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Field conditions in spotlight as Vipers return home Saturday

The Vipers’ first home game at Cashman Field last Saturday was a trending topic on social media, though the conversation had little to do with their continued second-half struggles.

Commenters across several platforms offered jokes and memes about the look of the playing surface in the XFL’s return to Las Vegas more than 20 years after the first incarnation of the league had a successful franchise at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2001.

Descriptions ranged from “trash” to “atrocious” to “bush league” during the nationally-televised broadcast. Things only got worse once the torrential rains came in the second half and chased many fans from the stands, leaving the images even more sad.

Matters were not helped by what appeared to be two giant tire tracks across the field that had been sodded over.

Things may not be much better when the Vipers return to Cashman Field on Saturday to host the Seattle Sea Dragons in a 4 p.m. game on FX, though the entire grass surface is expected to be painted in an effort to make it more appealing to the eye.

But the league is more concerned with the integrity of the surface than the look of it.

“The one thing we focus on from a health and safety perspective is structure,” XFL president Russ Brandon said. “We had spent a lot of time with the field in preparation and one thing we were not concerned about at all was the structure.

”So there are some things aesthetically. But structurally, the field held up very well, even with the conditions we dealt with from halftime on. So overall we’re really pleased.”

Several players co-signed that assessment.

The roots of the cosmetic issues with the field appear to stem from a combination of an abnormally cold winter in the valley and a lengthy process for the league to settle on a venue for Vipers home games that didn’t leave quite enough time for the kind of pristine green grass that would make for a better visual on television.

A deal between the league and facility wasn’t done until early January.

Then there was the matter of the tire tracks. A piece of heavy equipment was mistakenly left across the field by a city-contracted vendor late in the fall and a delay in working out the repair costs left little time for the newly-planted areas to mesh with the rest of the surface.

There are perhaps some tricks that could have been done with those areas to make it look better, but that could have jeopardized the functionality of the surface.

“It passes with flying colors,” Brandon said. “It’s foundationally sound and it will pop a lot more as far as the aesthetics and cosmetics as the weather improves.”

The only real footing issues occurred with kickers well into the second half after a deluge inundated the grass with water. That also made for a less-than-ideal experience for the more than 6,000 fans who turned out.

“I just felt terrible for our fans,” Brandon said. “First game in Vegas, which is known for incredible weather and we get a desert storm, so to speak. But people had a lot of fun and I think we’re going to continue to ramp it up.”

The Vipers need to do the same. They were again blown out after halftime in falling to 0-2. Coach Rod Woodson said his team has to find a solution to their second-half woes to turn their season around, beginning against the 0-2 Sea Dragons.

“We have to want it more in the second half than the other team,” he said. “It’s irrelevant of the weather. It’s irrelevant of the field. It’s irrelevant of what city you’re in. If you don’t play two halves of football, you lose.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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