The Superbowl has long been about consumption. From Superbowl parties and barbecues to the world-famous commercial competition, the prom of sporting events is very much a “bigger-is-better” occasion. In 2020, nearly 100 million people tuned in to watch Kansas City knock down San Francisco. That’s a platform with few equals.
“Sports tend to attract more attention than science,” said Susan Groh in a wild understatement. Groh is the associate director of NFL Green, the environmental wing of the National Football League.
What NFL Green has been doing this year is trying to leverage that massive platform to achieve several environmental goals and encourage sustainability. It began before Superbowl 2020, with a restoration project that rebuilt sand dunes and woodland around Tampa Bay. But now they have their eyes set on higher goals.
Or rather, lower. 30 feet below sea level, to be precise.
Just off the Tampa shore is the Florida Reef Tract, the third-largest barrier reef in the world. But industrial water quality, disease, and ocean change have done immense amounts of damage to the reef in recent years. NFL Green’s goal is to restore the reef tract, which is a key habitat for ocean life and a protection for the coast against hurricanes and other storms.
Coordinating with the Florida Aquarium, who provided corals, and special operations veterans with diving experience in need of work or purpose, an underwater gardening project has begun. The first planting of hundreds of coral starts the size of a fist, is taking the form of a football field. The restoration has been aptly named “100 Yards of Hope.”
Over a few days this fall, the divers planted over a thousand corals.
“Within seconds of that coral being cemented, actual little fish would start to come,” said former Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Kaj Larsen, one of the participants.
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