Thursday, November 29, 2007

Battle For Weather Extremes

Tonight's the big game that could decide which team, Packers or Cowboys, gets home field advantage in the NFC Championship come Jan. 20. Much of the talk this week has been centered on, not the action on the field, but the number of American households that do not receive the NFL Network, thus leaving millions of fanatical football folks without a chance watch on their TV sets. But that's an issue for other blogs. Here, the focus is on weather. Not tonight's weather in Irving, where temps will be around 48 degrees with partly cloudy skies, but the projected weather for that late January NFC title game.

Today's Dallas Morning News provides a chart listing the record highs and record lows for both Green Bay and Irving for Jan. 20. Looking at the extremes we find that the record high for Irving is 83 degrees, set back in 1972. Ok, fine. Now the good stuff. The record low for Green Bay was a brain-numbing -25 degrees in 1985. I'm no math major, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that a total of 108 degrees in temperate could be on the line tonight at Texas Stadium. Quick, call your cable provider and tell them you have to have the NFL Network. And tell them Jerry Jones sent you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dirty Talk About Heinz Turf

Well, there's a lot to be said about the Monday mud bath in Pittsburgh last night, and trust me, a lot is being said. And as you can imagine, most of the conversation is negative concerning the field conditions. Comments about artificial turf needing to be installed at Heinz Field are falling out of sports media mouths everywhere. Hang in there, Pittsburgh, and keep your grass field. (Insert Ricky Williams joke here.) Sometimes I get the feeling there are some people who would like to see football everywhere played in nice dry, room-temperature domes where no outside factors can affect the games. Next, those same people may protest to outlaw fans from games, so that crowd noise plays no role in who wins. Maybe I'm being too dramatic. Forget all that for now. Monday night's game was great if you love the occasional bad weather game. There was a little of everything last night ranging from lightning strikes that delayed kickoff and scrapped the National Anthem to new sod being mucked up to washed-off yard markers to a punt sticking a perfect landing (see video below).

Here's what some media folks are saying about the game, which nearly everyone is dubbing "Muddy Night Football."

Associated Press

For 591/2 scoreless minutes, the Dolphins and Steelers slipped and slid on swampland masquerading as an NFL playing field, stuck so deep in the messy muck that neither team managed much yardage, much less any scoring.

The Steelers couldn't have picked a worse time to lay down new turf. After five high school and college games were played at Heinz Field last weekend, crews hurriedly put down a new layer of sod atop the chewed-up grass in time for Monday night's game.

Because the rain fell so heavily most of the day, the water seeped between the seams of the protective tarps, resulting in huge puddles, soft spots and sinkholes.

Late in the third quarter, Brandon Fields' punt from near the Miami goal line came straight down and plugged in the soggy turf like an arrow, burying itself several inches deep.

Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

There was lots of rain, wind and mud followed by intermittent splashes of sloppy play, punts that plugged in puddles and, until the final 17 seconds, no scoring. Nada.

There was even a lightning delay as kickoff for Monday night's Miami Dolphins-Pittsburgh Steelers game was pushed back 25 minutes.

What followed was a messy exhibition of late November football played on soupy Heinz Field that had been resodded during Thanksgiving weekend.

Most of the yardage lines were wiped away during the game's opening series as the game at times resembled mud sliding in helmets and shoulder pads. Changing direction and scoring posed a difficult challenge. But not impossible.

John Clayton, ESPN

The city that brought you the Terrible Towel now has the Terrible Field.

The playing surface has been a problem brewing at Heinz Field for years, and it may force the Steelers to go to artificial or field turf in 2008.

The situation was hopeless. Because the sod was positioned over the old field, there was no drainage. Grounds crew members had to resort to using pitch forks to puncture holes in the surface to drain the standing water. On top of that, a flash of lightning sent both teams to the locker rooms, delaying the game for 15 minutes.

(Hines) Ward kept reminding his receivers not to worry about yards after the catch, just worry about the catch. Ward made nine sure-handed receptions for 88 yards, including three catches for 38 yards on the game-winning drive.

