In Long Island, New York this week, the world's best golfers gathered for one of the most anticipated golf tournaments of the year. Along with the players, thousands of fans, reporters and business people showed up to watch the U.S. Open.
There was one problem, the weather didn't cooperate. As the first players teed off on Thursday morning, a drizzle hampered the competition. A couple of hours later, the skies opened up and it started to pour. The tournament officials blew a loud air horn, signaling that play would be suspended for the rest of the day.
Rain delays: Rain delays happen in just about every outdoor sport. As we saw this week in Long Island, golf is very much affected by the weather. In tennis, major matches are often suspended because of rain. At baseball games, it's not uncommon to see a stadium's grounds crew hustling to cover the infield with a giant tarp as rain begins to fall.
Why do they stop the games?: The main reason sporting events are stopped in bad weather is safety. In tennis, the court can become very slippery, and players are at risk of falling and hurting themselves. Same with baseball - the infield turns to mud and it's tough for fielders and base runners to keep their footing. It also compromises the level of competition. If a baseball field is muddy and slippery, players cannot play their best. The skills of a good fielder aren't as sharp as they can be under normal circumstances.
How does a rain delay affect players?: Rainouts and rain delays can be a great burden on athletes at any level. Especially in the pros, athletes get very excited and energized to play a game. When a game starts at 7 p.m., athletes do their best to have the most energy they possibly can just as the game begins. If rain pushes the start time back a few hours, players may have a difficult time regaining that level of energy. They may be tired or sluggish and not play their best.
How do you stop rain delays?: Simply put, you can't. You never know what the weather will bring, so a rain delay or cancellation is always a possibility. Several professional sports venues have taken steps to prevent rain delays. Wimbledon Stadium in England, home of the world's most famous tennis tournament, just put in a retractable roof that can stay open in nice weather and can close in rainy weather. Several pro baseball teams, such as the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays, have similar roofs on their stadiums. For the most part, though, rain is a part of the game.
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