If you’ve been around football in any capacity or for any length of time, you’ve likely heard some version of the following phrase , “Night games are more exciting than day games. They’re louder and the fans seems more passionate.”
Having grown up hearing that over and over again from friends and family, plus feeling that way myself, I decided to look into the phenomenon so as to determine if the sentiment is “urban legend” or if there’s any science behind the “symptoms”.
What stood out first during the investigative process was the Florida Gators’ night game success stats.
Since 2000, the Gators have gone 28-6 during night games at The Swamp, outscoring opponents 1,290-497.
What are the reasons behind the large percentage of wins vs amount of games played?
Additionally, some of those victories came across rivals like Tennessee and Florida State, as well as against top teams like Auburn, South Carolina and LSU.
Logic dictates that night games come with cooler temperatures and that’s easier on players and fans alike. While I haven’t confirmed the feedback from Gator Fans, the Tar Heels are playing their first night game since the 2009-2010 season solely due to “customer demand”.
Just FYI, the UAA doesn’t dictate game times.
“We appreciate the Southeastern Conference helping us out on that,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “Dr. Machen, myself or Jeremy Foley have nothing to do with the time of the day we play. That has to do with TV and the conference, so send your emails there.”
The physiological edge of night games
Exercise in temperatures above 55 degrees raises your core temp. This triggers blood release into skin capillaries – the body’s natural cool down method. But this reduces the blood supply (hence oxygen) to the muscles. Lesser oxygenation leads to less power and slower movement as waste products also build up in the muscle tissue.
Clearly, playing in cooler temperatures decreases potential oxygen blockage but humidity is a huge factor also.
Thermoregulation is how your body maintains an even internal temperature. Our body cools itself by sweating and the real cooling process happens when that sweat evaporates. The higher the humidity the harder it is for the body to cool.
Night games are easier on the athlete and the fan.
The Psychological Edge of Night Games
Ross Lent, who was in Gator Band from 2008-2010, looked forward to the “lights, camera, action!” of night games.
“Just anything under the lights, it kind of brings an aura of excitement,” he said. “I remember my first year in band we had a night game, it was against the University of Miami, so naturally that’s a big game.”
In a subsequent article I’ll delve more deeply into how and why cheering crowds affect player performance but one thing we can all agree on is night games are LOUD!
From a purely scientific perspective, the perceived volume of noise is increased when temperatures are lower.
When the air near the ground is cool, and the air above it is warmer, then the index of sound refraction decreases with height. In the atmosphere this causes sound waves to bend downwards, towards the earth. Since we’re on earth, directly in the path of the sound rays, we hear “more” of the sound than we would without the temperature gradient.
Nighttime is also time to relax, have fun and purge whatever stress has built up over the course of our week.
Maybe screaming and cheering our faces off during a night game is therapy in its own right.
Or, maybe I’m just over analyzing this whole thing and the answer is as simple as;
It’s great to be a Florida Gator!