Ward said most of Pittsburgh's players don't want the organization to go to artificial turf. The Rooneys want Heinz Field to be natural. On Monday night, it was a natural disaster. Seeing two TV shots of punted balls landing in the mud and sticking there might convince the Rooneys to take the natural feel away from Heinz in 2008.


The Pittsburgh Steelers own one of the NFL's greatest home field advantages at Heinz Field, where winds howling off the three rivers torment opposing kickers and fans stomping on the upper-deck bleachers create a disruptive din.

The weather looked more reminiscent of Miami than Pittsburgh, with the rain so heavy at times that it resembled that which fell during the Steelers' 13-3 win at Miami on Sept. 26, 2004. That game, which featured Ben Roethlisberger's debut as the Steelers quarterback, was pushed back to a nighttime start after Hurricane Jeanne struck south Florida earlier that day.

Across the state, the Philadelphia Eagles are experiencing the same problem at Lincoln Financial Field, which they share with Temple. New sod will be laid there before the Eagles' Sunday home game against Seattle.
Like the Steelers, the Eagles are putting down turf they believe is sturdy and heavy enough to last the rest of the season.
The Steelers' old surface was beginning to raise the ire of opponents. Several Cleveland players called it the NFL's worst following the Browns' 31-28 loss on Nov. 11.

An NFL players survey last year ranked the Patriots' Gillette Stadium and Heinz Field as the two worst playing fields. The Patriots subsequently yanked up the grass and put down grass-like artificial turf.

However, Steelers owner Dan Rooney has long favoured grass, believing it causes fewer injuries. Several former Steelers stars experienced career-altering injuries on Three Rivers Stadium's artificial turf, including Rod Woodson and Jack Lambert.
Rooney isn't alone in his thinking. A majority of colder-weather NFL teams with open-air stadiums still play on grass: the Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Bears, Packers, Eagles, Redskins and Steelers.

So do the Titans and Panthers, who play in cities where the late-season weather is cold to moderate.

The latest field fiasco apparently has the Steelers rethinking their grass-only policy. They already practise regularly on Field Turf in their indoor practice building.

Some in Pittsburgh wonder if a different type of grass surface or altered maintenance might help the Steelers keep grass and avoid a switch to artificial turf.

When Pitt's players arrived at Heinz Field for their spring game in April 2006, they were surprised to find the field markings and paint remained from the Steelers' final home game Jan. 1 - suggesting little had been done to the turf since then. Two blocks down the street at the Pirates' PNC Park, there was a lush grass surface.

(Wow, I should have posted Robinson's entire article. That was good stuff.)

Scott Brown Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Mike Tomlin said the Steelers will keep their options open in regard to installing artificial turf at Heinz Field after the season.

But, Tomlin added, there is nothing the Steelers can do about the field this season and so it is not a major concern.

Jeff Darlington, Miami Herald

It was ugly and sloppy and dirty and unpredictably bad, an imperfect mess that only added more depression to this perfectly imperfect season.

And that only describes the Dolphins' offense Monday.

In a game that could soon go down as the most symbolic loss of this memorably disastrous year, Miami fell to the Steelers 3-0 in a prime-time mudfest that didn't fade into failure until Pittsburgh booted a game-winning field goal with 17 seconds remaining.

KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh talked with fans about their thoughts concerning last night's game and playing conditions. Here's the link.

Player Quotes

Hines Ward - "Those conditions, whew, they were horrendous. The footing was bad, all of a sudden you'd hit a water puddle and sink down. Some of defensive backs were scared about falling down and giving up a big play."

Dolphins kicker Jay Feely - "From the 25 to the 35 (yard lines), you just could not kick. They were the worst conditions that I ever kicked in while in the NFL."

Ben Roethlisberger - "This is one of the worst conditions I've ever played in. The field was ridiculous. I'm proud of my guys."

Jason Taylor - "The Patriots' field was pretty bad a couple of years before they put the new turf in. This one was probably the worst I've seen in this league."

Mud Stuck Pigskin

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Monsoon

I'm watching, and you're watching the Steelers and Dolphins battle each other along with rain, wind and terribly beautiful wet field conditions. It's 11:05 Eastern and the game is like me in high school: scoreless. I'm going to watch the rest of the game. Let's hope for overtime... and lots more rain.

