A child said “what is the grass?” fetching it to me with full hands How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
– “Song of Myself” (Leaves of Grass), Walt Whitman
College football is a game of traditions. From ancient rivalries played for coveted trophies to fight songs sung in unison by tens of thousands; the joy of autumn Saturdays is largely dictated by practicing the rituals of past autumn Saturdays.
With Notre Dame football being the epicenter of so many of college football’s grandest traditions and legends, efforts at its reform are met with much skepticism and debate. This is as it should be. In the whole cloth of college football, Notre Dame is the thread that binds; tug at that thread and the whole thing unravels. This brings us to ND’s field. Would replacing the grass there with an artificial surface cause the world of college football to collapse upon itself like a dying star? No, probably not. Would applying all manner of paint and adornment to the field at Notre Dame stadium send the dominoes of college football tumbling over one another? Not likely. Still, it’s a slippery slope.
When it comes to tradition, little things matter. You could certainly replace stuffing with french fries on Thanksgiving without irrevocably damaging the holiday, but it would be a bad precedent. The next year, someone would bring Twinkies instead of pumpkin pie. The year after that, you’d be eating chicken parm instead of turkey. Then, a few years down the road, you’re watching Designed to Sell on HGTV, rather than the annual Thanksgiving disemboweling of the Detroit Lions. Slippery slope.
The march of progress inevitably crushes much of the past under its heel, but there are times one must stand athwart the ramparts and demand a halt. This is one of those instances. Whatever Notre Dame is or will be, it should always remember and honor its past fondly. That past is one of a gorgeous autumn sun shining on verdant fields. Of hard-slogged games in mud and snow. Of grass stains on uniforms and clumps of turf in facemasks. It is an iconic past which evokes thoughts such as these. Adding artificial turf, gaudy paint jobs or lame conference affiliations spoils those memories and, thus, so much of what we enjoy about our beloved Fighting Irish. The field should remain as is.