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Dorfman: Soldiering On With A Bad Field

Soldier Field. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Soldier Field. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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By Daniel I. Dorfman-

(CBS) It is what it is. What’s done is done.

Those are two of the more popular phrases used when people are asked to accept something that ranges between frustrating and ridiculous. Such is the situation with Soldier Field today.

The problems with the field reached a new level of absurdity Friday night when the Bears had to cancel Family Night because the grass was not playable. The sod became un-seamed because the Park District did not provide proper maintenance for the weather in advance of the scheduled activity.

So now come all the passionate cries that the playing surface be switched to Field Turf, which supposedly would be easier to maintain. Brian Urlacher is among that chorus. But the Bears do not want to do that, according to Chairman George McCaskey in his appearance this morning on the Mully & Hanley Show. McCaskey added the Park District defers to the team about the playing surface, so it looks like this situation is not going to change anytime soon.

What needs to be stated is that this is not a new problem and that it is only part of the reason why the city, state and the Bears should have found another place to play inside the city limits. Ever since grass was installed as the Soldier Field turf following the 1987 season, the surface has been a problem every year.

It all brings you back to how the Bears remained in Soldier Field in the first place. Remember how starting in the 1980s the Bears management, particularly Michael McCaskey, started making noises about needing a new stadium? One plan after another would be rolled out in what turned out to be a soap opera as McCaskey and lawmakers butted heads over the funding for such a project.  (Former  Mayor Richard M. Daley, in a moment of pique, once said the Bears could move to Alaska.)

Not so coincidentally, after Michael McCaskey was removed as team president by his mother and father, a deal was made in Springfield to modernize Soldier Field using taxpayer dollars.

The Bears had been waiting for a deal for so long they grabbed it, but in retrospect, it is hardly a great deal for the team.  Instead, the Bears are now entering their ninth season of playing in a renovated stadium that looks like a spaceship on the outside, has the smallest seating capacity in the NFL, lost its landmark status and has a joke of a playing surface. Lovely.

There is nothing that can be done about it now, but what should have been done originally was build a facility somewhere in the city – most likely the South Loop – that could have been constructed from scratch instead of trying to wedge something into a historic – yet dated – fixture like Soldier Field. I don’t claim to be a horticulturist, but my sense is getting away from the lake a little bit would probably make it easier to grow a better natural grass field. But that is a moot point right now as the Bears and the Park District are going to try to get Soldier Field ready to play. It seems unlikely there is a permanent solution, only a Band-Aid.

Chicago has a lot of problems to deal with, but there is also much to be proud of as well.  Too bad the home of its venerable football team does not fall into that category.