By Ken Reed
The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year in the United States, and arguably the biggest event of any type.
Not only does the Super Bowl crown the NFL champion for a given season, it’s a music showcase, a consumer marketing bonanza and the highest-rated TV program of the year. In essence, Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial American holiday. The cheapest ticket to see this year’s spectacle fluctuated around $4,000.
Given the magnitude of this event, it’s hard to believe that the field for the game was in such poor condition. From the opening kickoff, players were slipping and sliding all over the field, and in some cases, completely falling down while trying to make a play. Even Eagles kicker Jake Elliott slipped and twisted his ankle while undertaking the relatively simple act of kicking off after a score.
The NFL blew it. They had many weeks to get the field ready for their biggest game of the year. And yet, the field was probably in the worst shape of any NFL game played this season. Sure, the field looked pretty with the shiny logos all over. However, in terms of playing football it was too often like playing on a painted ice rink.
Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jordan Mailata described the conditions as “pretty slippery” and similar to “playing on a water park.”
“I’m not gonna lie.,” said the Eagles Haason Reddick. “It was the worst field I’ve ever played on.”
Let’s point out right here that the Eagles weren’t blaming the field for the loss. This wasn’t sour grapes. They acknowledged both teams had to play on the same field. Nevertheless, the conditions took away from elite athletes’ ability to perform at their best. On one play, both defensive ends slipped to the ground trying to get to the quarterback.
I’m not sure why the field was as slick as it was. Some speculated that it was caused by all the paint on the field. That might have been part of it but the turf was also just constantly giving way in chunks. After the halftime show, the league had 50 or more people on the field trying to replace chunks of grass in the playing surface.
The media covering the game slipped up too. While the Fox television broadcast announcers mentioned the slipping and sliding a few times, there seemed to be more emphasis on the celebrities in the crowd than there was on the faulty stage the game was being played on.
If the announcers were true journalists, the slick playing field would’ve been a key storyline throughout the game, as it affected almost every play. But Kevin Burkhardt, the play-by-play announcer, never seemed interesting in talking about how the field conditions were negatively impacting the game.
The color analyst was Greg Olsen, a former player who could’ve provided insight regarding how hard it is to play football when the turf gives way when you plant a foot to cut. He never bothered.
Moreover, early on when it was clear footing on the field was a big problem, Fox could’ve had a sideline reporter attempting to look into the situation. There also could’ve been some reporting on the new type of grass, Tahoma 31, that was used for this game. Why was it chosen? Why choose a type of grass that had never been tested in game conditions?
Here’s the sad part: the NFL had been preparing this field for more than a year. And this is what they came up with?
Super Bowl 57 was an exciting game. There’s no denying that. It came down to the last play. There were big plays from start to finish on both sides. But unfortunately, it was marred by a playing surface that was well below par.
The 1967 NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys is known in football lore as the Ice Bowl due to the frigid conditions the game was played in. The 2023 Super Bowl will be remembered as Ice Bowl II despite the fact the game was played in Glendale, Arizona, where the game time temperature was 76 degrees.
The players who worked hard all year to get to the ultimate game deserved so much better than the field they were given.
The fact the NFL gave them a Slip ‘N Slide to play on is simply shameful.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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