Is Weather Really an Advantage for Cold-Weather Teams Like the Packers?

I know that sports questions typically belong in Cafe Society, but I’m seeking as factual an answer as possible, so I’m putting my question here (I will understand and forgive, if and when moderators move it).

Never mind, for a moment, that the Giants beat the Packers in Green Bay tonight. It’s almost always taken for granted that playing in cold, wet, miserable weather is a huge advantage for Northern home teams like the Packers, Patriots and Bears. My question: is it really? Do the numbers bear that out?

I mean, the quintessential “cold weather” quarterbacks are guys like Brett Favre (from Mississippi), Fran Tarkenton (from Georgia), Bart Starr (from Alabama)… get the idea? These guys are Southern boys, just like most of their colleagues on the Dolphins, Bucs, Cardinals and Cowboys! The idea that these guys like the cold better than other players seems ludicrous, as is the suggestion that they’re just more “used to it.” (Meanwhile, Houston fans used to suggest that Warren Moon, who played at Washington and in Canada for years, was at a disadvantage playing in Buffalo!)

Does the weather really give the Pack, Bills and Pats more of an advantage than you’d expect ANY team to get from playing at home?

It’s actually pretty significant, statistically.

Oh, and another, more detailed article confirming that one:

The Giants don’t exactly play their home games in Hawaii. Any ‘advantage’ the Packers has was not as significant as it would be against some other teams.

Why is being “used to it” ludicrous?

It’s not about where the player is from or liking the cold, it’s about where he has been practicing. If you only play in zero degree weather once every couple of years, things like stiffness of equipment, slipperiness of the ground and stifff fingers are going to throw you off your best game.

There’s also a question of the strategy used in building the team. The Indianapolis Colts have spent years building a speedy offense that will perform well in the (at minimum) eight games per year they play in the friendly confines of their home dome. You need a different type of team to win on an uncovered field in Wisconsin in January with freezing rain, sleet, and snow coming down on your head, as the Colts have discovered in the playoffs in some past seasons. Most of your outdoor teams, especially in Northern cities, make a point of building teams with at least some focus on playing well in these sorts of conditions, as they can expect to have to cope with them for a significant portion of their season.

As more teams build domes, this particular item becomes less important. If all of your road games are in domes, then the slight advantage at home could get balanced out by a disadvantage on the road, and you might prefer to have a balanced offense that plays well on any surface …

I agree that “being used to it” is a big factor. When I lost my driver’s license to a DUI in 1994, my first winter spent walking a significant distance to work (I was working a graveyard shift at the time, and the local buses didn’t run that late) was absolutely miserable. But I didn’t bother to regain my license for 15 years, and the winters after the first were much more bearable. I “got used to it”.

Similarly, in the CFL, the Edmonton Eskimos play on Commonwealth Field, which is notoriously hostile to visiting teams. The Esks have a very strong home record. One of the reasons (we’ll let meek talk about some of the others) is that Commonwealth is the only natural grass* field in the league. There is a significant difference in playing on wet or frosty grass than on wet or frosty artificial turf, but the Esks play on that all the time, so they’re generally better prepared than the visitors. There’s also the factor that Edmonton is the northern-most stadium in the league, so gets some of the worst weather. That’s not as significant when the visiting team is the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, since those teams also get rough weather towards the end of the season, but for teams that play in domes, it is a factor.

It’s not determinative, of course. Edmonton does lose at home on occasion. The most notable example was the Grey Cup of 2002, played in terrible icy conditions. The Esks played the Montreal Als and lost. The Als handled the poor field conditions better.
*which led to one of those neat signs that fans bring to games. in the 2003 Western final, the Esks hosted the Roughriders. One of the Riders’ defensive ends, Shonté Peoples, had recently been in court on a little marijuana charge. One of the fan signs read: “Shonté - you can’t smoke our grass!” Riders lost, on a cold snowy field. Sigh. Another long ride home for the Rider Nation.