WILKES-BARRE — Famed Super Bowl groundskeeper and Edwardsville native George Toma said the hashmarks were there the whole time.
Contrary to reports you might have seen, Toma and his field crew did not forget to paint hashmarks where the NFL shield and Super Bowl LII logos were added to the synthetic turf at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“The hashmarks are there all the time,” Toma, 89, said Monday. “When you paint a logo on a field, the hashmarks always bleed through. We just enhance them.”
And that’s what confused some members of the media.
When they saw the field crew painting hashmarks on the field just hours before kickoff Sunday, they thought the marks — critical for spotting the football — were being added for the first time.
As Toma clarified, however, the field crew just wanted to make sure they were a little more visible for fans.
A story that was carried in the New York Post had this to say:
“Potentially embarrassing snaps of the NFL adding hashmarks to the field hours before the game are not quite the controversy some thought.
“League officials were photographed and recorded by prominent media adding hashmarks over the NFL and Super Bowl logos. It was not a mishap, though, just the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday standard procedure, the NFL said.”
The Post got this statement from the NFL:
“The hashmarks were freshened, which is done every year in the hours prior to the Super Bowl.”
Toma, who has been in charge of field preparations for all 52 Super Bowls, said the logo hashmarks were clearly visible when on the field.
“You could definitely see them,” Toma said. “You can’t see them from the stands, but when you walk on the field, you can see they are right there.”
Toma said his crew got to work on the field at 4 p.m. Saturday and it was ready to go by 10 p.m. — everything was painted. Then the crew groomed the field, brushing it and completing all finishing touches by 11 p.m. Saturday.
With his Super Bowl work complete, Toma said he is leaving for Fort Myers, Florida, on Friday. Toma heads up the crew at the Minnesota Twins spring training complex.
Toma turned 89 on Feb. 2 and the NFL and his co-workers gave him a big cake to celebrate the milestone.
“It was a great game,” Toma said. “The Eagles were 120 percent better than the Patriots.”
Toma is the kind of guy whose heart is never far from his Wyoming Valley roots. That’s why he was sad to hear that Konefal’s Restaurant, a staple in Edwardsville for decades, closed its doors Sunday.
“I was really sorry to hear that,” he said. “They had good pierogies and piggies.”
Toma grew up on Swallow Street in Edwardsville, but he has lived in Kansas City since 1957. That’s where he went to work for Lamar Hunt, who helped found the American Football League and recommended Toma to do field preparations for the first Super Bowl in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. Toma’s sister, Catherine, 91, lives in Shavertown.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.