Los Angeles Times
Football fan’s an expert in his fields
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 (fanhalloffame.com). 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.