Debate This is a recurring series on Her Loyal Sons in which two writers take opposing sides on a hot topic. Today and tomorrow, we will debate whether or not college football games should be played at stadiums solely designed for baseball.
The novelty has officially worn off. Playing football in stadiums designed solely for baseball is a dumb practice which should end immediately. Here’s two reasons why:
THE VIEWS SUCK
When architects are contracted for millions of dollars to design baseball stadiums, they are looking for a layout that will provide unimpeded views for the majority of fans. They take into consideration natural obstructions, such as foul poles. If you’ve watched a game at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, you know this wasn’t always the case. Someone is inevitably stuck with “pole position.”
The general design is based around a diamond configuration. With the exception of the outfielders, the action is wholly contained within that pattern. Depending on the ballpark, you may have a few blind spots – extreme corners that can make the action hard to see, depending on your vantage point. But, again, most of the action is taking place in a well-defined area that is purposely close to the stands.
If you lay a football field on a baseball diamond, there is usually only one way to accommodate it – from home plate to the deepest part of center field. This creates an artificial distance from your seat to where the action is taking place. You’re no longer sitting on top of the action.
Measurements are way more important in football than they are in baseball. It’s unnecessary to know how many feet the outfielder traversed to put himself in position for that fly ball. The average fan merely wants to know: Did he catch it or did he not? In football, the difference in a yard can mean the difference in your team punting or continuing its march down the field. Baseball seats are lower and rise more gradually than seats in football stadiums. When you put a football game in a baseball stadium, you’re putting people in seats that are too low for the action on the field.
That creates two problems. First: If you’re sitting at home plate, you’ll never know if the running back scampered 2, 3, 4 or even 5 yards if the action is taking place past midfield. (The videoboards help, sure. But who wants to watch a video board all game long?)
I speak from experience. I attended the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl and sat in a prime location…for a baseball game. My seat on the first base side of the dugout was looking dead on to the corner of the end zone. If the play was happening right in front of me, it was fantastic. If it was happening on the other side, I had to rely on the reaction of the crowd or the video board to give me the information necessary to understand what had transpired.
The second problem is that the “field level” seats along the sidelines are merely great views of players’ backsides. Again, when you’re sitting at roughly the same height as the third baseman, this is great. When you’re trying to look around 105 people bunched up right in front of you, it’s annoying. When the Irish played Boston College at Fenway Park, both teams shared a sideline. Everyone on that side who was down low had a line of players and coaches partially obstructing their view.
THE FIELD SUCKS
Notre Dame and Northwestern have scheduled a Nov. 3, 2018 game — and I’m worried they’re going to play it at Wrigley Field.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs agreed in 2013 to stage five more football games at the Friendly Confines. With a “Shamrock Series game before there was a Shamrock Series” at Yankee Stadium in 2010 and the Fenway Park game last year, the Irish have already signaled their willingness to play in famous ballparks for the right price.
Wrigley Field, which was built in 1914, accommodated the Chicago Bears until 1970. But there’s always been a major problem: The field isn’t big enough to fit the full football configuration. When Northwestern and Illinois played at the stadium in 2010, they used a third-base-to-right-field setup. It didn’t provide the maximum six feet of buffer around the end zone, so the teams were forced to play in one direction. The Bears used to play home plate to the outfield, which required one end zone to be only eight yards (instead of the traditional 10). This is no way to play a football game.
Turf problems have plagued Yankee Stadium. In the third quarter of the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl, the Irish faced a 2nd-and-3 from Rutgers’ 7-yard-line. T.J. Jones was given the ball on a sweep, turned the corner, had daylight and promptly wiped out. The Irish would eventually settle for a field goal, breaking a 13-13 tie. The missed opportunity didn’t cost Notre Dame the game, but it certainly could have if the opponent was a little stronger.
The temporary surface was blamed for Tarean Folston’s minor injury, a squibbed kick by Kyle Brindza and the Rutgers quarterback falling on a big run when he was untouched. Dan Duggan, covering the game for NJ.com, said: “Receivers and defensive backs on both sides have struggled to get in and out of their breaks. There basically isn’t a play where someone on the field isn’t slipping.” Duggan also noted the field was in similarly bad shape when Rutgers played a pair of games there in 2011.
The St. Louis Cardinals proved how ill-fitting football is in a baseball stadium, when they let two FCS teams trample their bluegrass in September 2013.
Kickoff was still an hour away when [the head groundskeeper] noticed turf coming up as linemen went through drills. Even the kickers’ sideline ballet rubbed bare spots. By the time [the head groundskeeper and vice president of stadium operations] took their halftime tour, the turf looked as though it had staged a cattle drive followed by a rodeo capped by a monster truck pull.”
The Cardinals were approaching their final homestand of the season and preparing to host playoff games. After the game, their field needed a major patch job: 13 truckloads of sod.
It’s fun for our favorite team to play in iconic baseball venues. Now that they’ve done it at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, we’ve experienced the novelty. It’s simply not worth it – from a fan experience standpoint or a player safety standpoint – to continue trying to put the proverbial rectangle peg into the diamond shaped hole. Baseball has gone at late as Nov. 4 to accommodate a seven-game World Series. Let’s hope the Cubbies are good enough in 2018 to make my worry a moot point.