Category Archives: sports

Is Saskatoon making a dangerous mistake relying on Field Turf?

When I criticized Field Turf going into SMF Field, I was ridiculed when I pointed to research that showed that the heat and things like ACL and MCLs would be on the rise.  The argument was that it was better then the old Gordie Howe field was often mentioned.  It never occured to anyone that we could put down good turf like the Hilltops play on each and every day at Ron Atchison Field.  It also never occurred to people that maybe high schools don’t need to bus down to Howe Bowl all of the time and instead they could play on their home field like other cities do. 

Now there is this.  Field Turf is made from tires which are hazardous waste when they are tires but for some reason we have decided to let our children play on them in pellet form.

These are the days when the Women’s World Cup becomes truly grueling. Fewer days off, better opponents, more pressure. And a persistent obstacle the men never have to face – the artificial turf.

"I have plenty of blisters on my toes," United States forward Alex Morgan said with a resigned smile on Thursday.

That’s not a good thing for any player, let alone a star on the mend from knee and ankle ailments. "Turf achiness takes a little longer to recover from," Morgan said.

Michelle Heyman of Australia was even more blunt: "You wouldn’t want to see the bottom of our feet after a game," she told one Australian newspaper. "They just turn white. The skin is all ripped off; it’s pretty disgusting. It’s like walking on hot coals with your skin ripping and slowly cracking, constantly."

Well that isn’t the worst part.

Field temperatures in Edmonton for an earlier match soared as high as 120 degrees, even though the air temperature was in the low 70s. This weekend’s forecast for the Australians’ match with Japan is calling for a high around 90. One UNLV study found synthetic turf can heat up to 170 degrees in summer months. That poses risks ranging from dehydration to heat illness.

Then there is the possibility of faster collisions with other players, and with the ground. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the world’s leading sports neurologists, told Yahoo Sports that studies of turf vs. grass haven’t been conclusive in his field, but "I would still stand behind the concept that grass is likely safer from a concussion standpoint."

No wait, that isn’t even the worst part.  This is the worst part.

Artificial turf is used for playgrounds all over the continent, and battles are taking place over whether children are safe being exposed to the crushed tire rubber that makes up the turf. A Stockholm University study from 2012 found "automobile tires may be a potential source of highly carcinogenic dibenzopyrenes to the environment."

"It’s a serious, serious problem," says Nancy Alderman, president of the Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), an organization of physicians and public health professionals. "We are concerned about the health of a whole generation now who are playing on these fields."

Research on the topic is not advanced enough to conclusively determine safety hazards, but anecdotal evidence has hit close to home for the U.S. team. Amy Griffin, assistant coach at the University of Washington and former mentor to Hope Solo, has compiled a list of 153 student-athletes, the majority of them soccer goalkeepers, who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last several years. She has sent her research to the Washington State Department of Health.

"I never said this is giving people cancer," Griffin said by phone. "But if you were me, and you saw the number of goalkeepers [with cancer] was so high, you’d be alarmed.

"The more I know about tires, the more I think, ‘What the heck? What are we doing?’ " Griffin said. "In large form it’s hazardous waste, and in crumb form it’s OK for kids?"

The EHHI has been studying this issue at Yale University, and it released a statement earlier this month revealing it has found 96 chemicals in the materials used for synthetic turf.

"Of the 96 chemicals detected," the statement read, "a little under a half have had no toxicity assessments done on them for their health effects. … Of the half that have had toxicity assessments, 20 percent are probable carcinogens."

The lead investigator on the study, Yale University professor Gabdoury Benoit, called the rubber infill "a witch’s brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product."

FieldTurf, the company that provided the playing surface for three of the World Cup stadiums in Canada, wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports stating that "Scientific research from academic, federal and state government organizations has unequivocally failed to find any link between synthetic turf and cancer. We are committed as a company and as an industry to the safety of our fields and the athletes that compete on them – which is why we have encouraged the rigorous work from third-parties that has taken place over decades to confirm there are no negative health effects connected to synthetic turf." The company also forwarded an array of documents supporting its case.

The lack of proof of causality is not soothing to some experts, however. "Cancer is a 30- or 40-year process," Yale oncologist Barry Boyd said. "So long-term exposure may not show up until years later."

Part of the uncertainty is the extent of a player’s exposure to the crumb rubber. The preponderance of goalies in Griffin’s research is troubling, as those players are interacting more with the turf by repeatedly diving onto the ground. But American players here have said they have found the pellets all over their body even after post-match showers. "Anywhere and everywhere," defender Lori Chalupny said. If the pellets do have toxic characteristics – especially under extreme heat – the proximity of athletes to those characteristics is there after games.

