Game time in Chicago is rapidly approaching as we all wait in anticipation for what should be a great game between two of the NFL’s most legendary teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. As any good football fan would do, I woke up early and my TV hasn’t changed from ESPN since it was turned on. Just hearing the words Packers, Bears, and NFC Championship in the same sentence are enough to make even a Vikings fan excited for this game. As ESPN chronicles classic match-ups between these two teams we keep getting interrupted by updates on….field conditions? I had to double check to make sure I hadn’t switched to the Golf Channel. Are we seriously talking about the challenges of carrying five pairs of cleats to the field and changing them to match the field conditions? It should be physically impossible to go from images of the Frozen Tundra or Dick Butkus unleashing hell to close up HD shots of grass and interviews with players complaining about the state of the turf at Soldier Field.
I know that it could, and likely will, make a difference in this game, but both teams are playing on the same field and will be slipping just like the other team does. The physics of motion do not change when the Bears have the ball. There are a handful of players who agree with this sentiment and aren’t concerning themselves with the field conditions but there are also several players who need to be reminded that they are playing football and the football gods are seething with anger that one of the main headlines for the conference championship game is related to grass.
I’m all for doing all we can to prevent concussions and cheap shots that can seriously injure players, but at the end of the day the nature of football is a rough, violent sport. There isn’t a player at any level who goes into the locker room, puts on military caliber armor, and trots out onto the field expecting a game of two hand touch. Risks and injuries are assumed, avoided when possible, but ultimately inevitable. In a game filled with the most macho of macho men, where 250 lb linebackers run with Olympic sprint style speed and we don’t bat an eye seeing an offensive lineman tip the scales at over 300 lbs, how has some shoddy turf become an issue?
Just run a google image search for any terms relating to old football and you will see men who would make Leonidas from the movie 300 run for cover. Let’s take a look at a few more images so that we can be reminded of why we love football and why people who are complaining and concerned about the field should be out lining up a putt and not getting ready for a 4th and 1 inside the redzone.
Take a look at this guy. I’m not sure if concussions were even medically identified at this time, but this guy probably had a dozen per game. Wearing a leather helmet in a football game is equivalent to to replacing your airbag with bubble wrap. As for the rest of the pads, today’s kickers wear bigger shoulder pads than this guy did. Field conditions were again not a concern for this guy.
Here’s is an image from the legendary “Ice Bowl”, a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. For all I can tell, that isn’t even grass but just rough concrete they are playing on. Seriously, does any part of that image say heating coils under the field or cushy landing? I actually wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t frozen clouds of breath coming out of the helmets but plumes of Marlboro smoke. When these guys returned to the sideline, they probably pounded some shots of brandy to warm back up. If these dudes had the option to play on the Soldier Field turn today they’d probably play in shorts and t-shirts because of how comfortable it would feel to them.
If playing on concrete like tundra and leather helmets wasn’t enough, the NFL men of old had obstacles on the field of play to account for. See that field goal post? It’s not in the back of the endzone but on the goal line. Today’s players get bent out of shape if a tuft of grass causes them to stumble. What would they say if they were running a post route and ran into a metal pole that had just enough cushioning to dampen the sound of kneecap on steel?
So if you find yourself sick of hearing today’s announcers (please God, not Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) banter on the texture of the grass, just pull up this post or do a search of your own to view evidence of a time when “field conditions” wasn’t even a phrase.