Foot­ball fan’s an ex­pert in his fields

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - CHRIS ER­SK­INE FAN OF THE HOUSE­sk­ine@la­ Twit­ter: @er­sk­ine­times

So you think you did a pretty good job dec­o­rat­ing the yard last weekend, right?

Check out Ge­off Thran’s hol­i­day dis­play, his field of dreams, with mark­ings that mimic the real Rose Bowl so well that you have to look at the ad­ja­cent yards and side­walk to con­firm it’s ac­tu­ally only 40 feet long.

To Thran, his replica Rose Bowl is an an­nual art project, an ode to the game he loves. He likes to do it all him­self, start­ing with the right fonts, then trac­ing the lo­gos them­selves by flash­ing them against his garage wall.

A full-time high school teacher and part-time Rose Bowl groundskeeper, he’ll get ad­vice from Rose Bowl turfmeis­ter Will Sch­nell over at the sta­dium, five min­utes from his Al­tadena house.

The replica Su­per Bowl field, which fol­lows his Rose Bowl field a month later, is more chal­leng­ing to a per­fec­tion­ist such as Thran. In the past, he has called the Su­per Bowl venue to be sure he has the end zones laid out in the right di­rec­tions.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I look at foot­ball games in terms of which teams I want to paint,” he says with a laugh.

In fact, the New York Gi­ants and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots have come to bore him. When the teams met in the Su­per Bowl two sea­sons ago, he al­most skipped the game in protest. His recipe?

A St. Au­gus­tine base pep­pered with a lit­tle rye to green it up in win­ter.

The goal posts are half-inch metal con­duit, curved with a stan­dard pipe-ben­der, then spray­painted.

“I just kind of get my stuff at OSH,” says Thran, 45.

It doesn’t cost much — the paint mostly. Once he has fig­ured out the lo­gos and fonts, the field it­self takes Thran about 15 hours.

Let’s take a quick time­out here to nom­i­nate Thran for ESPN’s new Fan Hall of Fame, an idea sug­gested here many War­ren Moons ago, now com­ing to fruition.

“Fans are the lifeblood of sports,” the net­work ex­plains in its re­lease on the hall, now in its sec­ond year. “We re­vamped the web­site and built a ro­bust back-end sys­tem to sup­port user sub­mis­sions and votes on mo­bile, tablet and desk­top — and feed­back across mul­ti­ple ex­e­cu­tions.”

I get a lit­tle buzz when I hear talk like that. Mul­ti­ple ex­e­cu­tions? Is there a guil­lo­tine in­volved? Don’t even get me started on ro­bust back ends.

I’m not much of an ex­pert on such gib­ber­ish, but I do know a real fan when I see one. I’ll nom­i­nate this Al­tadena fa­ther for a spot in ESPN’s Fan Hall of Fame. It’s too late for this sea­son; vot­ing on the 10 fi­nal­ists ends next week (fan­hallof­ But wait till next year.

Thran’s ob­ses­sion started early, with replica fields he made on poster board as a kid. When he was 12, he did his first Su­per Bowl trib­ute, for the 1980 game be­tween the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and the Los An­ge­les Rams.

“Iron­i­cally, at the Rose Bowl,” he points out.

Each year, he’d up­date the field, of­ten paint­ing over the poster board from the pre­vi­ous year, oc­ca­sion­ally re­plac­ing it when it be­came too lay­ered and worn.

When the Cres­centa Val­ley High grad moved to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia for col­lege, he let the hobby drop.

In 2002, he moved back into his Al­tadena home, just another guy who loved foot­ball and rugby, just another young dad with a bas­ket full of projects at the hard­ware store. Then one day: “I’m look­ing at my yard, and there are th­ese wood slats that sep­a­rate the con­crete,” he re­calls. “I started step­ping off the space and I said, ‘Wow, I can put a field in here.’ ” So he did. His first trib­ute field was the 2006 na­tional cham­pi­onship game be­tween USC and Texas. He has done two fields a year — the Rose Bowl and the Su­per Bowl — ever since.

It’s a beau­ti­ful thing re­ally, a lit­tle quirky, a tad ob­ses­sive, ridicu­lously in­ven­tive.

Dare you not to smile over it. His idea en­tirely, not stolen from some goof he saw on a net­work pregame show. His and his alone. The work of a true vi­sion­ary.

I mean, any fan can get a lit­tle car­ried away with a man cave or a tail­gate party — and we all do. But this?

“She’s cool with it,” Thran says of his wife, Shelly.

By now you’re think­ing, “Re­ally? What kind of spouse puts up with this sort of thing?”

You know, a re­ally fine one. I’ll nom­i­nate her too.

Pasadena Po­lice De­par tment

SHRUNK TO FIT on his prop­erty, a replica of the last Su­per Bowl field fills Ge­off Thran’s yard in Al­tadena. Thran matches re­quired fonts and builds his own goal posts. Each year he also cre­ates a Rose Bowl game field.

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