The Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer contains a message that can apply to anyone as they deal with problems thought life. It goes like this:
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Its a valuable message and one which the Bears players probably need to be able to apply when it comes to the turf at Soldier Field. First quarterback Jay Cutler, now linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher cut loose on the Soldier Field footing yesterday (via Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune):
“I don’t know about the beat-up part, but the footing at Soldier Field has been horrible,” Urlacher said. “We’ve all seen that. If you watch us on film, our D-line slipped.
“We’re a fast team and when you get us on a surface like that, it takes a little bit of our speed. Health-wise I think we’re OK if we’re playing fast. But the field has been so bad we haven’t been able to do what we normally do.”
I’m pretty tired of hearing about this. As Urlacher points out, both teams play on the surface. The Bears players just have to be quiet and deal with it. I find it to be disturbing that they are letting the state of the their own stadium’s turf get into their heads to distract them from the task at hand.
More interesting to me is finding a solution to the problem. In this respect, the varied statements we get from through the media don’t help.
“Nobody is expecting changes at Soldier Field any time soon. Team president Ted Phillips has said he’s awaiting ongoing studies on player safety before making any decisions. The park district maintains the stadium as a multipurpose venue, and other events require grass fields.”
“Hybrid surfaces such as the one at Lambeau Field aren’t practical at such a busy venue, which means the status quo may be the best — and only — alternative.”
But Brad Biggs, writing for the National Football Post, said something different yesterday:
“The park district would like to install an artificial surface because it would save money quickly and be able to do much more with the stadium. The Bears, for the time being at least, prefer a natural grass surface. Not all of the players are in favor of that, though.”
Dan Pompei, also at the Tribune, seemed to agree in May:
“The Park District is all for a change to an infill surface — it’s the Bears who are not on board. The Park District could get around the soccer issue by have a grass field rolled over the infill for special events. This is done in some stadiums. You are correct in that the Park District does make money on concerts at Soldier Field, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to make more money from soccer events.”
but then he also wrote this about the latest hybrid surfaces:
“The Eagles and Steelers tried (the hybrid surface used at Lambeau), had problems and had to go back to natural grass. The problem with this type of surface at Soldier Field is it might not hold up to the wear and tear–especially when you consider the stadium, unlike Lambeau Field, also stages events other than Bears games. And if you have problems with it, there is no way to re-sod. You’d have to replace the entire field. As for whether or not the surface is more safe than any other surface, the real answer is no one knows.”
So which is it? Does the Park District want artificial turf or doesn’t it? Does the Park District even know what it wants?
For that matter, though the Bears have been consistent in saying they are awaiting the results of studies being conducted, I’m not sure how useful those studies are going to be. Turf is improving all the time and whatever the studies conclude, there almost certainly won’t be enough of it about hybrid surfaces like the one at Lambeau in Green Bay. And even if there was could the park district even use it? Pompei obviously doesn’t think so.
So when we look at the complaints of the players and at the reasons why this has been allowed to become a distraction, part of the problem might be that the players haven’t gotten a firm message from the organization or the city about what can be done, should be done or will be done. As the Serenity Prayer above implies, people who have their heads on straight tend to turn their minds to the task at hand once they realize that a decision has been made and the situation is out of their hands. Instead, the players think that by talking about it, they can influence the situation. And in talking about it, they continue to think about it.
I understand that this is a multifaceted story. Clearly player safety has to come first. But in the absence of clear data on the subject and in the likelihood of its continued absence, what’s best for the venue long term comes next on the list. A logical, consistent message from the powers involved might really help the fans, not to mention the players, sort out where everyone stands on the issue.