Worry about the Berkeley Pit, not Naranche Stadium

Worry about the Berkeley Pit, not Naranche Stadium

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that the crumb rubber that will be packed into the new artificial turf at Naranche Stadium causes cancer.

That is far from conclusive, but enough cancer cases have arisen in young athletes, particularly soccer players, playing on the fake grass that it could be more than a coincidence.

Even if that is the case, the crumb rubber is nothing to panic about. Statistically speaking, the recycled rubber is at best a minor risk compared playing football on a grass field or, for that matter, walking across the street.

Comparatively, it is an even lower risk when playing in the Mining City.

Even if the crumb rubber was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to cause cancer, the new turf on Naranche Stadium will likely be the least cancer-causing surface that hallowed ground has ever seen.

This is, after all, a field that was made up of a mixture of dirt, rocks, glass, rusty nails and, presumably, mine tailings for most of its existence. For the last 40 years, school officials spent a ton of money and countless man hours in an unsuccessful attempt to grow and keep grass on the field.

It wasn’t just the shade of from the school sitting next to the field that kept the grass from growing all those years, yet there was never any exposé in the daily newspaper — like the one last week about the rubber causing cancer — about the dangers of playing football or holding physical education classes on the legendary nasty ground at Naranche Stadium.

Before you get your panties in a bunch over the crumb rubber in the new turf at Naranche, answer this question. What about the 45 billion gallons of toxic water that lurks less than a mile from the stadium in the Berkeley Pit?

That seems like a much, much bigger deal.

In a few years from now, that water is going to start polluting the Columbia River basin, if not the entire Butte Flats. Have you also noticed the toxic cloud that the Pit spews onto downtown Butte every cold morning?

The cloud builds up over the world’s largest Superfund site, then slowly leaks out to cover the east side of town. I am not a chemist, but it seems like there are only two things that could possibly happen when you breathe that air. It either kills cancer or it causes cancer.

Put your money on the latter.

The cloud, after all, comes from the water that immediately killed 342 Canadian Geese when they dropped in for a quick drink back in 1995.

Excuse me. I almost forgot the company line. It comes from the same body of water in which, coincidentally, those poor geese finally died after getting sick by eating some bad Canadian grain on their way south.

If cancer is your No. 1 concern, you shouldn’t be worried about playing on the turf at Naranche Stadium or on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field. You probably shouldn’t be living in the Mining City.

I love my hometown, but look around. Almost everything in Butte causes cancer.

Actually, almost everything everywhere causes cancer, for that matter. That diet soda, that fake sugar in your coffee, the food coloring in everything you eat, FOX News. They all cause cancer.

But worrying about the wrong thing is what we do best. After all, we are a nation of people who are scared to death of being killed by a Syrian refugee while we constantly text and drive.

So, naturally, we burden our minds about recycled rubber while we turn a blind eye to the more obvious risks of playing football.

My son will be Little Guy Football age next season. He wants to play, so I will sign him up, even though I am conflicted with subjecting my boy to so many potential injuries.

Concussions, which are a bigger threat for the still-developing brain, are a serious risk that comes with playing football. Yes, Little Guy Football coaches are trained to help avoid and identify concussions, but you still have to wonder if allowing your child to play football in fourth grade will be setting him up to be the next Junior Seau or Dave Duerson — guys who committed suicide after suffering multiple concussions.

Of course, football also comes with the serious threat of broken bones, torn ligaments and spinal injuries. Many people took their last steps on a football field before spending the rest of their lives in a wheel chair.

Players have died on the field from football injuries.

Football is a dangerous sport that some call barbaric. But we love it. That is why we take the risk to play it when we are young and why watch it when we are old and young.

Installing the new artificial turf on Naranche Stadium should actually help the sport become slightly less barbaric. According to coaches who know what it is like to play and practice on a grass field will tell you the new artificial turfs will help reduce injuries.

The field at Naranche was far from flat and level. In fact, the west side of the field was 3 and a half feet higher than the east side. It also appeared to slope toward a brick wall on the south side.

The Naranche field was also very hard, especially when it got cold late in the season. A turf that stays soft even in those cold November nights will likely mean less concussions.

Here’s one more thing to think about while you fret. Before the turf started going down, Naranche had a 12-inch high-pressured natural gas pipe — one that dated to at least the 1930s — running right under the field.

And you thought the chopped-up rubber was an explosive subject.

If eventually a study proves beyond a doubt that rubber does indeed cause cancer, which it hasn’t yet, it is clearly cause for concern. Then the rubber should be removed immediately.

Even if it isn’t, though, the field should still be way down the list of things to worry about.

Yes, if you play football for Butte High on the new turf at Naranche Stadium, the crumb rubber might end up being the death of you.

But the Berkeley Pit or a Syrian refugee will probably get you first.

— Bill Foley, who worries about everything, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.



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