By Dan Bernstein
Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe – never one to avoid offering a thought – called tonight’s TCF Bank Stadium surface “unplayable” after yesterday’s walk-through.
His series of Twitter posts included “The field is as hard as concrete an hour and a half after they took the tarp off, and anyone that hits their head is getting a concussion. I can only hope, however unlikely, that no one gets catastrophically injured at the trainwreck that’s about to take place.”
Well, OK then.
NFL officials and stadium workers are confident that the field will be fine, as they have placed heaters on top of the infill surface, underneath the tarp. But, as Kluwe noted, “The problem isn’t heating it. It’s retaining the heat.”
What may end up being the story tonight, other than the Bears’ attempt to clinch the NFC North by beating another third-string quarterback, is how the weather forecast has changed since initial models last week called for single-digit temperatures and possible flurries. The latest hour-by-hours actually call for temperatures to rise steadily throughout the day to 25 degrees by evening, and for the snowfall to be significant: 2-4 inches during the day, and another 1-3 starting around kickoff. A half-inch per hour is expected during the game.
I am not a landscaper or a meteorologist, but what concerns me is the possibility of a strange confluence of factors that results in an unplayable surface for unanticipated reasons. Here we have a swath of plastic grass filled with bits of rubber, unheated from the bottom but kept warm from the top under a blanket. Depending on when the tarp and heaters are removed, a layer of snow meets a warm field, melts and quickly refreezes. Then, more snow.
Kluwe may end up being right, after all.
Even though the Bears appear to have a decided advantage against first-time starting QB Joe Webb, a bizarre playing environment only adds uncertainty and randomness to the affair. The Patriots proved last week that blocking, tackling, concentration and execution prevail regardless of weather. But do any of us trust these Bears to hold it together as professionally and tightly as the New England operation did?
It looks like another round of slips and slides, falls and flops, skids and bounces and gusts of wind, and another weird game in a weird season.
Get the win, get the playoff spot, don’t get hurt, and get the hell out of there. Enough of this, already.