Can weather be used as a tool against an opponent in Sports? Has weather been used as a tool in sports? The answer to both questions is YES. A capital, YES. Has it always worked. No, not always. Below, I will share some experience I had many years ago.
Once during my brief sojourn in the continent of Africa in the 70's, it was interesting how games were scheduled to intentionally impede the performance of the visiting team. For those who know little of African soccer, the continent has an abundance of skilled soccer players. I was an ardent follower of the African Champion Cup, the African Winners Cup and the Cup of Nations.The first two competitions are club championship competitions akin to club championship competitions in Europe and the America's, while the Cup of Nations was played amongst the African national teams. Those games were very thrilling and sometimes filled with intrigues. So unrecognized are the many talents in African soccer. That African nations like Nigeria, Ghana in the 70s and 80s dominated FIFA organized under 15, Under 17, Under 21 age grade soccer competitions was only a surprise to the uninformed few who knew little of African soccer. I am one of those lucky ones who was not surprised that Nigeria won the Atlanta 1996 Olympic soccer game having being a fan of African soccer in the 70s.This is just a digression from the main topic, to underline the fact that African soccer was very competitive in the 70s and had promises to get international attention.I do not know how much progress African soccer has made since then having moved back to the States for more than a decade.
So competitive were the games, that teams were very creative to use non conventional means to their advantage.That brings me back to the topic of this post.It was not UNusual for teams from North African countries like Egypt,Tunisia, Morocco, Libya etc to schedule matches at between 2300 hour and 0100 hour the following day.These were odd hours when the temperature will drop subzero and most uncomfortable for West African teams like Cameron,Nigeria, Ghana coming from the warmer equatorial belt. These other countries retaliated by scheduling their home games between 1200 hrs and 1500hrs when the sun was at its zenith with temperatures greater than 90 degree F and high humidity.These were conditions most uncomfortable for the North African teams coming from the cooler arid semi-temperate North Africa.If you notice, most of these games involved North African and West African Nations because at that time unlike now, they were the relatively more stable parts of Africa in the 70s. Remember that the central and southern parts of Africa were involved in internal political struggles for national identity and had no time for such idle past times as the game of soccer.
Did those attempts to use the weather to their advantage work? It is debatable. Were those attempts intentional and deliberate.Of, course!There was little or no doubt to anyone because the fans came prepared and the stadia were always sold out! The North African players boasted of how they scheduled their home games at those odd cold hours and with satisfaction watch their opponents freeze.They always out paced them on the field.This was a perfect case of the end justifying the means. To make matters worse for the visiting team, they will have the visiting team's locker rooms heated up during intermission so they could warm up before the second half while they, the North African players kept the AC in their own locker room so low, so that they did not have wide temperature variation from the condition on the field.So when they came out for the second half,they did not feel so much the temperature variation but the visiting team players did.
Conversely,the West African teams had their own game plan when they returned home for riding through the hot. humid weather when playing at home on their turf at those ungodly hot humid hours of 1200 and 1500.They will brag after the game of how they took cold showers before the game, drank lots of fluids, had a light meal before the game and wore the white color jerseys for the noon games, since the white color reflects the most light.. It was a pitiable sight seeing the visiting North African players running to the sideline just after 20 minutes of play into the game to have a drink of water to quench thirst, splashing some water on their faces and heads to cool off and sometimes out rightly asking for early substitutions while the West African players playing at home played out the whole game.Substitutions, if they occurred for the home team was mostly due to or for injuries or ejection from a red card offense. Teams have exploited the use of harsh weather conditions to their advantage, often it is the element of surprise that increases the inherent inconvenience of an inclement weather condition.It does have both mechanical and psychological stress on the body. Soon, visiting teams caught on and would go to a neighboring country to the host nation ahead of time to acclimatise.You acclimatise if you know ahead, you can not be prepared if there is sudden venue or time change in the schedule or you are unsuspecting and it has never happened to you before as the Heat experienced for the first time in San Antonio.
Revisiting the event at San Antoni's AT&T center , does this necessarily mean that the AC breakdown in San Antonio for Game 1 was deliberate? Not necessarily so. Is it conceivable that someone could done it without the knowledge of Coach Popo or the Spurs players? Yes, never doubt the capability of the human mind. To do so is simply being naive and does not mean that you are taking the high road. Some day the story may be different from what we know today at what exactly happened on June 6, 2014 , 21 00hr Eastern Time at AT&T center, San Antonio.
For now we shall keep on guessing.
Enjoy the NBA finals , the thrills and intrigues that may come with it !