No other individual, business, or mega-corporation fails upward quite like the NFL, but damn it, they’re doing it again.

There’s no doubt, that next season will be a bigger spectacle than this season. There’s no question the pomp and circumstance around Super Bowl LXVIII will exceed all of the  overblown pageantry of Sunday’s theatricality, and there will undoubtedly be a ridiculous story line or two that leaves football fans miserable after the game.

It happens in this league all the time. It’s so poorly run, and yet it grows and grows and grows by leaps and bounds season after season.

And the NFL, despite it’s continued incompetence, laughs all the way to the bank.

There’s absolutely no way a league should allow the conditions of its playing surface for its championship to be as poor as it was in Sunday’s tilt. The league had plenty of time to get the field conditions right, and botched it. Badly.

I’ve mostly covered hockey in my 23 years as a writer, and I’ve seen sheets of ice more adherent than the turf at State Farm Stadium:

I don’t need to show you more. You all saw it for yourselves. It was a total disaster. It was an epic failure on the part of the NFL. It impacted both teams and, you know what else? It didn’t take player safety under consideration. Surprise, surprise!

How can this be? How can the NFL have screwed this up so royally? How could they have created a playing surface for football that no athlete alive could have played on without looking like they were auditioning for a Slip-and-Slide commercial?

Actually there may be one athlete who could have handled this turf gracefully, and that’s new Phillies shortstop Trea Turner:

But that’s it. He’s the only one.

In all seriousness, this was something that cost the NFL $800,000 over the past two years and the turf itself, a hybrid grass known as Tahoma 31, has been in development at Oklahoma State University since 2006.

Input (and financing) from the United States Golf Association was used in the development of Tahoma 31, which, as we all know is critical for football because of how much running, and cutting and tackling, and digging into the turf is done during a round of golf.


The NFL might have been better off making the field out of banana peel compost. Hell, it couldn’t have been worse!

Oh, and for the record, Oklahoma State University’s football field at Boone Pickens Stadium has artificial turf.

There were a lot of stories about the turf leading up to the Super Bowl. And in every one it was indicated that this turf was experimental, but the NFL and all the people involved with it’s development and installation in Glendale, Ariz., were uber-confident that it would be great for the big game.

Until it wasn’t.

And yes, the NFL has egg on its face because of this, but why? How did they not test this surface in advance of the game? How do they not simulate some actual, you know, football plays on it in the days leading up to the Super Bowl to assure what happened didn’t happen with any kind of regularity?

State Farm Stadium has been under the spotlight for poor field conditions multiple times before, including as recently as the National Semifinal in the NCAA football playoffs, when there were issues with the field during TCU’s upset of Michigan on New Year’s Eve.

But that was different turf than what was freshly rolled out for the Super Bowl. This was all managed and controlled by the NFL. It’s their mess that they will clean up later, when no one is paying attention, because they will have pulled an Emperor’s New Clothes routine on the public by having everyone pay attention to something else entirely – like the start of the new NFL Year in exactly 32 days.

They’ll sweep it under the rug like they do every problem they have or every mistake they make. And it’s funny because the turf mistake directly led to another NFL disaster – the officiating.

See, NFL officials have been terrible all season all across the league.  That’s no surprise, and it’s also no surprise that they assign the playoffs and Super Bowl on a reward system, and not to crews, but to individuals. This creates a situation where guys who aren’t used to working together are forced to work together in the most important games of the season.

So, it’s tougher to suggest to someone with whom you never work that they may have missed a call or gotten a call wrong because so many decisions by football officials are judgment calls. And when you don’t work with someone regularly, you aren’t used to whether or not they tend to be strict or lenient when it comes to throwing flags, so you basically let them stick with their gut and try not intervene out of respect. After all, you both earned this assignment because of how well you performed in your job this season.

When the holding penalty on James Bradberry is called in the final two minutes, it’s a perfect storm of NFL incompetence:

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Juju Smith-Schuster slightly slips on the turf as he is putting on the breaks to change direction in his route.
  • James Bradberry has a questionable holding penalty (he does tug on Smith-Schuster’s jersey for a hot second, but not nearly enough to impede the route).
  • The official closest to the two players does not throw his flag, but the one downfield by the end zone does.
  • This is where, if these guys worked 18 games together all season, they would have the kind of rapport necessary to at least try to make sure they get the call right. Without that, they are going to err on the side of the official making the call.
  • This penalty seals the Eagles fate.

Now, there are freeze-frames of the tug that make it look worse than it was. Like this one:

And yes, Bradberry admitted to the hold with this quote after the game. But the important part of the quote was the last part. “I was hoping they would let it slide.” Why? Because they do all the time. There were more egregious holds in this game that go no flags, but this one did.

It didn’t decide the Super Bowl, like many people want to cry that it did. But it did allow the Chiefs to drain like 90 seconds off the clock that the Eagles could have used to try to tie the game back up again.

The Eagles have no one to blame but themselves for even being in that position. So, pinning the entire Super Bowl on this call is asinine.

But it’s absolutely legitimate to say that the NFL screwed up so royally that it allowed its most important game to be put in this position, where the sport’s quality and credibility are questioned, yet again.

There’ll be outrage for about 48 hours.. and then it’ll simmer down, and the league will move onward and upward – without really doing anything to fix what continues to ail the sport.

But, hey… the public has been conditioned to keep watching. Keep betting. Keep fantasying the shit out of the sport and to make it the biggest social event of the week each week for half the year.

And that’s never going to change.

Sadly, neither is the NFL.