The real vs. fake debate continues in Chicago, regarding the playing surface at Soldier Field. Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times makes a great case for switching from grass (or something that once was grass) to FieldTurf.
A far more persuasive case eventually could be made by 280 Park Avenue.
Lost in the talk regarding whether the Bears should or will rip up their grass (or something that once was grass) and install FieldTurf is the fact that the NFL has the absolute ability to force the Bears to do it.
As explained during today’s PFT Live, the NFL Game Operations manual provides as follows: “Each home club is responsible for having the playing surface of its stadium well maintained and suitable for NFL play. The League may require improvements to ensure compliance and such improvements will be at the Club’s expense. Failure to maintain a playing field properly is considered a competitive issue and clubs that fail to do so may be subject to discipline.”
The key words are “competitive issue.” Surely, Bears management believes that, despite the complaints from the team’s players, the Bears are better suited to deal with the field than the visiting team. And so, for Bears management, it’s about obtaining a competitive advantage.
That has to be the reason. Although Bears chairman George McCaskey claims that grass is safer (or, as Jensen explained it, that “there aren’t any studies that support that grass isn’t the safest playing surface for football”), the real question is whether a crappy, uneven, choppy grass field is safer than FieldTurf. Our guess is that FieldTurf is safer than the place that in all fairness should be referred to as TurdField.
And it’s definitely not about the money. As Jensen points out, FieldTurf would cost $750,000 with no annual maintenance fees. The grass surface costs $500,000 per year. So, basically, the Bears could put in new FieldTurf every second or third year and still come out ahead financially.
Clearly, it’s about giving the Bears an edge, and an unfair edge. For that reason alone, the NFL should immediately order the Bears to install FieldTurf.
UPDATE: Here’s the video.