November 15, 2010
There's an old anecdote about former Chicago Bear Bronko Nagurski, one of those stories that can't possibly be true, in which the Depression-era gridiron god roared through the Wrigley Field end zone with such force that he knocked over a mounted police horse running crowd control on the back line. There's another in which Nagurski allegedly crashed through two tacklers, into the goalpost and headlong into the Wrigley wall, telling his teammates on the way back to the huddle, "That last guy hit me awfully hard."
Good stories, and after getting a look at the east end zone for Saturday's rivalry match between Northwestern and Illinois – the first college football game in Wrigley since 1938, and the first football game of any kind since the Bears moved out in 1970 – they both seem highly plausible. Obviously, when they were measuring the dimensions along the right field line, they weren't concerned with "wiggle room": The playing field ends exactly on the iconic Sheffield Avenue wall. Not only does the tight fit guarantee a barrage of extra points and field goals onto the street; it ought to be good for a few faces full of fake ivy padding on red-zone trips, too. (Let's just hope no wide receivers are allergic.)
[Rewind: Power outage hits Wrigley Field]
Not that football fields are ever a great fit in baseball stadiums. The old gridiron alignment at Wrigley butted the bleachers and essentially cut off a corner of the west end zone. The corners of the end zones are cutting it pretty close in Yankee Stadium for Notre Dame's game with Army this weekend, too, as they always do for the annual bowl game in San Francisco's AT&T Park. But what's a concussion or two in exchange for a good gimmick?
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.