Today we have guest writer Francisco’s latest contribution about the debacle at Soldier Field. I’m glad more people are speaking up about this; how well worn is the adage ”it’s just Chicago! It’s frigid! The frozen tundra, that’s how it is!” Give me a break, seriously. Anyways, enjoy it!
Yay, football! With the end of the NFL lockout, we were warned that everything would come rapid fire. From free agency to trades and accelerated training camps, we’ve seen it all. The Chicago Bears, however, seem to have fast forwarded to December. That’s where we hear about how horrible the Soldier Field turf is, and the beginning of the whole “Grass vs FieldTurf” debate. It’s now early August, and this debate is ALREADY starting? What?
Every year, the Bears host a family day at Soldier Field. They sell tickets, and you can watch a full Bears practice, enjoy the festivities and it all ends off with a grand fireworks spectacular. This year though, they cancelled the practice portion (and the reason 99% of the people actually COME to this) and all they say via their official Twitter account at @ChicagoBearscom is “Family Fest has been cancelled. We’ll have more soon.” Later they posted a press release saying that “the field conditions were not safe for players”. Really? This soon and we’re having problems with the field? I’ll quote two NFL players from the state of Florida, Miami Dolphins RB Reggie Bush and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black: “Lmao!”
Now, you’ll hear different stories from different sides. Whose fault was it? The Chicago Park District, who maintains the playing surface at Soldier Field? Or maybe it was the fault of the Bears, who are the primary tenants and have a say on what type of surface is actually used? Personally, I put this square at the fault of 89 year old (and I’m being generous) Virginia McCaskey and her team. I know things like this sometime are out of a team’s control, and that’s understandable. The timing of it was absolutely HORRIBLE though. When the previous mentioned tweet cancelling the fest came from the team, it came at 5:57pm CT. What time was the practice supposed to start? 7pm. Seriously, that’s just pathetic. You mean to tell me that nobody from the Bears looked at the field AT ALL during the day on Friday, and could have said something earlier so people didn’t have to fight rush hour Chicago traffic (which in downtown is unbearable), not to mention the added traffic due to Lollapalooza 2011.
Bears chairman George McCaskey told WSCR-AM that they were going to take a more active role in the field maintenance. One of those roles, however, will not be converting the playing surface to FieldTurf. I share the same opinion that frankly a lot of people do, and that is asking them why? They say it gives them a competitive advantage. They do have a point, where the Bears have enjoyed at 13-6 record in games in November on. What about if they were on FieldTurf? With a team that has such players as Johnny Knox and Devin Hester and an offensive coordinator that has an aerial style of offense that highlights the speed of its wideouts, I would think that they would want a surface that compliments them, not hinders them.
In this pace of the NFL, is FieldTurf REALLY the reason that players get injured? I’m pretty sure that Bernard Pollard would have shredded Tom Brady’s knee and had Dolphins and Jets fans drinking 750ml bottles of Jameson in celebration on grass, turf, mud, you name it. Same goes for all those hits that James Harrison makes, or the concussions that guys like Jason Witten, Jordan Shipley, and Dunta Robinson received. Did Julius Peppers knock out Matthew Stafford on the FieldTurf of Ford Field? Nope, that was on the natural grass surface of Soldier Field. If that was Ndamukong Suh knocking out Jay Cutler for an extended period of time, we would be hearing a different story.
The fact of the matter is, injuries are going to happen no matter what the surface. As long as it has a proper heating system and can properly be maintained, that’s all that matters right? When one of the leaders of your team (Brian Urlacher) is being the voice of the voiceless and pretty much imploring the team to make a change, isn’t it about time you listen?