Save the Grass!

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Save the Grass!

Post  jeffbwillis on Tue Oct 07, 2014 1:29 pm

Amid all of the hoopla regarding the Commonwealth Stadium renovation, a tragedy in the making is upon us. The athletic department plans to cover our beautiful Bermuda playing surface with artificial turf.

When I relate this unfortunate information, literally every fan and season ticket holder has expressed dismay. After all, this is the "Blue Grass State." The name Kentucky comes from "Kain-Tuck-Kay," the native American word for "Land of Grass." To cover what is arguably the SEC's finest playing surface is sacrilege!

Yet, the coaches seem to prefer it. Or, so it has been said. Guy Ramsey's retort pretty much amounted to a "warmed over marketing pitch" from the turf companies. It has been rumored that Coach Stoops thinks "turf and the ability to practice daily on the CMS playing field will "increase intensity" with the players.

This is small compensation for the increased injuries that are certain to accompany artificial turf. In truth, while there have been marginal improvements over the past 40 years, it's still, to quote former Oakland quarterback, Daryl Larmonica, "like playing on a highway." Besides, players are much bigger and faster today than in 1974.

The fact remains, turf creates more minor, nagging injuries such as "turf toe" and turf burn." And there are injuries that are not so minor, such as "shoulder separations" and "concussions."

Kentucky historically has not had the depth that many of the major programs can boast. A key injury can destroy a season. The Arkansas Razorbacks hold a similar position.

The Razorbacks were seemingly coasting with a 28-7 lead against Louisiana-Monroe late in the third quarter. It was the Hogs' second game of the 2012 season. Then, on a third down corner blitz, quarterback, Tyler Wilson was slammed to the turf. He left the game with a concussion. ULM rallied, took the game into OT and pulled the upset.

Wilson not only missed the rest of the ULM game, but missed the following game against Alabama. He lived with "headaches" for the remainder of the year. A once promising season ended 4-8.

Last year, Arkansas quarterback, Brandon Allen suffered a shoulder separation in the Hogs third game, a win over Southern Mississippi. He missed the Rutgers game, a close loss. For the remainder of the season he played with a shoulder separation, never able to apply any zip to his passes. A season that started at 3-0 ended 3-9.

Both injuries were 100% "turf injuries." Had the Razorbacks been playing on grass, both Wilson's and Allen's injuries would have almost certainly been averted!

Thus, we have a "trade-off." Bobby Petrino, for one, likes his teams to practice on the game field. Evidently some of our coaches share this preference. But, increased injuries are certain to result.

From a fans perspective, Turf is simply boring! After a couple of years, the turf becomes faded and worn. As one UK fan living in Nashville responded, "when I watch TV, I always change the channel away from games played on turf."

True, turf is a money saver. Low budget programs find it a great way to cut costs. This likely was the true motivation behind Mitch Barnhardt's thinking. Natural grass fields are expensive to maintain. By opting for turf, the AD will be able to eliminate a dozen or so $16 per hour jobs!

Ironically, the University is spending 110 million dollars on a stadium upgrade. They talk about the "Kentucky barn wood" and "limestone trimmings" that will be a part of the "new" Commonwealth Stadium. They boast improved toilet facilities and wider concourses. Yet, the most beautiful feature of Commonwealth Stadium, the lush Bermuda playing surface will be lost, along with 6,000 seats. Any way you cut it, it's a downgrade!

The "new" Commonwealth Stadium will feature about 2500 premium seats. The plan amounts to "a posh place for the privileged few" and "less room in a degraded facility for the rest."

Sounds somewhat reflective of today's America.


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