So kids start playing Kinsmen Football on turf.  They play three years on it at the SaskTel Soccer Centre and SMF Field.  Then they play parts of four years of high school football.  The best play four years of Hilltops and then Huskies on artificial turf.

Of course the reason we use turf is that it is cheap.  No other reason.  The NFL has known for years that it shortens careers, particularly of running backs whose knees pay the cost.  Countless NCAA universities who have had artificial or field turf are going back to grass because of the injuries.  Even the Arizona Cardinals who play in a dome stadium move the entire field outside during the week so they can have natural grass.

Good grief, the Blue Jays are paying $600,000 a year to Guelph University for them to develop a grass that will grow inside. Why? It is so hard on athletes, even baseball players to play on turf.  Now it appears that the turf that Saskatoon just fundraised to install has a major health risk to the kids who are going to play on it.  Nice job Saskatoon.

Cathal Kelly on the World Cup in Edmonton

He doesn’t pull any punches

The arena is not famous, or suited to soccer, or attractive. Scratch that. It’s actively ugly. The field is circled by a track – the perfect bush-league touch that says “high school.”

In order to maintain the televised illusion of grass – the surface is artificial turf – they’ve haphazardly laid long, near-green carpets on the sidelines. Like your weirdo cousins do in their paved-over backyard.

The global audience is used to seeing this level of event played on landscape architecture so pristine it makes Versailles look like urban farmland. Canada’s version is going to look like the house that gets cleaned by piling all the junk behind the couch.

Maybe the enthusiasm of the crowd can make up for the aesthetic shortcomings. Or maybe not. The locals don’t seem all that interested. As of Thursday, the game was 5,000 seats short of a sellout according to organizers.

As an ad for the country, then, the marketing tag line of the opening match of the 2015 World Cup goes something like, “Canada: Well, you know.”

What we know is where this game should be played, and why it isn’t.

It should be in Toronto, where there is a very expensive, purpose-designed structure of which its proper name is the National Soccer Stadium (BMO Field).

You and I paid for it to be built. Why did we do that if it’s not going to be used for the most important national soccer game that has ever been played in this country? Taxpayers got talked into buying a fridge, and now the bureaucrats want to use it as a bookshelf.

Also, there is the small matter of Edmonton. This requires some delicacy.

Edmonton, God love you. In some ways you are the romantic home of soccer in Canada. But when the whole country has to stand up in front of the rest of the world, you can’t be the first one talking. We just need you to stand there quietly, looking supportive.

No, no, not in front. They’ll see you. Stand behind Vancouver. No, on the other side of Montreal. All right, why don’t you just crouch down behind Halifax and we’ll hope everyone thinks you’re Ottawa.

When England has to make a good impression, they don’t spend hours debating if it should be highlighting Sunderland or Liverpool. You know, for the sake of fairness.

They go to London, straight off and every time, because that’s what the world wants.

The world is going to tune in on Saturday expecting Toronto because that’s the city that matters. It may hurt to hear it, but it doesn’t make it less true.

This might be marginally palatable if any games of the Women’s World Cup were slated to be played in the city. But there are none. Not a single element of the most important summer-sports tournament played here since the 1976 Olympics will take place in the country’s largest, most cosmopolitan, most soccer-loving city.

(Words are too poor a vehicle here. Just imagine me staring at you for a long time, until one eye starts to twitch and you start to get a little afraid.)

Calgary beats Vancouver

So Calgary beat Vancouver in six games.  I predicted they would and it’s always nice to be right.  I’ll leave this up to the Canucks fans to decide but I think this was a case of Vancouver lacking a killer instinct and grit rather than it was Calgary being a better team.  It happens sometimes in a series and this was one of them.

This is what I liked about this Calgary team.  For me it starts with them not firing Bob Hartley.  Either your coach can or can’t coach and if you have one that can, you don’t fire him because he misses the playoffs with a bad roster.  Instead Calgary stood by Hartley through the good and the bad and in the end he made the team into what he and also Brian Burke thought would win (and it did).

I don’t understand why teams don’t do more of this.  I look at the firing of Peter Chiarelli as Boston’s GM.  It seemed like the Jacobs were more angry and instead of going, “our roster aged more than we expected, we had some injuries and we still ended up with 96 points, it happens to the best of them,” that decided that someone has to pay and it’s the GM.  

Good franchises don’t do this.  They have a plan and they stick to it.  Bad teams like Toronto and Edmonton never seem to stick with a plan and instead replace the coach over and over and over again.  It is also his fault despite everyone (including the fans) knowing it really isn’t.  The next coach is always going to be the saviour.  In reality a hockey coach probably has less to do with wins and losses than anyone other than a baseball manager (I have read someplace that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is about 5 games a season in baseball).

