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Longtime NFL groundskeeper explains why poor field conditions at Super Bowl 57 were avoidable, points to who to blame

The NFL spent two years building and preparing the field that would be used for Super Bowl 57 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. A little over two weeks after the game ended, the pitch remains a topic of discussion—for all the wrong reasons.

All the confetti and Gatorade showers are long gone and the media and players are now firmly in offseason mode. But time doesn’t seem to heal all wounds. The awkward field conditions will continue to haunt the league, as will longtime groundsman George Toma.

The 94-year-old, who has worked at every Super Bowl, spoke about the field’s performance and told ESPN he believes the troubles could have been avoided.

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Why was the field so bad at Super Bowl 57?

Toma claimed the field was overwatered in the days leading up to the big game, adding that the field was watered on Wednesday morning and then wheeled into the stadium to prepare for Sunday’s kick-off.

State Farm Stadium’s field sits on a giant tray, allowing the venue to push the grass into the desert sun when not in use.

Toma, nicknamed “Sodfather,” said the field should have been left to dry outside before being brought inside. He took aim at NFL field director Ed Mangan, who was in charge of the Super Bowl playing surface. Mangan worked under Toma for years but that didn’t stop the Sodfather from criticizing the way the field was treated before kick-off.

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“He waters the hell out of him and puts him right in the stadium and that’s it,” Toma said of Mangan. “Never see sunlight again. He can’t.”

Toma added that the tarp used to protect the surface prior to rehearsals for the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows caused the turf to smell because the field was not given enough time to dry. At some point, Toma said, he was told the field was beginning to rot and decay.

The criticism didn’t stop there.

The groundsman then aimed for Mangan due to the lack of sand on the field. “He sanded it two weeks late,” Toma said. “He only had one cut. He should have had two or three cuts, but he didn’t s—. And that was it. Not only that, he didn’t care. He didn’t want to listen to everyone.”

The field for Super Bowl 57 was the last Toma will be working on as he retired after the event. Toma has been gardening for over 80 years. He was honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and inducted into the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame in 2012.

It seems Toma is looking forward to moving on, telling ESPN, “I can’t take it anymore.” He added that he wasn’t happy with how the league had handled field issues at previous Super Bowl sites.

“Me and the league are finished,” said Toma. “You can’t tell me what to do anymore. We’re done.”

Players were seen throughout the game slipping and changing cleats to try and find some traction. Video of Eagles kicker Jake Elliott slipping on a kick-off became one of the game’s most memorable images.

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The NFL issued a statement the day after the Super Bowl stating, “The field surface at State Farm Stadium met the required standards for maintaining natural grass surfaces under NFL guidelines. The natural grass surface was tested throughout Super Bowl week and was in accordance with all mandatory NFL practices.”

Despite the statement, the players did not hold back from expressing their displeasure. Eagles defenseman Haason Reddick said, “I’m not going to lie, it’s the worst field I’ve ever played on.”

Toma told NPR in Kansas City that the field for Super Bowl 57 cost $750,000.

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