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Lightning Delays A Case Of Ridiculous Overkill

Tennessee Titans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

As of this writing, we are still waiting, after about three hours worth of delays, in two installments, for the Miami Dolphins to resume their game at Hard Rock Stadium against the Tennessee Titans. Three hours, as you’re probably aware, is about the length of a typical NFL game -- including halftime and all TV timeouts.

Looking at the technical aspects of the phenomenon that we refer to as lightning, there are two basic types: cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground. While it’s obviously the latter that we’re concerned with, the presence of one generally results in the presence of the other. Here’s the problem, though, at least as it relates to the likelihood, or even the possibility, of a lightning strike injuring a player or fan at a sporting venue like Hard Rock Stadium: because the Dolphins’ home stadium now has a roof affixed to the top of it, and because lightning almost always strikes the highest point in a given vicinity when it reaches the earth, it would be virtually impossible for a bolt to come down from the skies above Dade County, pass through the rectangular aperture in the stadium’s roof and strike a player or official on the field of play below.

That’s number one; number two is that with the fans attending the game almost completely protected by the recently installed roof above the stadium, it would would be even more prohibitively unlikely for a bolt to descend from the sky above, pass through the opening in the roof over the stadium and then make an ‘L’ shaped turn and strike an unsuspecting fan who is sitting in the stands. In other words, it would have to be a pretty smart bolt to take that kind of electrical path. Any meteorologist would tell us that even if a bolt of lightning were to strike near the top of the stadium, it would, based simply on the laws of physics, hit the top of the superstructure that supports the roof, rather than passing through the roof and down onto the field or fan concourse below.

Now, I understand that the league has to err on the side of caution in cases like this, and to be sure, about 35 people are killed every year in the U.S. by lighting. We can all agree that it would be absolutely catastrophic if someone were struck by an errant bolt of lightning from the heavens above, but this, to me, amounts to a case of ridiculous overkill on the part of the NFL. After all, if we’re worried about someone being injured or killed by a lightning strike, then, theoretically, couldn’t someone have died from hypothermia in the 1967 ‘Ice Bowl’ in Green Bay in the legendary championship game between the Cowboys and Packers? How about that AFC Championship game in January 1982, at Cincinnati, between the Chargers and Bengals? But then again, this isn’t 1967 or 1982, this is 2018, and in 2018, and what took place at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday afternoon is emblematic of our society today. When we come upon a fly, our reaction is to go and get ourselves the biggest, heaviest sledgehammer we can find and make darn sure we kill that fly.

Since I don’t live in South Florida, and this game is not being televised in Chicago, I don’t know how close the storm was to the stadium, or how much lightning activity was actually taking place; I’d like to hear from our readers who were at the game or were watching it on television, and hear your thoughts on this.