Artificial turf is increasingly popular at football venues across the country. The systems drain well and eliminate muddy games commonly seen on heavily-used grass fields that exhibit dirt patches as seasons progress. Another justification for artificial fields is the reduced cost of maintenance. No watering, no mowing, and no chalking despite their intensive use.
Football was nearly 100 years old before artificial turf came along, so I thought it would be fun to look back on how fields were kept in trim during that time. As it turns out, the first lawn mower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, an Englishman. His mower worked along similar lines as today's push reel mowers. It worked well enough that some credit his mower with enabling the development of modern regulated sports (e.g., lawn tennis) and venues.
The mowers soon made their way across the water, as did mowers for larger expanses that horses pulled.
Steam-powered mowers soon arrived, as did gasoline-powered mowers after the century turned, so these kept football fields well-trimmed, though some college fields had much longer grass than is the norm today.
Despite the technological advances, those tending to the nation's football fields fell back on more traditional methods on occasion. For example, during the late 1930s and the 1940s, the University of New Mexico, Loyola Marymount, and the Rose Bowl grazed sheep on their athletic fields due to shortages of gasoline and manpower.
Sheep likely saw use on fields since the 1940s. Please comment below if you have an image of sheep or other animals working on the gridiron.
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A meditation on football and whether current trends might kill or harm the sport.