We’re All Armchair Agronomists

The field at FedEx was ugly on Thanksgiving night. That is not disputable. But was it “bad?” I guess that depends on your definition, expectations, and aesthetic preferences.

The attention the browning, wheezing, less-than-pristine pitch has received from media members however, is a bit much. And everybody is an expert. Including model Chrissy Teigen, who made sure to weigh in via Twitter while cleaning up the gravy bowl at home. I’d be willing to bet she hasn’t operated a push mower in her life. But hey, way to fire that one in there C!

Making matters worse, in my opinion, was the Redskins themselves pulling a “Baghdad Bob” the day after, when the Washington Post made a routine inquiry about the field for a story they planned to run. According to the Redskins, the field was in “good condition” and that any complaints were a “non-issue” and blamed the brown on a recent cold snap. Then the team went “Full Belichick” and said we’re on to Cincinnati.

The Redskins aren’t necessarily wrong. The field could both look like crap AND be a “good” surface for a single game at the same time. Dormant bermuda (brown) can be fine for a game or two, but since it’s no longer growing, it’ll deteriorate pretty quickly with every game as the torn up roots do not regenerate with new growth.

The Redskins are not entirely cheap when it comes to the field, either. The areas between the numbers were certainly re-sodded at some point this season, and the newer sod is more susceptible to frost damage (hence why the outside edges of the field looked pretty good.)

Maintaining a firm, fast, real grass football field in our region is the most challenging trick in pro sports. We are right in the middle of the “transition zone” where “cool season” grasses get hammered in August and “warm season” grasses go dormant in November.

When fans say “how come Philly’s field looks so much better” or “Pittsburgh never looks this bad” they completely underestimate the difference a mere 100 miles of northern latitude can make. Not only can those cities use a blend of turf that’s more cold-weather oriented, but those fans also have bad memories. A punt once stuck like a dart in the field at Heinz after a poor-slap-jab sod-job and a rainstorm. And even 5 years into the Linc’s existence, and with an expensive part-synthetic field base called “DD GrassMaster” complaints were loud and long.

So why not go to “field turf” and call it a day? Because a lot of players still don’t think it’s nearly as good as real grass. Also, soccer. Yes, FedEx Field and the Redskins like having the ability to bid on international “friendlies” from time to time. And once you go full plastic, you are out of the running as clubs won’t play on anything artificial. (Though they will play on the DD GrassMaster hybrid surface).

The Kirk Cousins “stumble step” that led to the pick-6 off the hands of Byron Marshall was just the kind of “how about THAT Mr. Fung!” moment that fans jump on as undeniable proof that the field is junk, may well cause cancer if you step on it, and will surely lose us games if we don’t get it fixed immediately!

Truth is, Kirk can catch his cleats on a perfect field just as easily, if he doesn’t pick them up cleanly enough. Kirk was blunt in his assessment of the field the day after, but committed a logical fallacy in saying that one slip on a shoddy field could cost them the game. “There’s too many times where we have crucial plays where we have to have better footing, because it can be the difference in a win or a loss,” Cousins said. “Or in staying on the field or punting, when a guy slips and we don’t make the play.”

What Cousins forgets, is that a slip by the OTHER team at just the wrong time, could just as easily WIN you the game. Bad fields are like rain, wind, and snow. It’s the same for both teams.

The Seattle playoff game in 2012, featured the slo-mo disintegration of RG3’s knee on a pile of painted sand. Many fans blame the field. That’s fun. But likely a total reach. Griffin’s knee was already hanging by a thread in that game. He had been playing on it for 6 weeks after Haloti Ngada nearly took it clean off on a scramble. And against the Seahawks he admittedly hid a further aggravation of the knee from the coaching staff.

That knee was shot. It was only a matter of snaps.

But back to the current brown field. It looks like shit. We should have better.

But I agree with the Redskins that on Thanksgiving, it was perfectly playable and a total non-factor. I only wish they wouldn’t be so dismissive or secretive about the situation. Just lay it all out honestly: what kind of grass? How often does it get re-sodded. What can go wrong? What are they thinking about for solutions? What are they NOT thinking about? Who is in charge. How long has he been with the team?

By acting like they’ve got something to hide, it only invites the the worst kind of speculation and motives from the fans.

About the Author

Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. He also appears on “Bob and Brian” in Milwaukee. “Czabe” also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

Author Archive Page

3 Comments

  1. There may be other NFL stadiums with equally bad or worse playing surfaces than Fed Ex, but none that look as depressingly third-world by mid November year in and year out. Accurate or not, the message being projected is that nobody gives a s**t.

  2. Simple, use a hybrid. A cross of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play four quarters on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night.

  3. Total BS. The Redskins & Danny, FedEx, or whomever just choose not to spend money on this. Not sure if it has to do with the soccer friendlies, a depreciation or balance sheet issue, or whatever, but if they wanted it to be green all year, they’d spend more money. They have to grow grass between September and November, the BEST time to grow it. The Nationals park is GREEN in july and august! They just don’t care and don’t want to invest – not sure why, that is the story.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *