These are secondary (or even tertiary) concerns given the loss of life and extensive damage caused by the wildfires in California, but this weekend’s California Golden Bears and Oakland Raiders football games could be impacted because of the air quality.
On Thursday, Cal stated that they were tracking the air quality, which remained poor a day before the Bears’ game with Washington State.
“There’s a level that they keep us updated on and what’s appropriate to work out in, so we were good,” coach Justin Wilcox said of Wednesday’s workout.
“Obviously, (we’re) watching that and monitoring constantly.”
The NCAA has a set of parameters for competition in dangerous air on its website:
“Specifically, schools should consider removing sensitive athletes from outdoor practice or competition venues at an AQI over 100. At AQIs of over 150, all athletes should be closely monitored. All athletes should be removed from outdoor practice or competition venues at AQIs of 200 or above.”
The air quality in Berkeley on Wednesday was 187.
Stanford is scheduled to play Oregon on Saturday night, but they’re less concerned about the air quality and believe the game will be played.
As for the Raiders, who host the Chargers on Sunday afternoon, their practices have been cut short all week.
At the time of practice Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency determined there to be an Air Quality Index of 189 particulate matter. This unit of measurement quantifies inhalable pollutants that can affect the heart and lungs, potentially causing serious health effects.
A reading of 189 falls under the EPA’s “Unhealthy” category. It’s the fourth-most severe level on a six-part scale. The following health message accompanies an Unhealthy classification: “People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”
The Raiders canceled their individual drills, which usually last about 15 minutes following the stretch period. Thursday’s practice initially was scheduled for 1:45 p.m. It was moved to approximately 11 a.m.
The air quality was actually worse on Thursday morning than on Wednesday.
Air quality at 9 am today in Alameda (left) worse than air quality at 9 am Wed., per EPA. Raiders set for abridged, 90-min practice at 11. pic.twitter.com/VgBDMbVvAe
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 12, 2017
PFT speculated that the Raiders and Chargers could flip home games if the air quality didn’t improve.
The options are limited. Moving the game to Monday or Tuesday won’t work, because the Raiders host the Chiefs next Thursday. (And that’s a separate problem, potentially.)
The easiest solution would be to flip the home games in the twice-per-year series, with the Chargers hosting the game now and the Raiders hosting the rematch in Week 17.
If the game moves to a place other than the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, it would have to be moved to an NFL stadium, given the infrastructure associated with the replay process. And the L.A. Coliseum would be a potentially fascinating alternative, given the lingering throng of Raiders partisans who reside in the area.
Football (or any sports, for that matter) isn’t important right now. If the air quality isn’t safe for the players, it isn’t safe for the fans. This isn’t complicated.