Eagles field crew gets real snow job
In addition to their usual duties, the members of the field crew had to clear snow throughout the game.
IT IS NOT a bad gig, working as a member of the Eagles' game day field crew. Guys like John Liberatoscioli and Kevin Lengyel set up the field - benches, yard makers and whatnot - and then, during the game, pull the nets up and down behind the goal posts during field goals and extra points. All of which means there is plenty of time to watch the game itself from a coveted vantage point.
Then there are the days when it snows 8 inches.
Tony Leonard, the Eagles' director of grounds, said that between 15 and 20 guys on that ground crew spent yesterday afternoon either pushing shovels or lugging around gas-powered blowers in an attempt to keep the yard markers visible during the Eagles' 34-20 win over the Detroit Lions.
When it became obvious what they were suddenly dealing with, a splendid winter hell, Leonard talked with referee Ed Hochuli before the game and determined what the priorities were: the sidelines, end lines and goal lines. After that, they were told to do the best they could to keep the 5-yard lines clear.
Liberatoscioli toted a blower.
"It's because I'm the oldest one here," he said, laughing. "Seriously, the reason is because I got to one of the blowers before anybody else."
Lengyel pushed a shovel.
"My back and my hamstrings are killing me," he said.
One of their compatriots, Leonard said, carried a pedometer that measured him as taking 25,000 steps during the game on a route that took him from one side of the field to the other, again and again and again during every stoppage - at least until it pretty much stopped snowing in the fourth quarter.
Leonard says the average is 8,000 or 9,000 steps in a game. Twenty-five thousand steps is about 12 miles, give or take a snowshoe.
"I was down there waiting for a kickoff and [Hochuli] said, 'Are you tired yet?' " Liberatoscioli said. "I said, 'I was tired 2 minutes in.' "
1) Why didn't the Eagles use the heating system embedded in the turf to melt the snow?
"It was so much snow, so fast, it wouldn't have made a difference," Leonard said. "It also makes the field soft and sloppy. If you had 8 inches of snow and tried to melt it all at one time, it would have made for a worse surface in terms of playability."
2) Why didn't they plow the entire field rather than just shovel the yard lines?
"It would wreck the field," Leonard said. "Plus, where would you put the snow? Where do you go with it once you get it to the sidelines? It's a lot of snow."
So, they shoveled. It gave the people doing the shoveling plenty of opportunities to interact with the players, coaches and referees. For the most part, they said, everybody was accommodating.
But, as for the rest . . .
"It depends on which side you were on," Lengyel said. "I can't repeat what Detroit said."
Liberatoscioli said, "I got yelled at a couple of times by a couple of Detroit players because they said I was blowing snow on them. And I said, 'Really?'
"The Lions' coach [Jim Schwartz] was actually funny. As many passes as we made [with the blower], he said, 'You guys are going to give me carbon monoxide poisoning.' "
In the middle of the fourth quarter, with the Eagles on the 1-yard line, Hochuli signaled a timeout and made an announcement: "We're going to stop the game a minute and clear the goal line. We can't see the goal line."
"I'm standing on the sideline and I'm like, 'What did he just say?' " Leonard said, laughing. "And suddenly I saw all the guys running."
"[Somebody] heard 'can't see goal line,' and he started running so I started running," Lengyel said.
In a minute, Hochuli could see the goal line again.