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Neither Rain nor Wind nor…Oh, Forget It

2 Oct, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Hurricane Joaquin Stomps Into Town, Making Sports Planners Scramble to Cancel, Reschedule or Modify Events

It’s the call nobody wants to make but this weekend, as Hurricane Joaquin roars into town, sports event organizers on the East Coast are trying to decide whether to move forward – or just say ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’

The Weather Channel noted that despite the fact there are two tracks the hurricane might take, the forecast remains, at best, uninspiring to those who need to travel for sports events.

From the Weather Channel’s Tracking Joaquin page:  “Even if the tropical system stays offshore, the threat of flooding rainfall remains in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, as a separate system is expected to dump huge rain totals across a widespread area. As a result, college football and NFL games and even a NASCAR race are facing the possibility of postponement or outright cancelation.

Saturday's college football game between the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan, originally scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT in College Park, Maryland, has been pushed to noon due to the threat of the hurricane, reports the Detroit Free Press. The pregame show was cancelled.

The Atlantic Coast Conference had four home games scheduled Saturday in the Carolinas, planned to meet Thursday morning to discuss those events. One of those four games, a Saturday night game in South Carolina between Clemson University and the University of Notre Dame, is expected to be played.”

Up and down the coast, sports event organizers are scrambling to decide whether to cancel events or reschedule them.

The Jersey Shore Half-Marathon and its accompanying Lighthouse 5K, scheduled for this weekend, had to be cancelled. (As a side note, this is the second time in three years the events were not held; two years ago, they were canceled because of the federal government shutdown.)

In Maryland, two major events, the Seagull Century bicycle ride and the Maryland Ironman, were cancelled. The Ironman was tentatively rescheduled for October 17 (unfortunately, the same date the Baltimore Running Festival, which includes a marathon and half marathon, is to be held.) The Seagull’s organizers elected not to reschedule and at press time, were planning to mail shirts to all 6,000-plus registered riders.

In all cases, event organizers noted a confluence of factors that made events impossible to put on. The large police presence that would be needed to direct traffic and help keep order were going to be used elsewhere throughout the weekend. In many cases, local and state parks were going to be hosting the events (or parts of the events such as breaks and water stops) – and those were to be closed since a state of emergency had been declared for the weekend. Volunteers were unlikely to show and spectators would elect to stay at home. The roads would be messy at best and impassable at worst.

It was the perfect storm no event organizer wanted.

Even obstacle races, which thrive on mud and adverse conditions, had to throw in the towel. In Hampton Roads, Virginia, the Walkers 5K and Zombie Fest was rescheduled until October 10.

Large sports events – common this time of year in the Midatlantic states – are difficult to reschedule. Many have been carefully planned not to conflict with other similar events (including those in neighboring states) since they all tend to draw participation from one another. And the loss of a large event represents an economic hit to an area, which was counting on income from hotel rooms, restaurant use and more.

There are also plenty of lower-profile and local events such as 5K runs, high school match-ups, golf tournaments, horse shows and other activities that became casualties of Joaquin. And while these events may not have participants that have traveled in, the benefitting organization loses out.

So unless a sports event is indoors and doesn’t have a travel population, it’s probably out of luck this weekend.

Even on the level of professional sports, Joaquin is wreaking havoc. There is never a good time for a hurricane, but the timing of this one is particularly bad. The Las Vegas Review Journal noted that much is at stake, with several MLB playoff races being determined over the next several days. The Toronto Blue Jays finish the season at Tampa Bay, the New York Yankees are in Baltimore and heavy rains have the potential to impact games involving the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in season-ending home series.

NASCAR stated it would run its third race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Monday. Qualifying for the AAA 400 scheduled for Friday is in jeopardy under a forecast of high winds and heavy rain. 

The NFL is also tracking the storm. The Philadelphia Eagles' visit to the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland, is one game that could be moved back a month. The NFL has noted it will not make a call on the game until it's absolutely necessary, according to CBS Sports. Postponing the game would likely lead to it being rescheduled Nov. 1, during the scheduled bye week for both teams.

There are also concerns for the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, who kick off in London at 9:30 a.m. ET from Wembley Stadium. Weather threats could force both teams to park in England until they receive the all-clear to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The Jets chose not to leave for London until after Thursday's practice, while the Dolphins practiced in England.

And while social media exploded with posts hashtagged #Joaquin, the sports world attempted to maintain a sense of humor. After all, weather was beyond the control of everyone. Some events, after all, were just going to muddle through – emphasis on the mud.

In the Big Ten Conference, Michigan coaches laughed and said the Wolverines would probably get on the field, no matter what the weather.

"We're kind of a weather-proof team, I think," tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "It's not something we're really concerned about. ... We'll play anywhere. We'll play on the moon. We'll play on Mars. They found water there, so maybe that's our next spot."

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