Editorial: Could prep football games begin an hour sooner?

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why must high school football games start at 7 p.m.? Why not start them at 6 o’clock instead?

The passing aspect of the games seems more exciting in the beginning when the daylight is available, and players can see better. And fans can see better in sunlight, too. No matter how well the lighting works, it’s never college or professional grade. It’d be nice to find statistics on average pass yardages before sunset and after sunset.

Plus, there must be some savings that could be found by having the games soak up more sun and require less electricity.

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Evenings in Minnesota in the fall witness quite a temperature drop. Fans come wearing T-shirts. By halftime they are donned in sweatshirts. Sometimes, by they end, they wear winter coats or heavy blankets. Perhaps starting an hour sooner could boost attendance.

The cold of October nights must affect play on the field, too. It’s easy to say the players get tired, so that’s why the games slow down, and they no doubt are. But one has to imagine that for some games being cold — just watch the players blowing on their hands — is a contributing factor. It makes hands less coordinated, affecting tackles, passes, receptions and carries.

Perhaps the most important reason is how late the schools are keeping students — fans and players — awake on a Friday night. Sure, it’s not a school night, but the National Sleep Foundation says teens need nine hours of sleep, the lack of which can affect studies. Sleep happens in patterns, so being awake late Friday and Saturday makes it harder to go to bed early on Sunday. (Ask anyone crossing a time zone about that problem.)

Football games take three hours. They finish at 10 p.m., sometimes later. The players don’t get home until 10:30 or 11 p.m., if they are the home team, but visitors might not get to the school until past midnight, then hit the lockers, then drive home. For a country kid, it could be 1 a.m. before walking in the door at home.

And besides, teens being out at night often isn’t the best situation. We recall many visiting student fans getting in trouble with the law at a game last year. Earlier games probably would have less trouble in general.

In the spring, many sports contests start at 4:30 or 5 p.m. That makes sense. The kids compete, then they are home at a reasonable hour.

Football games beginning at 6 p.m. would be a sensible switch.