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Blog: Every Surface Offers a Level Playing Field

The Super Bowl brings people together for the great patriotic tradition of watching football, hooting at beer commercials and eating anything that gets in the way of their heads. At some point during the game, when the commentators are trying to fill a few moments of air time and have run through their repertoire of useless trivia (the attendance numbers, the fact that it's warmer in Texas than it is in Pittsburgh or Green Bay, and so on), they're bound to bring up the playing surface. Specifically, this game will be played on synthetic turf, while Heinz Field is natural grass and Lambeau Field's surface is a hybrid of both natural grass and synthetic fibers, and for a few moments, the question will be bounced back and forth as to whether this constitutes an advantage for the Packers. At least the Cowboys Stadium turf isn't crimson or blue, otherwise we'd be hearing even more pithy observations as to what is more jarring for a visiting team. NFL officials have long held that the surface shouldn't have any influence on the outcome of the game. And really, it doesn't, considering the variety of natural, synthetic and hybrid fields in use by NFL teams, both in indoor and outdoor competition and practice facilities. In fact, both the Packers and Steelers practice on synthetic turf. So, here's my pithy observation: The team that plays better will have the advantage. I'm reminded of the time that Dan Jansen slipped in the 500-meter speed skating event at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. Afterward, a reporter approached Peter Mueller, Jansen's coach, and asked whether the ice on the track oval had been too slippery. Mueller, looking irritated, snapped, "Ice is always slippery." With any luck, when the last of the confetti settles on Sunday, nobody will stick their heads into the silent tomb that is the locker room of the losing team and ask whether the grass on the playing field was too green, or not green enough.

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