Monday Night Football is taking a trip to Mexico City tonight, where the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans will do battle at the Estadio Azteca.
It’s going to be quite the change of environment for both teams. Whereas they’re two of only 11 franchises in the NFL that are accustomed to playing in stadiums that are less than 50 feet above sea level, the Estadio Azteca sits at an altitude of 7,280 feet. For perspective on just how monumental that is, the Sports Authority Field at Mile High – home of the Denver Broncos, which is the most elevated stadium in the league by a significant margin – checks in at around 2,000 feet lower.
That’s not the only thing the Raiders and Texans will have to adjust to, though. According to former United States national team soccer star Eric Wynalda, there’s one reason in particular why he believes the Estadio Azteca is the “worst place to ever play a sporting event.”
“You can’t breathe,” Wynalda told USA Today. “The pollution is so bad that if you don’t have some form of rain that’s brought all that down, you are going to be sucking wind. They (will) break a record for how many oxygen masks they have on the sidelines. The combination of being that high up with pollution is just devastating to the body.”
Jorge Avendano Reyes, a local sports medicine and respiration doctor, piggybacked onto Wynalda’s comments by telling USA Today, “there can be headaches, dizziness, sensation of fatigue, accelerated heartbeat, hyperventilation. We can also have respiratory symptoms when we are exposed often to the pollution.”
This will be the NFL’s first trip to Mexico City to play a game since 2005. While there were few complaints after that game, Josh McCown did say that it was “kind of tough to judge” how the air would carry the football. Adding to the excitement this time around is that the Texas have been warned to not leave the hotel, order room service or eat outside of the team meal room likely because of what happened to Duane Brown earlier this year.