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All Hail the ‘God of Sod’, gardener for each of the 57 Super Bowls

When the A’s left for Oakland, Calif., Toma joined the Royals, an expansion team. He worked for the Chiefs after they moved to Kansas City from Dallas in 1963 and prepared grounds for the Olympics, soccer World Cups and NFL games overseas. He was called upon to repair distressed fields at Candlestick Park in San Francisco and Soldier Field in Chicago. When the New Orleans Saints played at Louisiana State University after Hurricane Katrina, Toma brought in airboats and used their large propellers to dry paint in the end zones.

The Super Bowl, however, has been its biggest challenge due to its high visibility. At the 1990 Super Bowl season in Tampa, Florida, Toma and his team planted seeds to repair the field after a college bowling game. The grass began to fill in, but was later ripped out by the Giants and Bills, who practiced there the day before the game. So Toma took grass from a training ground at the University of Tampa and planted and painted it overnight.

“He’s the power bunny,” said Ed Mangan, Toma’s successor as Super Bowl head guard. “I mean, he never stops, he goes there all the time.”

During the 1978 Super Bowl season at Miami’s Orange Bowl, a 120-yard tarp was pulled across the field just before the halftime show. But it was deployed unevenly and one end was over the goal post. Toma asked if anyone had a knife so he could cut part of the tarp to fit. Several fans offered theirs.

The following season, for the Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Toma and his team had to remove 800 gallons of paint that had been applied to the field for the Rose Bowl. They dug up the end zones, the touchlines and much of the midfield and planted new seeds. Unfortunately, heavy rain the week before the match prevented the grass from taking hold, leaving piles of seed in the end areas.

If you spend eight decades working hard to create perfect grass mats, time finally forces you to hand over the responsibility to someone else. But that doesn’t mean you stop caring.

Pretty much every Sunday, as Kansas City fielder Travis Hogan is watching the game from the West Zone at Arrowhead Stadium, his phone will ring and he’ll see Toma’s name pop up.

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