Skip to Content
Life's Rich Pageant

The Sodfather Has Certainly Said His Piece

5:08 PM EST on March 1, 2023

The field at Super Bowl 57 sucked. The NFL reportedly spent two years and $800,000 preparing the natural grass surface for this game, and then spent the lead-up to the game crowing to anyone with a pen about how great it would be. The playing surface turned out to be slimy and slick, and thus extremely ill-suited for a pro football game. This was funny, but also not very safe for players, which is why people are still talking about it. That, plus the existence of the "Sodfather," the recently retired 94-year-old George Toma, who has had a hand in preparing the field for every Super Bowl in NFL history.

It is Toma's expert-level opinion that the NFL, specifically field director Ed Mangan, screwed up what would've been a fine field by overwatering the grass blend in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, and then by skimping on applications of sand. Specifically, he said, "[Mangan] should have had two or three sandings, but he didn't do shit." Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post laid out a convincing case, in the aftermath of the game, that a decision to overseed the Bermudagrass base turf with a waxy but spectacularly green ryegrass also contributed to the slick surface. Toma, who retired from grounds maintenance after Super Bowl 57, doesn't agree—he used ryegrass for 27 prior Super Bowls with minimal issues—and insists it was instead Mangan's mistakes in the final week's preparations that led to the decaying, bad-smelling, loose, and slick grass that frustrated players on both the Chiefs and Eagles.

Toma laid out his case during a surreal and endless-seeming appearance last week on Dan Le Batard's radio show. I am trying to be delicate about this because I do not want to unfairly mock the elderly, but the grass expert did not wait for one single question before he began laying out in excessive detail his eight-decade journey through the world of groundskeeping, a story which began in 1939 and included a history of World War II-era farm wages. It turns out that even the boldest radio host is utterly powerless to control the conversation when his rambling 94-year-old guest's earbud falls out, which is what happened approximately 16 minutes into the interview.

Since it would be unfair to do to you what my no-good bastard of an editor did to me and expect you to watch this 35-minute sequence from beginning to end, here is one of the highlights, when Toma talked about "a big large penis and two testicles" that some jokester once spray-painted on a practice field. It has nothing to do with Super Bowl 57.

Here's a more relevant clip, in which Toma rants about Mangan:

It's a shame that Toma's 80-year career as a grass fellow must end with the shame and disappointment of Super Bowl 57's playing surface, but at least the man has taken every possible opportunity to tell his side of the story. And from the sound of it, Toma is relieved to be rid of the NFL and Roger Goodell, who he says (at the 35-minute mark) paid him only $15 per hour for his work, despite his 57 years of Super Bowl experience. "Me and the league are finished," Toma said, toward the tail end of more than a half-hour of nearly uninterrupted rambling. "They can't tell me what to do anymore. We're done." Whew.

Already a user?Log in

Welcome to Defector!

Register your email address to read a couple more blogs.

Click here to subscribe to Defector!

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter