By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s officially time to reset the count in the NFL offices: It has been ZERO days since our last major gaffe.
To be fair, by NFL standards, it has been a very, very long time since the nation’s preeminent sports league fell flat on its face by its own doing. But with a real mess brewing regarding next Monday’s scheduled game in Mexico City, that streak is now officially over.
The issues stem from the field conditions at Estadio Azteca, which is supposed to be the site of next Monday’s meeting between the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs and the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams. It should be the premier event of the regular season, a grand celebration for the league and the teams involved, a jewel dropped into the middle of Mexico for a slam dunk of an international event.
But there’s one problem. The field at Estadio Azteca is in terrible condition.
Here are some photos of the turf, taken this past Saturday:
Those photos were all taken before a soccer game was played on the field. According to reports, an October concert from Shakira tore up the turf, and it’s been a struggle to fully repair the field to a suitable level for NFL action.
The condition of the field has both teams concerned, to the point where they both petitioned the league to have the game moved.
The NFL denied the request, per Adam Schefter.
The league that claims to maintain “player safety” as a top priority has certainly been trying to weigh the financial impact that would come from relocating this game, as well as how such a decision would hurt the growth of the league’s popularity in Mexico.
Yet, as the league contemplates what’s at stake, the players are doing the same. And according to Schefter, some of them may not be willing to step on the field come Monday night.
It’s hard to determine what might be more embarrassing for the league — relocating the game to a safer location, or having prominent players sitting out of a game that is essentially a mid-November Super Bowl.
The easiest and best solution would obviously be to move the game to a safer location — either in Los Angeles, or, really, anywhere else. The league moved a game in recent years from Buffalo to Detroit on short notice because of heavy snowfall in Buffalo, so such a move can be done.
If “player safety” really is the league’s top priority, then that decision is a no-brainer.
Alas, the world knows better than to believe the buzz words, thus leaving the league in a precarious position of deciding what to do. The clock is a-ticking. Commissioner Roger Goodell may need to emerge from his hibernation to display some of his trademark leadership.
Well, it would appear as though the NFL made the right decision. The game has been moved to the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The Rams, who had flown to Colorado to train at altitude this week in advance of the game, can return home.
“The decision is based on the determination — in consultation with the NFLPA and following a meeting and field inspection this afternoon by NFL and club field experts as well as local and independent outside experts — that the playing field at Estadio Azteca does not meet NFL standards for playability and consistency and will not meet those standards by next Monday,” the league said in a news release.
That it required the threat of players holding out in order for this game to get moved speaks to how tenuous the situation was behind closed doors.
But the NFL made the decision that ensures a safe playing field for the players, while sacrificing all of the benefits — real or imagined — of playing the game in Mexico. So, as of Wednesday, the league should be able to flip the aforementioned calendar from zero to one.