NFL escaped the scrutiny it deserved for horrible Super Bowl field conditions
With every tweet, blurb, and video that argued, re-argued, and de-argued the question of whether officials should have flagged an instance of defensive holding that definitely happened late in Super Bowl LVII, those who run the NFL had to be smiling.
They were smiling not because they relished yet another officiating controversy, but because the overblown brouhaha over whether holding should have been called holding when holding actually occurred provided perfect cover for the reality that the field was an embarrassment to Big Shield and everyone associated with it.
How did that not become the top talking point coming out of the game? It’s the Super Bowl, for Pete Rozelle’s sake. The pre-eminent sporting event in America. A game that is acquiring more relevance every year around the world.
And the field was bad. Whatever the precise reason, players constantly slipped from start to finish.
The NFL, as it does whenever there are issues with the field, denied that there were issues with the field.
“The State Farm Stadium field surface met the required standards for the maintenance of natural surfaces, as per NFL policy,” the league said earlier in the week, dusting off the same-old, wagon-circling, all-is-well, two-plus-two-is-five statement that gets issued whenever our lying eyes start acting up on us. “The natural grass surface was tested throughout Super Bowl week and was in compliance with all mandatory NFL practices.”
By noon on Monday, Andy Bernard’s alma mater had sent out an email from Frank Rossi, associate professor and expert in grass management, who explained that surface performance is determined not by grass type but “by the environment — an indoor, low light, mostly enclosed stadium . . . on grass that routinely moves outside then back inside.” Rossi added that “this environment can allow humidity to increase at the field level and with minimal air movement can make the surface slick.”
Frankly, I don’t care if it was the grass or the environment or something/anything else. That’s not for me to handle. It’s not for any of us to handle. It’s for the NFL to handle, and for the NFL to handle it well.
It’s a pass-fail proposition. Either the grass performs well, or it doesn’t. On Sunday, it didn’t. Regardless of any corporate P.R.-speak from 345 Park Avenue, the league failed.
To his credit, Eagles G.M. Howie Roseman repeatedly said on Thursday that the conditions were the same for both teams. But this overlooks the fact that, to the extent the slippery surface neutralized the respective pass rushes, it hurt the Eagles more than it hurt the Chiefs.
That’s the real problem. The playing surface balanced out what should have been an advantage for the Eagles, who ended up with zero sacks after repeatedly swarming around quarterbacks all year long.
The broader problem is that we all know the field wasn’t good enough. Not even close. The other problem is that, by not making a bigger deal about it, there’s a chance it will happen again.
Unless we all make it clear that the outcome was unacceptable, it could be acceptable once again. Why wouldn’t it be? If the league doesn’t get properly dragged for staging the Super Bowl on a shitty field, where’s the incentive to keep it from happening at the next Super Bowl? Or the next one? Or the next?
NFL escaped the scrutiny it deserved for horrible Super Bowl field conditions originally appeared on Pro Football Talk