Hmm. Maybe this will get the attention of climate-change deniers. I mean, it's one thing to drown a few polar bears, sink some brown-skin island somewhere, even overcook some corn; but, dammit, now were talking football!
Scaling back the intensity of a football practice due to hot weather was once laughable in South Georgia, where heat, gnats and hard-hitting high school football are facts of life. But this year Georgia became the latest state to enact new rules to prevent heat-related deaths of high school football players, a category in which the state leads the nation.
"The climate's getting warmer so players are exposed to higher temperatures," said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist at the University of Georgia and a co-author of a 2012 study of heat related deaths in high schools nationwide. Across the country, deaths of high school football players due to heat nearly tripled from 1994 to 2009 compared to the previous 15 years, according to Grundstein's study. Heat illnesses in football players have multiple causes, experts say, but as the climate heats up, practices in Georgia – and around the country – are getting watered down just to be safe.
The South being The South, not everyone's buying it. Yeah, maybe their kids are worth more than a cuddly white bear cub, but still...
Some grumble that South Georgia's trademark football might lose its punch. South Georgia teams have won six of the past nine state championships in Georgia's highest classification. This part of the state is home to the Valdosta Wildcats, the winningest high school football team in the nation, with 869 wins, 23 state and six national championships.
Coach Herron, however, says the real problem today isn't the heat, but the kids' lifestyles.
"It's not any different," Herron said of the heat these days. "The difference is that when we were kids, we were out playing all summer. We were outside, we weren't laying in the air conditioning."
(And, almost on the same subject, how about this: the water in Long Island Sound is so hot this summer it can no longer cool a nuclear power plant, so they had to shut it down.)