At the Super Bowl in Tampa this year, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) put out their 2008 NFL Playing Surface Opinion survey. A sincere thank you and congratulations go to Clark Gaines, NFLPA assistant executive director, for this detailed survey. The survey has come out every two years since 1994, and it is in-depth in all phases. It was conducted by the NFLPA at team meetings September through November of 2008, and a total of 1,565 active NFL players, representing all 32 teams, voluntarily filled it out.
As I looked through the surveys from 1994 to 2008, I see where some team’s fields went downhill each year, but the very good fields usually stayed pretty close to the top five. Sometimes, the worst-rated fields have excellent groundskeepers, but they are saddled with the type of field they do not want. Still, others need to do a better job.
Here are some of the quotes from the “Top Comments/Suggestions from Participating NFL Players” section:
“If a cow can’t eat it, we shouldn’t be playing on it.”
“No more fields like Pittsburgh. It is the worst.”
“No more games in London. It’s awful.”
“Those franchises who cannot grow grass in November and December should re-sod more frequently or switch to synthetic turf. Overall, the quality of the fields have improved dramatically, however!”
“I feel that a grass field that is very well-maintained is the best field to play on. The best grass field I have ever played on is on Texas A & M University. The artificial turf infilled field always starts out great like our field was the first year we put it in. But, after two years of soccer games and concerts, the field is a mess. The maintenance of the field is not good enough and I place the responsibility on the owner.”
“Grass is probably preferred by most players, including myself. However, our game field is the worst I’ve ever witnessed and played on. Green sand does not do the job for me like it does on television. I believe our field is extremely dangerous, especially later in the season. Something should be done!”
As I’ve said before, we have had some bad fields and we must improve them because the cheapest insurance for an athlete is a good, safe playing field. Please read the entire survey and you will now have what I have been saying in black and white.
Yes, some of your playing fields are painted green for TV and aesthetics, and, yes, artificial turf fields are painted green for the same reason. For the Super Bowl game in Minneapolis, we painted the artificial turf green for the Redskin-Bills game. My favorite groundskeeper, Dick Ericson, had a green carpet dye made up and also used some Green Lawnger. The last Super Bowl game in New Orleans the entire artificial turf was painted green using grass field paint made up by World Class Paint.
Another question on the survey was, “How much do you value your grounds crew’s work on your game and practice fields?” It’s interesting that the player response was 73.8 percent for “strongly value” and 21.3 percent for “somewhat value.” To the question, “Do you feel that the top-rated NFL Grounds crew should maintain the Super Bowl field?” 88.6 percent of the players answered yes.
I wish all of you could review a copy of this survey. Thanks again to Mr. Gaines and to Bill Paprocki, and a standing ovation to the players who took the time to answer this survey. They did a tremendous job.
George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, one of the founders of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 67 years in the profession.