Yo, Tags! PaulTagliabue, new NFL commissioner. Hey, I know you've got to worry about theshiitake mushrooms and the baby radicchio for next week's Super Bowl party, butTags, the old furnace needs a bit of stoking. Look, I know it's not easyfollowing Pete Rozelle—the tan alone will take you three years to acquire—butlet's face it, in the minds of some people you're already 0-1 in the CommandTheir Respect from the Start Department.
Denver coach DanReeves is calling you a "rookie commissioner." He says the ClevelandBrowns took advantage of you last week when you let them come into Denver oneday before the AFC Championship Game instead of the league-mandated two days.Even one of your main backers, Bronco owner Pat Bowlen, said you botchedit.
Tags, above allyou've got to show that you're running this league for the only constituencythat really matters. No, not the folks who make Bud Light; the fans, Tags. Forinstance, a kid buys a pack of football cards, and you know what he getsinside? Pictures of NFL announcers. My kid is looking for, maybe, Cris Carter,and he gets Chris Berman. What's next, Great Kicking Tee Retrievers of the NFL?What kind of licensing deal is this, Tags? You need to make some changes. TheNBA is right on your tail pipe. But not to worry. I'm here to help.
1) Kill suddendeath. Well, not kill it, but fix it. Why should a playoff game like the NFCsemifinal between the LA. Rams and the New York Giants a couple of weeks agocome down to who makes the best call on a coin flip? With so manyhowitzer-footed kickers around, the team that wins the flip is likely to winthe game. Here's a better way: If the team that wins the coin toss scores, theother team, is given possession at its own 20. Heads or tails, each team getsat least one chance to score.
2) Enough withseparate wild-card teams in each conference. Why did the Green Bay Packers andWashington Redskins, with 10-6 records, have to be at home this month workingon the rain gutters while the Houston Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers, both 9-7,got to keep cashing checks? Keep the six division winners in the playoffs, butthe four wildcard teams should be based on their records alone, no matter whatconference they're in.
3) Bathrobes.O.K., this is a weird one, but everywhere I go I see the same problem. Nakedfootball players yelling at women sportswriters, who are only doing their jobs.Despite what you may think, everybody hates these awkward locker-roomencounters. All you have to do is issue every team nice, thick terry clothbathrobes to be donned before the press is let in. Dressing can be done withbacks facing the throngs. I know it can be done. I saw Marilyn Monroe do itonce in a movie.
4) Make guys likeJim McMahon get rid of those Darth Vader masks that hide their faces. What's akid who idolizes McMahon supposed to hang on his bedroom wall? Yeah, that's myfavorite player in the whole wide world, Jim McMahon. I think. The game isstill for kids. Oh, and get rid of those receivers' gloves. If stickum isbanned, why aren't sticky gloves? Besides, they don't work. Ask Ronnie Harmon,that bobblin' Bill.
5) No moreback-to-back timeouts. There is nothing more stultifying than having to sitthrough two timeouts before a crucial, late-game field goal attempt—exceptmaybe having to watch still one more shot of Bubby Blister's mother.
6) Save instantreplay on controversial calls. The fans deserve it, Tags. What the fans don'tlike is the monthlong delays before some of these officials decide whether theguy was in or out. Get some speedier guys up there, and force the networks totake one of their commercial breaks every time a play is reviewed. It would getone of those irritating interruptions out of the way, the answer on the callwould be waiting when viewers get back, and fans would have to sit throughfewer timeouts called by American Express.
7) Expand. Did youknow that San Antonio is the ninth-largest city in the country? Put a teamthere, one in Jacksonville, one in St. Louis (with the NFL's first black owner,Walter Payton) and one in Charlotte, N.C. Don't look at me like that, Tags.Round up all the TV sets within two hours of Charlotte, and you have thefourth-largest TV market in the U.S. Once you get those teams in, create realgeographical divisions. What possible rivalry could exist between Tampa Bay andMinnesota? But Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Charlotte and Jacksonville would get Dixieblood boiling. Or how about the Rams versus the Raiders twice a year?
8) Please find away to staple, bend and/or mutilate the worst rule in sports, the in-the-graspnonsense. This is pro football, not two-hand touch.
Now, Tags, just doit.