Five of the fifteen games on the major league baseball schedule today are rained out (so far). A week ago, the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians had a four-game series snowed out. And according to Billy-Ball, a daily rundown of baseball stats and analysis, “There have been 32 games this season in which the temperature has been below 45 for the first pitch. This is more than three times the total for the entire 2006 season (10).”
With Earth Day just a week away the issue of climate change is on nearly everyone’s mind. But this post is not about the environment. I am not here to preach about global warming, its causes, or science in general. No, this is a post about how sports, and Major League Baseball in particular, need to consider changes to their schedule and the way they operate — or risk becoming victims of our changing climate.
The sports world needs a little bit of innovative thinking.
Regardless of what you think about cilmate change or its root causes, it is hard to ignore the issue completely. Virtually every industry is scrambling to assess the cost that climate change will have on their operations while also trying to develop green products to capitalize on a growing market opportunity — and that extends all the way down the supply chain. The entertainment community has joined forces with Al Gore to organize Live Earth, a massive seven-continent concert to raise awareness and mobilize action around the issue (full disclosure: I am working with one of the groups involved in planning the concerts – The Alliance for Climate Protection). And the media is doing is part, putting the environment on the cover of nearly every magazine this month from Time to Vanity Fair to Elle.
And what about the sports world? Sports Illustrated wrote in March about the impacts that global climate change are already having on sports:
All of which is changing the way we play and the sports we watch. Evidence is everywhere of a future hurtling toward us faster than scientists forecasted even a few years ago. Searing heat is turning that rite of passage of Texas high school football, the August two-a-day, into a one-at-night, while at the game’s highest level the Miami Dolphins, once famous for sweating players into shape, have thrown in the soggy towel and built a climate-controlled practice bubble. Even the baseball bat as we know it is in peril, and final scores and outcomes of plays may be altered too.
The article highlighted some of the innovative green building techniques and similar that sports franchises around the world are beginning to employ, like solar power or water filtration and re-use systems for keeping grass fields growing with less water. But there are even more obvious things to consider. The Masters this past week had one of the highest cumulative scores in the history of the golf tournament, due in large part to cold temperatures and high winds (unusual for this time of year in August, GA). What would happen if the whole golf season was pushed back by a couple of weeks? If you had to choose between putting a ballgame in Cleveland in early April, or in Seattle, with a retractable roof stadium to protect you from the elements, which would you choose? What would happen if you had teams with domes, or who played in warm environs, host the first month’s worth of games allowing the temperatures in cities like Chicago, Boston, and New York to warm up some before starting the seasons there?
Larry Stone quoted a scheduler in the Seattle Times this morning, noting that “The schedule is not one team, or one piece. It’s a 30-team, 26-week puzzle. They play almost every day, and you have to account for all the concerns — travel, the Basic Agreement, the national network, the local networks. It’s a massive puzzle.”
I know that scheduling a 162-game season is not easy, but something has to be done. Baseball clearly needs some innovative thinking to solve this problem. Anyone have an idea?