The Vikings’ Switch From Turf To…Different Turf Is The Latest Tone-Deaf Decision For NFL Stadiums & Player Safety

Minnesota Vikings
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It’s the holiday season. Good vibes should be all around. I imagine that was the motivation for this news surfacing about the Minnesota Vikings switching out their dangerous playing surface for a slightly less-dangerous playing surface.

Instead of giving players who take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium a lump of coal for Christmas as something to look forward to in 2024, it was as if the decision-makers involved in this project wrapped the figurative coal in decorative paper before gifting it all the same.

Let’s try to pull this apart and see if my brain doesn’t explode by the end. Can’t say I’m *shocked* at these types of short-sighted undertakings and half-baked solutions in the name of optimizing profits. What else is new? Breaking: This happens everywhere. Every day. Where I get irked is when it’s so damn avoidable.

So you’re telling me that instead of installing natural grass — proven over and again by data and further emphasized by impassioned player testimonials to be far safer than turf — the people who masterminded this grand plan are going to spend $1.3 million for a different turf.

That sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? To most of us mere mortals, $1.3 million is a nice chunk of change. It’s literal pocket change in the grand scheme of the NFL.

Shall we dive into some numbers? In 2023 alone, the Minnesota Vikings, as part of the NFL’s revenue sharing accord, will be paid out $264 million from NFL media rights deals. The Vikings’ revenue in 2022 was $540 million.

Zygi Wilf is the team’s chairman and co-owner (with his brother). Wilf’s net worth is not $1.3 million. It is $1.3 billion. Or at least it was as of 2013. Yeah. A decade ago. It’s hard to pin down exactly what his net assets are today. I’ve seen Wilf’s current net worth estimated as high as $5.7 billion.

Either way, Monopoly Money and far beyond.

Considering Minnesota has hosted a grand total of three playoff games over the past 13 seasons, they can realistically expect to play a maximum of 10 games at U.S. Bank Stadium each year. How much more expensive could it possibly be to figure out a grass-laying operation? It’s not like the folks involved here are still paying off the stadium! That’s right. Get this: It was reported back in June that all the debt from U.S. Bank Stadium was paid off twenty-three years early.

So let me get this straight. You can finagle a way to pay off the $1.1 billion stadium more than two decades early, yet you can’t afford a suitable playing surface for the men who put their bodies and livelihoods on the line two handfuls of Sundays a year??

The Jets/Giants tried the new, latest and greatest style of turf at MetLife Stadium. Guess what happened five plays into Aaron Rodgers’ Jets tenure? Yup. The infamous exploded Achilles. Happened to Miami Dolphins star pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips, too.

Speaking of the Dolphins, even more damning about this Vikings turf situation, to me, is Hard Knocks just had a big segment about how a whole sophisticated operation of people lays down fresh sod on Hard Rock Stadium’s grass playing surface.

I feel compelled to quote the last few lines of the story by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert at the top of this article, including a rich final line from Vikings EVP/chief business administration office Steve Poppen, who also said “our No. 1 priority was focused on player health and safety” (my a*s):

“Earlier this season, NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell called on the NFL to ensure grass fields in all its stadiums, even those with permanent roofs such as U.S. Bank Stadium. Williams said he did ask about options for a grass field during the Vikings’ process but found it was not viable. The facility typically hosts more than 200 events per year in addition to Vikings games.

“‘U.S. Bank Stadium was built as a multipurpose facility,’ Poppen said. ‘It was designed for artificial surface. We don’t have the ability to grow grass in that stadium right now.'”

Sure, you might say, the Dolphins’ grass hauling job is easier to pull off in Florida given the climate, predominantly warm weather year-round and outdoor stadium venue. Nevertheless, you can’t tell me the Vikings don’t have the means and resources on hand to make something like that happen. It must be possible.

In fact, ya boii did a little more Googling and stumbled upon a most interesting piece on this turf vs. grass topic by Maury Glover of Fox 9 Minneapolis. It explores the difficulties of installing grass playing surfaces for indoor stadiums, which is impossible unless you have “growing lights” so that the grass can still go through the process of photosynthesis. Minnesota’s winters and the U.S. Bank Stadium’s roof don’t give enough sunlight to maintain the grass without those growing lights.

Then, there’s this interesting bit of information: It’d apparently take — at most, factoring in “other infrastructure” considerations —  $5 million a year for the Vikings to be able to pull this off.

“A turfgrass management professor at Michigan State, who is working with FIFA to bring natural grass to five domed stadiums when the World Cup comes to the U.S. in 2026, says a natural grass field in an enclosed stadium would most likely have to be swapped out every few weeks, which some outdoor NFL stadiums already do.

“But with grow lights and other infrastructure, it could cost U.S. Bank Stadium $4 to $5 million a year to maintain.”

Right? Five million per year for the Minnesota Vikings. A franchise that is, all told, worth $4.65 billion.

But ehh…nah. Let’s just spend $1.3 million, save maybe $4 million, and let the players suffer, Vikings stadium power players say.

It’s a double middle finger gesture by all even adjacently involved. It’s tone-deaf. I’ll keep reminding y’all of this George Kittle tweet and the link to the petition.

Call me crazy, but when someone as tough-as-nails as George Kittle is saying turf feels like cement, it might just be time for a change. Is football not physical enough? We have to put these modern day gladiators through more punishment? Make it make sense.

Then think about how brutal it is to play on turf when you factor in the quick turnaround players have between Sunday and Thursday night games. Of course, those latter prime-time matchups don’t take playing surface into consideration whatsoever. Why would that be a thing?

I know life is full of contradictions. We’re all full of hypocrisies. But if the NFL were really dead-serious about player safety issues, the powers that be would band together and f*cking do something about this.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock