I caught wind today of a rumor that Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, could be considering a new rule for his No-Fun-League that would require all players to have their hair cut short enough to fit underneath their helmets. And it was at this moment that I realized the terrorists had won.
Look, let’s break down this rule because if this is true, there is going to be plenty of hog-wash blown at you to make you think this rule is about safety when it really is about image. The case is going to be made that players that have their hair hanging out the back of their helmet and often times draping on the back of their jerseys are in risk of having it pulled out while being tackled. The NFL is going to tell us that it is in the best interest of the players and the league that they don’t see any scalpings take place on the gridiron and thus require players to take their hair underneath their helmets or cut it.
The reason why this is a bunch of crap is because any player that has his hair hanging out the back of his helmet (a) is rather aware of the possibility of it being used against them, (b) knows that the likeliness of this happening is quite slim, especially since it has probably only happened a couple of times, and (c) is a defensive back who doesn’t have to worry about being tackled in the first place. In truth, this possible rule change is all about Roger Goodell trying to clean up the league’s image, and he sees long hair as another deterrent to making the league more marketable. It kind of reminds me of when my mom didn’t want me hanging out with the kid across the street who had a ponytail because she thought he probably listened to Metallica as a result.
Unfortunately for the fans, this is just another line-item on a long list of semi-ridiculous things the league has done to limit individuality and make the league “look better.” Players’ uniforms have been regulated from their shoes and socks, to the length of their towels. And when it comes to these rules, the league makes no exceptions. Remember when Jake Plummer wanted to keep his Pat Tillman sticker on his helmet for the entire season after the official league-wide week of wearing it? The NFL wouldn’t let him because his the tiny sticker on his helmet would make his uniform different from the entire Denver Broncos team! I wouldn’t be surprised if soon enough we see rules about coaches having to wear suits and ties along with players having to cover or remove their visible tattoos.
It’s for this reason that I call Roger Goodell Anti-American. If anything, he’s a communistic dictator. Just think about it. The most “American” sport out there is baseball. You never hear of this kind of strong-arming about uniforms and hair coming from Bud Selig’s office (although I vaguely remember there being an issue about Terry Francona’s uniform sometime last year), and even if we do it is usually dealing with the pitcher and the created unfair advantage against the hitter. Heck, this is why ESPN.com picks up a blog devoted to watching uniforms: the rules are much looser when it comes to baseball. Even when we do hear about uniform issues (or grooming issues), it is always at a team level and not a commissioner level.
That is why baseball is called “America’s Pastime” and football will never rival that claim: it preserves the team’s right to run and govern itself in a way that it sees fit. Now that’s American. I just wish Roger Goodell might consider that.