Residents of the Pacific Northwest are deeply familiar with shortened days and bleak weather conditions during the winter months. Many of you are, no doubt, reading this indoors as snow swirls through the Portland metro area under a consuming cover of grey. Over time, lack of exposure to sunshine can affect a person’s production of the hormone melatonin, in turn causing lethargy as well as disrupting one’s natural sleep cycle. It stands to reason that these effects could negatively impact a person’s performance of physical activities, which is why the Portland Trail Blazers have taken precautions in recent seasons.
According to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, the Trail Blazers travel with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lights, which are specially designed to simulate daylight and combat the negative effects of going without. The lights are set up in the locker room before each game and brightly shine to help keep the players from succumbing to fatigue.
Four panels sit in a square at the center of the room, beaming a cool, bright light onto each wall of player lockers that’s substantially brighter than the gleam in the bowels of Barclays. “The happy lights,” as Portland center Mason Plumlee called them, became a staple of Blazers road games during the 2015–16 season.
The Moda Center and the Trail Blazers practice facility in Tualatin are also equipped with SAD lighting. The Trail Blazers do not have the luxury of basking in the sun year-round, as teams in cities like Phoenix and Miami do.
The lights are, perhaps, more helpful to some than others, as not all have embraced them.
Some of Portland’s players are skeptical. “I feel like I just get myself prepared for the game and that’s that,” said sharpshooter Allen Crabbe. Others have downright rejected the principle. “I ain’t really into all that scientific shit,” said Blazers forward Ed Davis. Plumlee suggested the lights could even cause a negative reaction. “They don’t give me headaches but I’ve heard some people complain about them,” he said.
More than anything else, the consideration of simulated daylight for players’ health and performance is on the progressive end of thinking, whether it makes a difference or not. The lights aren’t hurting anyone, and they have become routine for Portland.