field costs nearly $550 million to build, and we can't figure out how to deal with a 'lil lightning?

CenturyLink FieldThe game at CenturyLink Field was delayed because of a lightning storm. Was the NFL worried that lightning would travel through the arches and hit the field, or are the arches on the $550 field not built to handle the elements? Image via Wikipedia

And all right, I get it, you want your paying customers to be safe, but they don't even evacuate them! They stay in their seats! How are they any safer sitting in the rain with or without players on the field?

I mean its 2013 here. We've got people living in outer space, a robot that beats humans at Jeopardy, phones that can start your car, the NSA intercepting nearly every communication in the country, and we really can't figure out how to keep lightning from striking players? Really? What about all the fans who bought NFL game tickets? What about NFL fans on the East Coast that have to stay up 'till the we hours to see who wins the Sunday Night game? I don't understand how stopping the game is any safer for fans than having them stay seated, and I don't see how lightning would strike the field of play.

Why So Many NFL Weather Delays?

So what's behind the sudden increase in weather delays in the NFL? You would think something must have changed so make them so much more prevalent.

Is it global warming (AKA Climate Change)? Al Gore and many weather scientist have for years been warning that emission of carbon dioxide would cause extreme changes in weather, including storms. Perhaps if the NFL starts being affected by climate change, the American public might start to ask their representatives for answers.

In fact, it seems Duracell Quantum has already laid claim to be the official sponsor of NFL weather delays:

Is it a conspiracy to sell more ads? Given the insatiable appetite to fulfill the wishes of advertisers, would any person in America be surprised if Edward Snowden ended up leaking documents showing big businesses conspired with television stations to add delays to games so that more commercials would be shown? Anyone? Heck would anyone be surprised if a beer company directly paid the weather channel to increase the severity of lightning? Lets not forget the 34 minute delay at the Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII, the biggest advertising day of the year. As Ray Lewis said, "you're a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. (Laughs) No way.... you cannot tell me somebody wasn't sitting there and when they say, 'The Ravens (are) about to blow them out. Man, we better do something."

Could it be the NFL's new-found concern for players safety? Perhaps the NFL's recent $765 million concussion settlement with retired players encouraged the league to take player safety a little more seriously. Just like many fans feel the NFL is being overly protective of quarterbacks, the most expensive NFL asset, perhaps the NFL has over-reacted to safety concerns by postponing games whenever there are a few bolts of lightning.

What do you think about the plethora of delays of NFL games? Is it a new trend fans have to account for? Is it just a fluke so early in the season? Is global warming to blame, networks looking to maximize profits, a nanny league?

Sound off below and let us know what you think!

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