The globe is an ever-changing place. Season-to-season, week-to-week, even day-to-day, its weather conditions are unpredictable, erratic, and, in many cases, adverse to sporting activities. The significance of weather (and, by extension, its “cooperation”) in the realm of sports and recreation is often overlooked by spectators and viewers. To the typical American family sitting down to the NFL’s Monday Night Football, the weather that evening only grabs anyone’s attention if it is undesirable – mainly to the point where the game is postponed or even cancelled. The presence of good weather is, likewise, neglected because it is just “what is supposed to happen.” After all, why even notice the weather if it isn’t going to affect the playability of a sport? Undoubtedly, weather holds more sway over where and when sporting activities may take place than most people would care to admit. However, because every sport is different in its rules and setting, some sports are more heavily affected by weather than others. This also means that there are quite a few sports that are not affected by the weather at all. What sports are the most influenced (or, more specifically, “burdened”) by weather conditions, and how precisely does the weather impact them?
The simplest answer to “what sports are really affected by weather?” is, obviously, “outdoor-related sporting activities.” Rain, snow, hail, and even winds on a clear day that are just too blustery are all primary influences on playing conditions for outdoor sports. After all, indoor sports unfold in an artificially-created environment – usually an enclosed building. As a result, people, not nature, have control over “whether the weather” is unsuitable for indoor sporting activities. Indoor sports, both casual, like table-tennis, and professional, like basketball, have never been cancelled due to bad weather happening outside of the structure in which they take place. The only situations where indoor sports are truly threatened by adverse weather is in extremely strong tropical storms, hurricanes, or thunderstorms that cause power outages. Otherwise, the indoor stadium/arena keeps the environment within it safe and separated from whatever is happening outside.
When it comes to the outdoors, the specific rules and decisions involving the weather become blurred across different types of sport. The phrase “the show must go on” is a working guideline for sports in this sense, because the ultimate goal is for the game to play out as scheduled, provided that the safety of the players can be upheld and fair play ensured. Depending on the circumstances and setting of the sport, some are more ‘resilient’ in certain weather conditions than others. Thus, football games hosted by the NFL can generally persist through light-moderate rainfall and even snow. The popularity of football in the United States, as well as the rules and play format of the sport, are both contributing factors to ensure that the game endures. If severe thunderstorms and strong winds threaten play, football stands a much greater chance of cancellation. Outdoor sports that are more dependent on precision and technique are, consequently, more fragile in the face of bad weather; professional baseball, cricket, and tennis are all susceptible sports that are practically guaranteed to be cancelled due to rainfall. In rare cases, even temperature can have a serious influence on the playability of a sport. Extreme temperatures, both high and low, can prove hazardous to the health of athletes, resulting in the possibility of heatstroke or hypothermia. Though it is fairly uncommon, some sporting events have been cancelled due to the threat of it being too hot or too cold to play.
For the most part, strong weather conditions are regarded negatively among fans and players alike, but this is not always the nature of the relationship between weather and sports. In fact, many sports are dependent on some aspects of the weather to behave in a certain way. One prominent example of this is the connection between strong winds and water sports. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are heavily dependent on wind, requiring strong air flow to operate, even while other sports would prefer as little wind as possible. Additionally, a lightly-overcast playing field is often preferable to clear sky for outdoor sports. With a non-threatening blanket of clouds to obscure the area of play from the sun, visibility is improved across the board without the threat of rain.
Weather can affect sports, both outdoor and indoor, in a variety of ways. Each sport is influenced differently by adverse weather conditions, and gameplay for some is even improved, provided the weather is merciful and nonviolent. Unless outdoor sports are moved indoors in the future (a significant investment which, in the grand scheme of things, would probably be more trouble than its worth) nature will continue to influence the “how” and “where” sports are played.