The NFL Slob Rule: Taking the “oxy” out of oxymoron?
NFL misconduct penalties for the 2007 season flagged players like cannon fodder. Now the suspended league miscreant Pacman Jones is trying to get back in, but league commissioner Roger Goodell has dug deep into the NFL soul to reveal the true source of declining league imagery: neck ties.
Sports by they nature can be oxymoronic, but in the face of an ill-conceived league slob rule that actually bans coaches from suits and ties just as the league struggles to curtail waves of miscreant if not felonious misconduct by its players, one cannot help but wonder whether the NFL has finally taken the “oxy” completely out of oxymoron.
True, Commissioner Goodell did not invent this curious shmatta mandate—that came from his ivory tower predecessor Paul Tagliabue—but, still, he blindly holds on. The rule, not surprisingly, evolved from a simple-minded endorsement deal the league cut with Reebok, ridiculously mandating Reebok attire everywhere on the field—but did this really have to relegate league coaches to the slob rack? This not only makes coaches look bad, it makes Reebok look bad—don’t they get it?
It took 49ers coach Mike Nolan, apparently a rational man, to beg the NFL for the right to dignity—to dress up, wear a suit, and set a good example. So did the league wake up and respond rationally, sending the slob rule to the trash heap? No, instead the NFL inexplicably adopted an irrational compromise: last year the league begrudgingly allowed a limit of two custom-made Reebok suits, while in 2007-08 head coaches may dress up in real suits, but only on their home field. What?
The league hangs onto the slob rule like it’s a cure for cancer—when in fact a no-slob rule might help curtail the real cancer that eats away at the declining image of the league itself: sloppy attitudes and slovenly misconduct.
Sports lunacy these days is practically a religion, and sports themselves can be an enigma since they require cooperation and competition at the same time and they demand a take-no-prisoners winning attitude that is concurrently tempered by a labyrinth of rules meant to be broken. Perhaps such a legacy can explain front office lapses, but it does not justify them.
The NBA has a spiffy dress code, and virtually every coach is decked out Armani-style at games—thank you, Pat Riley—but its big league counterpart, the NFL, has gone completely over the edge, actually mandating sloppy attire. The NFL used to be a league of dignity, too, built on the suits, ties, and indelible respect demanded by the stately images of Halas, Lombardi, Landry, and legions of others. Reebok executives should recognize their own absurd role in this upside down travesty and do the right thing: back off. Or maybe Roger Goodell should have the backbone to make them. Otherwise, why stop at mandating sloppy sweatshirts? Why not take in a few prison endorsements—“San Quentin, the official slammer of the NFL”—or rake in a few NFL Taser gun dollars, too.
The league could make a small fortune on official NFL home monitoring devices, drug testing kits, handguns, tattoos, defense lawyers and do-rags. Anything but suits and ties. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle should roll over in his pinstripes.
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