Mike Tirico just said that the last time a game was scoreless this long was the infamous snow plow game. More on that and the Monday night game later.

Since You've Been Gone

So, where've ya been? Oh, wait.

It was me who was on the hiatus. During October, I was on a break-neck pace for updating this blog. I was making five posts on some days.

Now, I realize that's not a lot for those of you who are totally devoted to this blog thing (or named Neil Best) but that's a pretty good clip for me. Plus, there's been a bit of a dry spell in the sports/weather biz. Some may call it a drought.

There have been a few rain drops at games here and there, but nothing significant enough to make us drop everything and say, "Wow, I can't believe they're playing in that kind of weather."

The best sports/weather event I've seen in the past few weeks was Kelly Clarkson singing and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders dancing in the rain during halftime of the Boys win over the hapless Jets on Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe, as we move into December, we’ll have more to talk about. And soon thereafter, football will be over and we'll be left with indoor sports. Alas. Then another Rainout Blog hiatus will ensue for a month until spring training begins. But maybe not.

Maybe I'll get some time to do that often-put-off research I've been meaning to do. By the way, there's a 70 percent chance of rain tonight in Pittsburgh for tonight's Steelers – Dolphins game. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cup Overflow

We’re right smack in the middle of football season, the World Series just wrapped up, yet we have a baseball rain out to report.

The 37th Baseball World Cup was to begin today with Taiwan facing Italy at Tienmu Stadium in Taipei. However, rain forced postponement of the game, which now will be played Monday.

Six other teams are scheduled to open play Monday with Spain playing Panama, South Africa taking on Japan and Mexico battling the U.S. team. In all 16 teams will compete for the World Cup title. The tournament runs through Nov. 18.

Cuba, the New York Yankees of the competition, is the favorite to win its 26th Cup title. The U.S. and Venezuela are considered top contenders.

The U.S. squad is made up of double and triple A minor leaguers with the most recognizable name being Evan Longoria. However, this Longoria is an infielder with triple A Durham, not a desperate housewife.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Steelers Flooding Ravens on MNF

At the risk of looking like one of those nerdy live blogs, I wanted to provide an in-game photo showing rain falling in Pittsburgh as the Steelers and Ravens compete on Monday Night Football. As expected, a steady rain fell during pregame and the first quarter. The wet stuff, however, had no negative effects on the home team. It’s halftime (The live version of PTI is on) and the Steelers have the Heinz Field crowd in a frenzy with a 35-7 lead. Ben Roethlisberger tossed four touchdown passes in the first half. Willis McGahee got the Ravens on the board late in the second quarter with a long TD run. I mention that only because it helps my fantasy team. All right that’s it for me tonight. Let’s hope Big Ben throws five more touchdowns. And no, this does not qualify as live blogging. Good night, Singapore.

Steelers, Ravens Battle For AFC North May Be All Wet

There's nothing unusual about the Pittsburgh Steelers being in first place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens nipping at their heels, but it is unusual for the Cleveland Browns to be in the mix for an AFC wildcard berth, and for the division title.

A Monday Night Football loss by the Steelers puts the Ravens and the Brownies in a three-way, first place tie with Pittsburgh. Tonight's matchup is intriguing and may be played in less-than-perfect playing conditions.


The weather forecast for Pittsburgh tonight calls for a 70 percent chance of occasional rain tapering to a few showers late. About a half inch of rain is possible. Thunder may roar through the Steel City skies early in the evening and winds could reach 25 mph. Lows are expected to dip to about 39 degrees. Now this is football weather.

And don't forget that the Heinz Field natural grass surface isn't the best when it comes to providing solid footing. Heinz consistently rates poorly among players and is regularly ripped for being one of the worst playing surfaces in the NFL. Tonight we may get a chance to see which team is the baddest mudder in the division. (That's so lame!)

