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Bad field, great ratings


It was a disgrace. This is the NFL. Mud is no longer permitted. We're above such primitive playing conditions.

Don't you feel that way about the playing conditions at Heinz Field on Monday night? It was pathetic. Hands and feet were sinking six inches or more into the turf. Nobody could score until 17 seconds remained to be played in the game and, then, it was only a chip-shot field goal that is usually about as exciting as, well, an extra point attempt.

The Steelers and the league have been skewered by the media for permitting world-class athletes to ply their trade in such dreadful conditions. Somebody could've pulled a muscle. A muscle, I tell you.

Can you imagine what it must've been like falling on that turf? Imagine drowning in a sea of wet pillows. Terrible!

Two days later and the outrage hasn't subsided a bit. Everybody is up in arms. Everybody, that is, except ESPN. Oh, how the entertaining and sports programming boys are lovin' this one.

You hated it, didn't you? Your tastes have become too sophisticated to waste time on such slop. You need to see finally-tuned athletes executing at precision level on a pristine field. Turned it off, didn't you?

That's not what the ratings say you did. The ratings say you not only didn't turn it off, you called your friends and told them what you were watching and then they turned it on.

The NFL remake of "Swamp Thing" produced the third-highest rating of the Monday Night Football season. Only Dallas at Buffalo and the overtime Green Bay at Denver game, two thrillers, out-pointed the Miami at Pittsburgh 3-0 mess. Here's the big one: The national household rating for this past Monday night's game peaked the latest of any MNF game this season; in the 11:15 to 11:30 period, as the Steelers were driving for the game-winning kick.

What would the ESPN boys have said before it started raining if you had told them the rating for their Monday night stinker, featuring the 0-10 Dolphins, would peak late in the fourth quarter? What do you think the ESPN boys would've said if you had told them Miami at Pittsburgh would've produced such a ratings bonanza?

You know what they would've said? Only if we get severe weather. They did.

That's what weather does to TV ratings for football games. It makes the ratings spike. Snow always works. Now we know a mud field will do it, too.

The NFL will do everything in its power to make sure the playing conditions we saw on Monday night don't occur again, but don't think for one second the league isn't smiling about the TV rating that muddy field delivered. It was a money-maker for both and, you know, the ratings say you liked it a lot more than you're letting on.

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