Ravens and worms

April 29, 2003

THE RAVENS have discovered that you can't grow grass in Baltimore. We're tempted to say, "Welcome to the club," but in fact we have neighbors who do a fine job of it. True, they don't have a bunch of fearsomely clad athletes churning it up every Sunday, but, hey, weekly football isn't exactly a new concept in Baltimore, and grass has always done perfectly well here - and in a couple of thousand other places around the United States, too.

Somehow, though, the Ravens have concluded that there's something about the Russell Street environs in November that makes an ordinary field unmanageable - too many bad grass days, apparently - and they're opting to put a Canadian company's polyethylene version down instead.

Well, fine. Purists will howl, and surely images of Johnny Unitas and Memorial Stadium on one of those rainy, trench-warfare, real-men-can-take-it kind of days will be invoked. But those were the Colts. To the purist, we say: Does the phrase Cleveland Browns mean anything to you? It wasn't purity that brought them to Baltimore, pal.

Face it. PSINet Stadium - oops! - Ravens Stadium is not exactly a temple to football tradition. If Red Grange had played there, or Jim Brown, or Art Donovan - heck, if the young Kurt L. Schmoke had skippered City past Poly there - it'd be worth holding on to the grass.

But it's a 21st century football palace, and can anyone point to anything natural about the place? Why make the grass suffer?

OK. Let's be honest. There are two good reasons to favor grass. Bad bounces is one of them - but let's call them lucky bounces, and, after all, it doesn't seem quite American without lucky bounces, does it?

And the other is that mud happens when it rains. Everybody loves mudball. Watching mudball is like watching figure-eight races at the stock car track on a Saturday night. It's compellingly awful. You can't wait for something to go wrong - and isn't that what life's really about? Who doesn't feel disappointed watching a bunch of guys run around in the rain on a field so phony and glaringly perfect that it might as well be a computer-digitized image?

Grass, schmass. It's the dirt we're gonna miss.

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