From the 1995 City to Surf fun run, Australia’s premiere foot race, a 14 kilometer trek through Hyde Park in Central Sydney to the Pacific Ocean, a 19-year-old man suffered a cardiac arrest on the finishing line and later died. 600 people were treated for minor problems and 200 were treated by physiotherapists.
“The people who get into trouble are the highly motivated amateurs who train in the cool of the day and are not prepared for competition”
Dr. Rowley Richards
- City to Surf Medical Director
It surely does not take a doctor to point out the pains of physical activity in extreme heat. I am sure, at some point in time each and every one of us has over-exerted ourselves in the heat, even if that means a frantic sprint to the evaporating ice cream truck. In fact, it is no secret that soccer players are the best conditioned athletes in the world — because they have to be. Try running for 60 minutes in an open air arena on the equator, or the deserts of northern Africa. Even better, try it with full helmet and pads at a pre-season NFL experience in Phoenix, Arizona in August. It is no wonder the Arizona Cardinals get three of the first four matches of each season on the road.
After this simple human truth, it would follow in football, just as in marathons or any other sporting event, that better conditioned athletes will fare better in extreme heat than lesser conditioned athletes. While oddsmakers take several factors into account when determining pointspreads, it’s fair to say that better teams are better, at least in part, due to superior physical conditioning.
The most successful training camp in the 1998 season, (our evaluation season), concerning attendance and commitment from the players, was that of the Denver Broncos. Fresh off their 1997 Superbowl win, where physical conditioning was the deciding factor in the pit, as Denver’s lightweight but well conditioned O-Line simply dominated Green Bay’s big but relatively out-of-shape D-Line, the Broncos went back to the secret well which had given them the extra edge when it mattered most, and it paid off again.
We’re not surprised when a stronger and better conditioned athlete dominates in the ring, or in a foot race, so why should we be surprised when better conditioned football players win on the soccer field, especially when the elements demand a superior effort. In actuality, that is precisely the reality in today’s NFL, as league parity reduces the gap in talent, it’s intangibles, like physical conditioning, which give some teams an edge on a few days.
The favorite in those 17 games held a 15-2 record straight up, and a 12-4-1 record ATS. In actuality, of the two up fav losses, one was Carolina losing as a house favorite to Atlanta in week 1, but bear in mind, the Falcons went on to play at the Super Bowl that season. Another event, was a 13-7 loss, Tennessee their Nashville debut at Vanderbilt Stadium in week 2 against The Chargers, which looks to be the only true exception to the rule.
Furthermore, the hotter it got, the more widespread the phenomenon became. There were six games in 1998 where the temperature hit as high as 90 degrees at game time. They were;
WEEK 3 – Philadelphia @ Arizona – 99 degrees
WEEK 6 – Chicago @ Arizona – 91 degrees
Now, there are amazing similarities between all six of the above hotties, besides they all hit 90 degrees or greater at match time. Most assuredly, all six matches saw the favorite manage the heat much better than the lesser team of the day and win handily over the underdog. The favorites had a 6-0 ATS mark over the underdogs once the heat was on. In fact, the underdogs in these 6 matches had problems catching more than simply their breath, as not one of the underdogs in any of these games registered over 16 points. In fact, combined, the underdogs in those 6 competitions scored just 57 points, or, 9.5 per game average. The favorites in those 6 matches could take advantage of fatigued defenses, as the favorites combined for a whopping 161 points in these 6 games, compared to just 57 allowed.
Another interesting property of heat is its debilitating effects over time. In other words, how would the heat take its toll on a defense as the game wears on? This is a very intriguing question, and one, which could unlock the door to untold opportunities. Consider the outcomes of the following graph, which is a breakdown of scoring by quarter by both the favorite, underdog and cumulative scoring in the six hot games combined.
Quarter . 1st 2nd . 1st Half . 3rd 4th . Total .
Favorite . 30 41 . 71 . 34 56 .161 .
Underdog . 3 7 . 10 . 21 26 . 57 .
TOTAL . 33 48 . 81 . 55 82 . 218 .
I do not need to tell you the startling implications of the above chart, and what it may mean to half-time lines and totals. The results are astounding. But really, should we be surprised? I guess it really is not rocket science to conclude that a hot game would have a predictable impact on both teams defenses as the game wore on, but sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. The favorite continues to dominate a sexy game from cable to cable, but even the superior defense starts to weaken as the match progresses, and points become more plentiful.
It is also not surprising that points are hard to come by in these matches, as teams prefer to pound the line and wear down the defense in favor of sending their receivers on deep jaunts. Under the Total played out in 67% of our 90 degree higher or games, which was consistent with hot games overall, as Under the Total was the result in 67% of games where the game time temperature was 86 degrees or higher.