On the one hand, the 49ers’ new field, or as it shall be known until it is ripped up again, Not-Soylent Green VIII, looked a lot like Chambers Bay, the hugely-mocked golf course that looked a lot like the Second Battle of Ypres.
On the other hand, nobody left a leg behind in Sunday’s Cowboys-49ers discussion, and though you might have lived in hope, neither Jed York nor Jerry Jones blew an ACL divot-slaloming across the grounds before the game. In fact, there were few trenches, dugouts, sinkholes, crevasses, gouges or heaps of dislodged flora at game’s end. Frankly, for a field with a week to live, this one performed with considerable dignity.
So let’s call it a draw and anxiously await Soylent Green IX, August 30 -– the day after country musician Luke Bryan digs his final heel into SGVIII, and the two or three partial or full resods before the first one of 2016, for the Super Bowl.
Or as we may come to know it in time, The Big Divot.
Oh, you could have chosen to be impressed with NaVorro Bowman’s one series, or decide that Jarryd Hayne, the scourge of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, is actually the next Dave Meggett. You could have liked the idea that nose tackle Mike Purcell is sneaky-fast when gifted an interception or that no time outs were needlessly slaughtered in the making of this 23-6 game.
But the truth is, this wasn’t about Jim Tomsula or Colin Kaepernick or Torrey Smith or Bradley Pinion or the traffic control section of the Santa Clara Police Department. This was about the ground and its much-disparaged ability to push grass seed down and send grass shoots up. It was about botany and irrigation and photosynthesis and the National Football League’s concern that the Super Bowl might have to be moved to a West Virginia coal pit, a glacier outside Skagway, Alaska, or Buffalo.
It was, frankly, about whether a groundswell of support would develop urging the Raiders to share their stadium with the 49ers, rather than the other way around.
And for one of the few times since this antidote to the horrors of Candlestick Park was erected to great fanfare, sticker shock and sunstroke, the new place did all right.
If by “all right” you mean achieved the minimum standard of not looking like the surface of Enceladus at game’s end.
And if by “all right” you mean that Jones ordered the crow soufflé.
“Anything I said about that grass, I'm wrong, I take back,” the Cowboys' owner said, falling on his nail clipper through exaggeration. “It's a great playing surface. They've done a lot of work. I feel terrible that in any way without coming up here and doing my own grass inspection that I had any criticism of their grass. If we did a few things as good as they do grass, we'd have a lot better show here, too.”
But to apologize, he had to brag about his otherworldly skills along the way.
“I really want to make it a point since I did make it a point to comment about it, I want everyone to know that I hadn't done my Jones test,” he said, making eyes roll back through backs of their owners’ skulls. “I hadn't gotten down and looked at the roots. I really hadn't, seriously, and I owe them an apology. They're taking enough heat as it is. I should understand more than anybody how hard they're trying, how much they want to get it right. That was a good place to play a football game tonight, hats off to them.”
And the 49ers thank you, o god of all agronomists.
The game itself told us nothing, except that if the Cowboys play like this more than twice, they will stop being the darlings of the punditry. They accomplished next to nothing, were bullied all over the field, and in general met resistance and collapsed like Franchot Tone at the end of Advise and Consent.
Which of course matters zero in the greater scheme, as does San Francisco’s apparent successes over the same time frame. What the 49ers needed to know more than anything else was whether the place they call home was worth defending to the last ankle, and while considerable sections of this turf will be sacrificed to the gods when Bryan gets done with it, at least there is a sign that the organization can at least get this part of the football thing right.
They still can’t get the sun and earth to alter their angles to salvage the convection oven that is the east side of the stadium, and parking one’s car is still largely an exercise in seeing how many times one can punch oneself in the face in the space of 90 minutes.
But the 49ers needed a win inside the stadium that wasn’t hockey-related, not because Jed York needs his self-esteem fluffed, but because the players need to know they won’t spend the off-season on crutches. Football is a miserable enough way to treat one’s body without fearing the very ground upon which one walks.
And for Jarryd Hayne, he needs to know that his current workplace can hold a candle to Parramatta Stadium -– even if, as we all know, it can’t. As though anything could.