Tommy: A Simmering Start

If last Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day was any indication, it is going to be a hot one this Saturday when the Miami of Ohio RedHawks invade Kenan Stadium to open the 2002 North Carolina football season.

Football games in August. There should be some law forbidding them. Call me what you will, but I simply do not enjoy watching players throwing up on the field after being overcome by the heat. To this day, 16 years later, Torin Dorn's Aloha Bowl ‘episode' still comes to mind.

Players being overcome by heat was a common theme in several area high school football games last Friday night and in a couple of the ‘preseason' college games this weekend. If not for a colossal thunderstorm just prior to the NC State game Saturday, the temperatures would have been in triple digits with high humidity for that game. (Even with the rain, the heat combined with the humidity was downright ridiculous.)

Nonetheless, coach John Bunting's Tar Heels will be ready. Ten days of boot camp practices have ensured that. The 1:30 kickoff should provide the Heels with an advantage over the RedHawks. How much of an advantage remains to be seen since it's been hot in Ohio this August as well. But, since every possible advantage can only help in this time of college football parity, I have no quarrel with the 1:30 kickoff decision. The fans will certainly show up regardless though this game screamed for a 7 p.m. kickoff when first scheduled.

Those of you that regularly attend games in Kenan, know where I am heading. Every fan, especially those of you (like me) that sit on the visitor's side, know how hot it can get in the stands during a game. Sitting in the sun on the visitor's side of the stadium rivals sitting in a packed sauna, while dressed in a parka. If it's 70 degrees out, it's at least 90 in the stands. Currently, Saturday's forecast calls for a slight of thunderstorms with highs in the 80s. If you miss breakfast that day, frying an egg on the aluminum bleachers should be a snap!

Making matters worse, many of those in attendance still insist on wearing long pants and a tie. You would think they invited Mrs. Heat Exhaustion and Mr. Heat Stroke to the game with them.

Worse still, it is not a reach to expect the concession stands to run out of water around halftime and then expect you to pay two bucks for tap water with a couple ice cubes. Whether it's water on a hot day or hot chocolate on those cold nights, concessions running out of essentials has happened more than once. If it happens Saturday when the forecast has been expected since the game was scheduled, those in charge of such things should be reevaluated. If a policy is in place that does not allow fans to bring beverages (water and ‘chasers,' not the airplane type that flow in regardless of the policy) into the stadium then it is paramount that fans have access to those items from kickoff until the final horn. Anything less would be flat out wrong. So to the persons in charge of concessions at Kenan, please have double the amount needed on hand for Saturday's game. Then go out and double that. 50K+ fans will need it.

When I think of college football game days, I think of enjoying a beverage or three while tailgating with family and friends before heading to the game and enjoying the cool crisp breeze blowing through the pines around Kenan while watching good Carolina football.

Saturday's game will bare little resemblance to that ideal game day. A 1:30 p.m. kickoff in late August will be a test for everyone involved – players and coaches on the field, fans in the stands and stadium personnel behind the scenes. For a wide variety of reasons, a test that no one involved can afford to fail.

Editor's Note: As of Wednesday morning, the forecast for Saturday is a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms – and 89 degrees.

You can email Tommy Ashley at

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