Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI, in 2007. CC photo from Chad Davis on Flickr.
Football prides itself on toughness. Unlike in baseball, NFL games are almost never canceled because of inclement weather. Although the players are expected to play through anything, is it wise for the league to expect the same from its fans?
Sitting shoulder to shoulder with other fans for a three-hour game no doubt is more pleasant on a sunny day than it is during a snowstorm, at least for the 23 NFL teams (out of a total 32) that don't play in domed stadiums. Holding all else equal, we would expect fans to be willing to pay higher ticket prices if it means enjoying the football game in more pleasant conditions. Is the NFL leaving revenue on the table by playing during the worst weather of the year (August to February)?
Probably not. Although watching football is more pleasant in sunny weather, so is a slew of other activities. By playing in bad weather, football can be king of winter, as it has fewer things to compete with. This is even more true for another important NFL revenue base: the fans watching at home. The NFL generates monster TV ratings in part because, for many fans, there isn't much they want to do in dreary weather besides staying home and watching the game.
The weather is less likely to affect football fans on the margin as it is for baseball fans. Many people who couldn't care less about baseball might buy a $10 bleacher ticket to spend a sunny afternoon at the ballpark with their friends, but fewer people are going to go to an NFL game on such a whim, with the average ticket price being $75.