It may be difficult to see what's wrong with this picture, but it's not that hard to understand why the first NFL game since Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, was canceled due to such deplorable field conditions.
Who would've thought, regardless of whether it was the preseason, regular season or postseason, that a game in the National Football League would be postponed, let alone canceled, due to the awful state of the playing field? You've seen it over the years where divots stick up like gophers, grass is more brown than the bears (not in Chicago), and snow seems never-ending in the tundra and you can't even see the yard-line markers.
However, in 2016, on the same weekend where eight legends were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, the first NFL preseason match-up between the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers was called off.
"I was notified at about 5:30 that there was a problem at midfield and in the end zones with some of the painting that it was kind of congealing and rubberized, which meant players might slip on it," Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker told NFL Media's Steve Wyche. "The folks with the field tried to remediate that by dropping some other pellets but after talking to the coaches and staff for both the Packers and the Colts, there was a concern they might be able to remediate it but they would have to do something underneath the surface. (NFL.com)
If you look at the picture I posted for this story, it's a shame that this field was as bad as it looked. Who knows what the weather was like for the past few days/weeks in Canton, Ohio, and if they could anticipate who would be using this field prior to the Hall of Fame Game, then they should be able to have this field ready by game-time on Sunday. It's really unfortunate.
"We think we could make it playable, that it might be playable now but if there is any concern, anything in the minds of players we want to err on the side of player safety. This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You've heard me many, many times talk about our values of commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence. If we don't have that integrity to respect our players and respect their safety, then we shouldn't be doing this job. It was a difficult decision to make. ... But in some respects, it was an easy, ethical decision. (NFL.com)
Keeping up with the reputation the league has created over the past 10-15 years, the NFL made the right decision in siding with player safety and not endangering the livelihoods of these men. I think it's a fairly easy decision to make, and so did President Baker. I'm an outsider looking in, but I'm not sure how I could reason with those who would've wanted to play the game regardless of the condition in which the field turned out to be.
The league and the players association issued a statement:
"Due to safety concerns with the condition of the playing surface in Canton, tonight's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers has been canceled. We are very disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight." (NFL.com)
This is one of my two key takeaways from this awful story. You have hundreds of fans, from Indianapolis to Green Bay to anywhere else around the country and world. They wanted to see Brett Favre, arguably one of the top 5 best quarterbacks ever, walking to the land of football immortality. They were looking forward to Tony Dungy, one of the best head coaches of all-time, enter through the pearly gates of NFL's Mount Olympus. These fans also wanted a taste of what was to come in the 2016 NFL season.
While granted that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is going to offer fans their money back, and they should without question, it's really unfortunate for these fans who treated this as a "religious journey" and they're not going to be able to have this incredible weekend completed with the game they love the most.
However, on top of all this disappointment, my other beef with this situation is probably the lack of employees who will lose their job over this mishap. Granted, this is a preseason game, and not much credence is given to the preseason output of a team for the impending regular season. What really gets my goat is if this happened during the regular season or, God forbid, in the playoffs, employees would be sacked (not the football definition, but fired) from their job. Heads would roll and questions would need to be answered.
We always refer to laws/rules and whether they were made to be broken. We always talk about how much of a forgiving nation if you just tell us the truth. However, how many chances should one be given for such a setback for The Shield? I'm not saying everyone who had a part in that field being so terrible should lose their job. Maybe there was a certain aspect that one worker messed up or didn't properly prepare and that set back the entire team. Certainly, the manager/leader of the grounds crew team will admittedly bear some of that responsibility, but when does this adversity, which seems so preventable, goes unnoticed and the problem surfaces so close to game time?
When it's all said and done, the NFL will move on to their next games. They'll continue to make billions on top of billions of dollars in revenue. Their ratings will still be hard to challenge, and they will have bigger fish to fry. However, this is a tough pill to swallow. They won't lose much in terms of money, and their reputation won't take too much of a hit.
It's just really unfortunate that the fans had to experience such a misfortune. I'm sure if there was a Hall of Fame game between the Orioles and Padres back in 2007, and I didn't get to see my Friars take on the O's from a professional baseball field (not necessarily of an MLB-caliber stadium), I would feel really upset, but I think the fans who made it out to Canton really should cherish the fact that they got to see a hell of an induction class into pro football's Mount Olympus. Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, Orlando Pace, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Ed DeBartolo, Jr., Dick Stanfel and (in my opinion a year WAY too late) Ken Stabler... This will be a class that's tough to beat. Take it all in Packers, Colts, Rams, 49ers, Steelers, Lions, Redskins, and Raiders fans. You've really had a great weekend to keep in your memory banks.