So back to my point, good job for Calgary sticking to the plan, good job for Edmonton getting a guy with a plan (and demoting those without one), and while I love Boston, I am really, really nervous about the move to get rid of Chiarelli.  The ownership transition from father to son is not going well.

Rehab for Johnny Football

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plains Dealer reports that Johnny Manziel has entered rehab

Johnny Manziel enters rehab

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who’s been photographed partying from coast to coast since the day he was drafted, entered a treatment facility Wednesday and is getting the help he needs, according to a family friend and advisor.

“Brad Beckworth, a friend and advisor to Manziel and his family, has confirmed that Johnny entered treatment on Wednesday,” a statement from Manziel’s publicist read. “Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate, and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step. 

“On behalf of Johnny and his family, we’re asking for privacy until he rejoins the team in Cleveland.”

The Browns also released the following statement from general manager Ray Farmer:

“We respect Johnny’s initiative in this decision and will fully support him throughout this process. Our players’ health and well-being will always be of the utmost importance to the Cleveland Browns. We continually strive to create a supportive environment and provide the appropriate resources, with our foremost focus being on the individual and not just the football player.

“Johnny’s privacy will be respected by us during this very important period and we hope that others will do the same.”

Manziel’s partying was chronicled over the last year, from floating on swans to rolling up a bill in the bar of a bathroom, which the Browns found most “disturbing,” sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group.

I am not a big fan of Johnny Manziel as a football player.  I think he is better as a CFL than a NFL qb but I am happy for Manziel as a human being.  His season was a train wreck last year in most part of his partying and alcohol consumption.

I also think that the jump from the SEC (or any team in the NCAA) is so big that only a few can make it.  The talent is one reason but also you are no longer big man on campus.  Coaches like Mack Brown, Kevin Sumlin, or Jimbo Fisher aren’t covering for you.  The school president isn’t there to make excuses for you and there are no more professors who just want to be part of the “team”.   Vince Young never made the transition from college star to professional.  Even Tim Tebow never seemed to get it (especially after he had some success in Denver).  Hopefully Manziel finds some answers in rehab.  Not about football but about life.

Mayor of Glendale, host of the Super Bowl, doesn’t get a ticket to attend Super Bowl

From the New York Times

Jerry Weiers lives less than two miles from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the New England Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Weiers also happens to be the mayor of Glendale.

Yet as politicians, chief executives and tens of thousands of well-heeled fans rub shoulders that day in the stadium in Glendale, a western suburb of Phoenix, he plans to watch the game on television in his living room, because he has not been offered a ticket.

“It was on my bucket list, but it’s not going to happen,” Weiers said. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather be in the stadium. I’ve had people say that if I was a team player, I might have gone to the game. But I’m a team player for my city.”

Weiers is not shy about making that point, so he is not surprised that he was snubbed. Critics have called Weiers ungrateful because the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl will draw thousands of visitors to his city, and some of them will visit restaurants and hotels there. Glendale will also receive lots of free advertising during game broadcasts, though a vast majority of people visiting Arizona for the Super Bowl will visit the city only on game day.

James Cassella, the mayor of East Rutherford, N.J., was also criticized after he complained last year that his borough had been overlooked even as the Super Bowl was played at MetLife Stadium there.

But the friction in Glendale is acute because the city has a reputation for betting big on sports — and paying a price for it. In the last decade, the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a hockey arena for the Coyotes and a spring training complex for the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The hope was that the facilities would prompt residential and commercial development. But when the recession hit in 2008, the Coyotes went bankrupt, the mall next to the arena foundered, and the city was overwhelmed by its debt payments and was forced to slash public services.

“The city of Glendale is the poster child for what can go wrong” when a city invests heavily in sports, said Kevin McCarthy, the president of the Arizona Tax Research Association. “You don’t want to be building stadiums and not be able to hire police officers.”

Glendale is by no means the first city to have sports facilities turn into albatrosses. Cincinnati and Miami, to name just two, built stadiums for wealthy owners in deals that backfired.

But the scale of spending in the city of 230,000 residents is unique. According to Moody’s Investors Service, Glendale’s debt is equal to 4.9 percent of its tax base, nearly four times the national median and twice the average rate for cities in Arizona. More than 40 percent of the city’s debt is dedicated to paying off sports complexes.

What the NFL does to Super Bowl host cities is a crime.  NFL owners want to host a big party and the taxpayers pay for it.  It is insane.

As for his Super Bowl ticket?

Whether that attitude gets Weiers invited is another question. Cassella, the East Rutherford mayor, said that after stories surfaced that he, too, had been unable to get a Super Bowl ticket, Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, invited him as his guest. John Mara, an owner of the Giants, sent him a parking pass.