ESPN's editorial staff has clearly made the decision that in the absence of any real football news, they would keep up the NFL content by bombarding us with a barrage of lists. Every week is a new list meant to generate debate and discussion... This week, it was about the toughest stadium in the NFL to play.
But like a lot of people who talk about stadiums that are "tough to play in" I think they focused on a lot nonsense and missed what really matters to players. Here's just a few examples meaningless stuff that influenced their decisions.
"Lambeau Field has the perfect mix of history and the modern feel, while most stadiums are one or the other," AFC North blogger James Walker said after listing Lambeau atop his ballot. "You can feel the ghosts there. The weather makes it tough. And, as with Heinz Field, the local fans do not sell their tickets. Opposing fans do not take over that stadium."
Nonsense. No modern players go to Lambeau field thinking of Bart Starr and while it may be true that opposing fans don't take over the stadium, that's because it's in GREEN BAY.
More ranting after the jump...
"I realize the Chiefs have gotten destroyed at Arrowhead too, but it's not the stadium's fault Kansas City has fielded poor rosters," Graham said.
That should tell you all you need to know about why Arrowhead isn't a particularly tough place to play. Still others continued with the meaningless stuff, even about the stadium I think is the toughest, Soldier Field.
Take the weather and throw in the legend of Halas, Butkus, Sayers and Payton and that's an intimidating place to play."
Again, NO player cares about Dick Butkus. If they even know who is, they certainly aren't "intimated" because he once played in Chicago. The reason why Soldier Field is the toughest place in the NFL to play, and a reason none of the ESPN guys mentioned, is that it is home to the most god awful playing surface in the league. Not only is it usually hard as a rock, it's completely chewed up and/or slick. My guess is that players find that much tougher to deal with than the "ghosts" of Gale Sayers.
The awful field in Chicago is something even their own players hate. Here's what TE Desmond Clark wrote about the field.
"Let me get all of my negative energy out first. Did you guys take a good look at our field. If you did you had to be disgusted. Lets take a look at some of the things before I make my statement about how I feel. Just assume you didnt read the title of this blog. Last week we played on a field that was immaculate in Denver. We have only played one game at Soldier Field. We are basically the biggest market in the league and I say that because New York is split between two teams. Green Bay has a nice playing surface. It was not always this way until the last couple of years when they revamped it by adding a synthetic grass that is woven in with the real grass. Some of our opponents comments: "yall play on a cow pasture" "this is the [worst] field in the league" "what the hell is going on with this field". These are a few comments that come to mind. What the hell is the park distict of Chicago doing when it comes to taking care of this field. They have to resod the whole field before we play Pittsburgh, which will lead to loose turf. Basically, to some it up in a sentence, we have one of the worst fields in the NFL and there are no excuses why the Chicago Bears, of all teams, should have to play on such a bad surface. Thank God preseason is over and here we come Green Bay. Sunday night football, couldnt think of a greater way to start the season"
And that's why Soldier Field wins... (or loses depending on how you look at it.)
Qwest Field in Seattle, which leads the league in opponents' false start penalties, which you would think is a direct result of it being a tough place to play... was ranked third on the list because one of these ESPN bloggers didn't think it had enough tradition.
"I respect Qwest Field and the '12th Man' aura,'" Williamson said. "It's a fun atmosphere, but I think there are tougher spots to play in the NFL. I'd like to see Seattle win more games and build more of a tradition at the field before I rank it as elite."
Again, tradition is meaningless for players. Crowds that are so loud you can't hear the snap count... that isn't.
When I think of tough places to play, I always thought the old Giants stadium was rough. The surface was usually poor, the winds blowing through there wreaked havoc on kickers and QBs alike. Even though the Giants aren't known for the loudest fans, that still was never a tough place to play. Same for the old Veterans' stadium. That was probably the scariest venue in the NFL by virtue of the fact that a torn ACL was never more than a step away.
Lincoln Financial Field ranked 9th on their list.