Both the Steelers and Ravens are strong running teams. With the forecasted weather conditions, I'm guessing we'll see a lot of Fast Willie Parker and Willis McGahee and few passes. I'm setting the over/under for passes thrown tonight at 41 and I'm taking the under.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ryan's Heisman Hopes Washed Out

The forecasters came through right on target for the Boston College game Saturday night against Florida State. Of course, I’m talking about weather forecasters and not the odds makers in Vegas.

I didn’t see much of Florida State's 27-17 upset over the previously unbeaten Eagles, but I did see enough to know the turf was soaked. Here’s what a USA Today story had to say about the weather conditions at Chestnut Hill:

The game began in a frigid and soaking downpour, with wind gusts forecast at up to 50 mph as the remnants of Hurricane Noel proceeded up the East Coast. The rain had stopped by the end of the first quarter, but the winds battered the U.S. flag and played havoc with a couple of second-quarter field goal attempts.

Matt Ryan threw for 415 yards, but tossed three costly interceptions in the Eagles first loss of the season, likely knocking the quarterback out of the running for the Heisman Trophy.

Sorry ESPN. (In case you haven’t noticed, the Four-Letter Network has been tirelessly touting Ryan for the Heisman for the past week and a half.)

One of Ryan’s interceptions was returned for a touchdown.

Florida State’s Drew Weatherford, whose surname is great for a sports weather blog, had a more Heisman-like game with 354 yards, no interceptions and two big TD passes.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Slingin' In The Rain

The bad news for Matt Ryan is that weather forecasters are saying there's a 100 percent chance he'll be tossing the pigskin in the rain for the second consecutive game.

The good news for the Heisman candidate – I think ESPN has already given him the trophy – is that he will be facing a defense that more resembles the one he faced in the final two minutes of his Boston College Eagles' win more than a week ago instead of the Virginia Tech defense that busted his chops in the game's first 58 minutes.

The undefeated Eagles welcome ACC foe Florida State to Chestnut Hill Saturday where rain and wind gusts are likely with temperatures dipping to 40 degrees at kickoff. The weather is a result of Hurricane Noel which is tracking parallel with the coast and will graze eastern seaboard states.

Noel will lose its hurricane strength as it moves up the coast, but still will be a significant storm by the time it slides by Massachusetts. More than an inch of rain is expected in Boston beginning Saturday morning.

I Think This Says It All

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Rain Falls In Brooklyn

This is not just an attempt to increase my post numbers for the day, but I thought I'd post this really cool photo taken during a rain delay at Ebbets Field. I found the photo while searching for other things, and I have no information about the picture. And with no info, I saw no opportunity to ever post it and share with you, my faithful readers from all parts of the world. So this is better than simply letting it sit on my hard drive, eh?

New York Media No Problem For Girardi, But Can He Handle Rain Delays?

I never thought I'd be writing stuff about baseball rain delays on Nov. 1, but I just heard a radio interview with brand, spankin' new Yankees Manager Joe Girardi. Joe constantly will be under the surveillance of the New York media and already they've begun asking him about his relationship with Marlins ownership and players when he managed in Florida a couple of years back. One of the questions posed to him today was his handling of pitcher Josh Johnson's arm injury. You may remember a Marlins game with the Mets in which Johnson started, sat through a rain delay or more than an hour and then returned to the mound once the game resumed. Some say Girardi should have been more cautious with the hurler and taken him out of the game when the rains fell. The howls grew louder when Johnson subsequently had Tommy John surgery.

Update: Here's something corny: This is Rainout Blog post No. 162. Interesting (not really!) that it's about baseball with that number equally the number of MLB regular season games.

You're right. That's really dumb.

Dry, Cold Turkey

This time a week ago we were sitting in our cozy, dry Rainout Blog World Headquarters in Southwest Virginia watching the rain pour outside while awaiting the Virginia Tech vs. Boston College game in those same weather conditions in Blacksburg. Tonight the Hokies are back for another Thursday nighter on ESPN, but in a different location and far dryer conditions… and we hope with better results. Tech travels to battle AAC foe Georgia Tech in Atlanta where forecasters say it will be clear with a low of about 48 degrees at kickoff. And Yes, Erin Andrews will be on the sidelines, sans the cute baseball cap, I assume.