Tyrone doesn’t need artificial turf

I’ve been a Tyrone Area High School football fan for 70 years.

Through rain, snow, ice and cancer, I’ve been in the stands – home and away – and watched the rise and fall of crowds. The caravans that set records at Hershey are now a trickle of booster-club parents and loyal old guys like me.

I will let the cause of this to the experts on Facebook and to the turf talkers at Tyrone Area School Board meetings.

Here’s all I know: Artificial turf at Gray Field is not the answer.

Beware the turf romance that has smitten losing high school football programs in the area. Tyrone football is built on toughness and resilience, not cushy playing fields.

I can still see Jesse Jones gliding through the mud of Gray Field while defenders looked helpless. The worse the field, the more Jones excelled. I loved seeing those mud-caked uniforms from the 1940s and ’50s, and I smile when I see the mud and grass-stains on the players of today.

The game loses luster when you can’t tell which players have been in the game by the size of the stains on their pants.

Now a small but vocal minority wants to do what it thinks is best for kids and sanitize it all.

Life is full of dips, messes and imperfections, my friends, and grass fields reflect that. Sanitized football is not really football, at least not the way most kids remember it from the first time they touched a ball in a dusty, uneven, grass-challenged backyard.

So for all of these starry-eyed turf lovers who want to wash away the beauty of a mud-filled Friday night, kiss your turf and kill the grass.

And while you’re at it, throw away the poetry of a grass-stained tackle’s uniform and a wide receiver’s dance over a rough patch down the sideline.

After all, there are plenty of high school stadiums in our area filled with million-dollar polypropylene and empty stands.

Their teams are mostly losers – from Philipsburg, which hasn’t notched a win in over 30 games but can’t squeeze taxpayers hard enough to finish off a multi-million dollar boondoggle, to Bald Eagle Area, a perennial football patsy, to Altoona … sad, sad Altoona.

It’s too late for these programs.

They can’t follow the road every other professional and major college football program in this state has gone – a road that has turned away from polypropylene not necessarily because it’s too expensive and causes more injuries than well-maintained natural grass but because polypropylene kills the experience, for players and spectators alike.

Pitt, Penn State and Temple all have the answer. They all love their grass and have fought off the grass-killers.

The Steelers and the Eagles also have the answer – that real football players like to get dirty, and that real football fans like it, too.

Dallas Eckert

Tyrone