Shooting night football used to be a serious test of your skills when I began working as a newspaper photographer. The fields were dark as hell, you didn’t have a long telephoto lens to really cover the sport and the film was just too damn slow.
Back then, we shot Kodak Tri-X (iso 400) and over developed it to make us believe we were shooting at iso 1600. How did it look? If you did everything right and got lucky then it only looked bad but often it looked just plain horrible. When you arrived at the game and saw one team was wearing black uniforms you knew it was going to be a tough night. The film when underexposed and over developed (what we called pushing the film) could not hold detail in the black helmets and it would “disappear” when the player was in front of a dark background. Using this film at 1600 controlled your maximum shutter speed. If you could only shoot at iso 1600, then your shutter speed would fall around 1/250 or even 1/125th of a second. Good sports shooters know you need 1/500th to begin to freeze the action. The result of those slow shutter speeds gave you lots of film that was unusable because of motion blur from the players running down the field.
Watch the video to fast-forward yourself a couple of decades. I recently used a Nikon D3s and 200-400mm zoom lens to shoot at a super dark field and the results really really blew me away. I sent samples to a bunch of my photographer buddies and as one said–“It just shouldn’t look this good”