Super Bowl XLII: Experimenting with New Grass Proves Slippery for the NFL [Updated]

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This was a big mistake on the biggest stage for the biggest American sports league. I wouldn't say it ruined the game, but it was, at minimum, a distraction that the announcers mentioned many times.

Between the Super Bowl turf itself and the huge painted logos, this seemed to create safety issues for the players and it certainly affected the quality of play. This article floats a few educated guesses about what caused the problem.

Super Bowl 57 grass: Why Chiefs, Eagles players were slipping on ‘hybrid' turf field, forced cleat change

“The NFL chose a heck of a time to try experimenting with new grass.”

As I write about in my upcoming book “The Mistakes That Make Us,” mistakes will inevitably happen when we innovate or otherwise try new things.

That said, the way to mitigate the risk is to intentionally use SMALL tests of change to prevent big, embarrassing problems. Did the NFL do enough of that?

“The league has had two weeks of preparations to make sure everything plays out on the field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., as it should be without any potential issues.”

How much did they actually practice on the field? They probably wanted to limit that, as to protect the grass surface. Did they have high-school teams play simulated games on that exact turf?

Not to jump to solutions, but I wonder if the NFL will mandate that future Super Bowls be played on modern artificial turf?

Was this “the greatest show on turf” or a slippery, dangerous mess that could have been avoided?

What does your organization to use small tests of change to try to prevent big mistakes? 


2024 Update:

Has the NFL learned?

Super Bowl Grass or Turf? How Allegiant Stadium Prepped To Avoid Repeat of NFL's Mistakes in Super Bowl 57 in Arizona

From the article:

“Those adjustments and a core maintenance program are in place so we'll have an optimal field on game day,” NFL executive vice president Peter O'Reilly said ahead of championship Sunday. “That natural grass surface, brand new, is installed right now, and a great team maintaining it as we head up to the Super Bowl.”

“We're doing a lot of testing, getting a lot of data, and making data-based decisions on how we're managing the field.”

We'll see how it works tonight!


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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