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Hurley: NFL shows off new way to waste $800,000 with slippery field in Super Bowl

BOSTON -- A lot of good can be done with 800,000 American dollars.

Eight hundred thousand American dollars can make for a whopper of a charitable contribution. Eight hundred thousand American dollars can build something tangible. It can change lives.

As we learned on Sunday night, though, 800,000 American dollars can also be used to engineer, grow and transport a terrible field of grass for the Super Bowl.

While the game itself was quite compelling, an unfortunate side plot developed when several players found themselves slipping on the turf. The poor footing affected ball carriers, defenders, touchdown scorers and kickers alike, with the most striking example coming on a kickoff from Philadelphia's Jake Elliott.

This was a field, mind you, that was somehow two years in the making. Prior to kickoff, multiple stories featured a boastful NFL bragging about the exceptional quality of this rare swath of grass.

ESPN ran a 750-word feature in which multiple NFL employees took a premature victory lap about this dynamite playing surface. 

Business Insider interviewed 94-year-old George Toma, who goes by the nickname "The Sodfather." Toma revealed the $800,000 cost of this year's turf and said it's been growing for the past 18 months. He confidently declared it "the second best grass" the Super Bowl has ever had. (The field in Miami for Bears-Colts takes the top spot, in his book.)

"Actually you have to have a good root system," Toma told Business Insider. "And this field is very tight."  

The Associated Press talked to Nick Pappas, a field surface director for the NFL, who talked about the painstaking care taken to care for this field.

"For this one, obviously, we're giving it a little extra care," Pappas said. "We've got a lot of groundskeepers here for about a month, putting eyes on it, putting hands on it, working on it all day, every day, getting it ready for game day."  

Reports detailed the involvement of the USGA, the science behind the development of this breed of grass, and of course, that retractable field that rolls out to bake in the desert sunshine.

There was a lot. The grass' publicist was working overtime ensuring this glowing coverage before the game. Give that flack some bonus pay.

But then the game kicked off, and it was a mess.

Somehow, some way, no players suffered catastrophic injuries during the game, though Kenneth Gainwell appeared to have come as close to tearing an ACL as one can without tearing an ACL, and Isaiah Pacheco rolled his ankle pretty badly while simply trying to celebrate his touchdown run.

After the game, players offered up their assessments of the playing surface. Five-star reviews were hard to find.

"I'm not going to lie, it was the worst field that I've ever played on," Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick said postgame.

"Slippery," Eagles tackle Jordan Mailata said. "I'm not a grass expert, but it was slippery."

Chiefs receiver Kadarius Toney described the field as "slippy." Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert said the field "was tearing up a bit," leading to a change of cleats. Mailata added that the field "was definitely subpar for sure." Chiefs D-lineman Frank Clark said "he field was kind of terrible."

Eagles cleats
Cleats of Eagles players sit on the sidelines during Super Bowl LVII. Rob Carr / Getty Images

Mailata added some more detail on what it was like to play in those conditions.

"It was just slick. You couldn't anchor. You had to get your whole foot in the ground. If you try and use just your toe, you'd slip right away," Mailata said, per ESPN. "You saw the receivers -- it was like a water park out there. And we're playing on grass." 

The Eagles might have done more of the complaining, which is natural for a team that lost the game. But most of those Eagles made sure to credit the Chiefs for adapting to the field better, as the issue obviously affected both teams. It made for a dangerous playing surface in the world's biggest annual sporting event for the $100 billion entity known as the NFL.

The league is run, obviously, by Roger Goodell, who said this week that officiating is better than it's ever been and who didn't care much to have the league's faults called out in a public setting. So it's unlikely the NFL makes any public admission about this field failure.

For now, the league -- and the players -- are extremely lucky that a severe injury did not occur as a result of shoddy turf. And the league now has a year to make sure the same disaster doesn't happen for next year's Super Bowl ... which will be played in a different desert, on another retractable field in Las Vegas.

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