By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) I like natural grass.
I sat on a bunch of it just this past weekend during Lollapalooza (although, fortunately, I wasn’t there on Sunday when Grant Park turned into three yards and a pile of mud). Real grass is attractive, comfortable, fragrant stuff.
Heck, it just smells like football.
So, I completely get why Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey and the rest of the team’s front-office wonks might have such an affinity for natural turf. I do, too. But I don’t understand at all why the team is clinging so desperately to it.
Because, sometimes, you just need to face reality.
Even when it leads to something artificial.
“Our primary concern is player safety,” McCaskey said on Monday while addressing the Bears’ latest turf debacle, which resulted in the cancellation of Saturday’s Family Fest due to an under-watered and ultimately unsafe playing surface.
“We want to prolong careers,” McCaskey continued. “We want our guys to be available on a week-to-week basis. The evaluation is ongoing. Every year we take a look at it. Our considered opinion is that right now, the best surface for our team, primarily considering player safety, is a natural grass field.”
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, meanwhile, considered McCaskey’s opinion and opted to fire off a contrary one.
“I don’t understand why they don’t have FieldTurf, yet,” the Bears’ defensive leader said. “We’re a fast team. We play fast on FieldTurf. The injury issues aren’t as bad as they used to be (with artificial turf). They’ve gone down a lot in the last few years with the way they made the turf and stuff. So I don’t understand it.”
And neither do I.
After all, we’re a long way removed from 1993 when Bears wideout Wendell Davis was blowing out both his knees on a deep route and a bad seam in the AstroTurf at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium.
These days, the Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Saints, Bills, Falcons, Ravens, Patriots, Seahawks, Rams, Colts, Bengals and Vikings all play on artificial surfaces. And I can’t say that I’ve noticed them experiencing exorbitantly more injuries than other teams. Heck, Minnesota has far more trouble with its roof than it does with its turf.
Sure, in a perfect world – with perfect weather – the Bears should play all their games on natural grass. But this world isn’t perfect, and it’s time for the Bears to install FieldTurf at Soldier Field.
On Monday, however, McCaskey said the team will instead soldier on with the status quo – I suppose, at this moment, there really isn’t another choice – and will instead start working more closely with the Chicago Park District to, you know, water the field and stuff.
“The Park District has already said that it was a miscalculation on their part, that they need to do a better job,” McCaskey said. “And we need to do a better job to take a more active role in monitoring their treatment of the field. It needs to be a collaborative effort.”
McCaskey then said that process has already begun.
“I was there (Sunday) and spoke to Ken Mrock, our groundskeeper, who was the first person I saw when I got there,” he said. “The second person I saw when I got there was John Nolan, the park district’s groundskeeper. Both of them said that they’re very confident the field is going to be ready for Saturday.”
Well, perhaps that’s the Bears’ problem right there.
Just like what they say about quarterbacks, if you have two groundskeepers, you really have none.
In any case, play ball.
Oh, and don’t forget to set the sprinklers.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.