It’s time the NFL and colleges spent some of the hundreds of millions of dollars they make annually to return football fields to their original grass and dirt. Artificial fields will never be as safe as well manicured, well watered, grass or for that matter good old mud. But then you say we’d have to play football outside and we couldn’t have all these stately pleasure domes of Xanadu where it’s a pleasant 72 degrees year round. That is absolutely true but we might extend the playing life of a football player by several years allowing us to ooh and ahh at the skills they possess.
Artificial turf cuts the career life of all players whether they are injured or not for the falling on a crushed stone or concrete base takes “IT” out of a body with every play. And when you bounce your helmet off the unyielding surface it only compounds the speed with which you brain rams into your skull. When you attempt to make a high speed cut the turf does not yield to your leg, rather your leg yields to the turf.
I understand how business concerns enter into the question, for football is big business. I have two tickets to the upcoming Alabama/Tennessee game. I paid $800 for the pair but if Tennessee beats LSU, and Alabama handles Arkansas, the value of those tickets will increase dramatically. For the Pros, ticket prices can easily run into the thousands. The NFL players’ association needs to press for the return to grass and dirt fields. They won’t, but they need to and owners need to think about amortizing the cost of players contracts because by returning to grass those players will last longer and can be traded for value rather than being cut.
As for colleges, it’s just the right thing to do. True football fans will turn out in any weather and the stories they tell about attending the game get better over time if it’s cold, or rainy or snowy. I remember my high school game against Lanier High School my junior year. We went into the locker room at half-time leading 6-0. The half-time drug on for almost an hour as thunderstorms passed over the field. When we returned to the field, the previously full stands were empty and there were several inches of standing water on the field. We played the second half between the two 30 yard lines and on one play twenty different players handled the ball. Our right guard almost drown at the bottom of a pile of players, his face in the water. They took him to the sideline and resuscitated him. We won the game 6-0. Other than the potential drowning incident nobody was hurt.
In college I played in a game where the fog was so thick passing was impossible and you had to listen for the punts to hit the ground to know where the ball was. When you play in the natural weather, the field should also be natural, not crushed rock overlayed with rubber and seeded with shredded tires. Have you noticed how on the newer fields a running player is attended by little puffs of black smoke at his heels? That’s shredded and crushed rubber. Now, how much of that is going to be breathed in by panting players? Concussions and blown out knees aside, our next problem may be lung issues caused by inhalation of foreign material.
It’s time to go back to grass. It’s a lot more fun and it’s a lot safer for the players.