Once Again, Hockey Leads the Way

Before I begin, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you to check out Tim Brulia's Week 14 Uniform Matchup Rankings posted to this blog a short time before this article, itself, was posted. Tim and I have been stepping on each other's toes with our blogs for the last few weeks. Unfortunately, quality material sometimes just can't wait.

Honestly, I was a hockey fan before I began following football. Growing up in northwest Pennsylvania, I can remember from a very early age my Dad hooking up the 'rabbit-ear' antennas to our television so that we could dial in on CHCH, CKCO, or CFPL out of Hamilton, Kitchener, and London, Ontario, respectively from across the shores of Lake Erie and watch "Hockey Night in Canada." I learned the words to the Canadian National Anthem before I knew that it wasn't the American Anthem. If I close my eyes (or tune in to youtube) I can still hear Roger "Rogie" Doucet singing in the Forum in Montreal.

In the early 1980s, when I was in middle school, I'd turn on my boom-box at 830PM and dial in to WBBM AM out of Chicago so that I could listen to Pat Foley yell out "BAAANNNNERMAAAAN!" as I was lying in bed. This was how it was in a time before the Internet, youngsters. I've been a Blackhawks fan for even longer than I've been a Bears fan. Needless to say that for the last few years, "It's good to be a 'Hawks fan." The Bears, not so much. But I digress.

The point is, that while a large portion of the sports universe looks down its nose at hockey, every once in a while, hockey does something really wise. A few years ago, the NHL created the Department of Player Safety.  Run by its well-respected, Hockey Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan, it scrutinizes on-ice incidents both of the variety that game officials catch and don't catch.  Each infraction brought to Director Shanahan's attention follows a clear-cut series of guidelines. Infractions are analyzed, suspensions or fines are determined and levied by a former player who toiled in the NHL for 22 years. Video explanations are attached to the NHL's website for all fans to watch and receive an articulate explanation of what happened, why the action necessitated further discipline, and what the terms of any additional penalties would be.

During his career, Shanahan scored 656 regular season goals along with another 60 in playoff action.  He was an 8-time All-Star and 3-time Stanley Cup Champion. Goal scoring was not his only forte. Seventeen times Shanahan accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes in a season. He was never afraid to get his gloves dirty. It is my belief that this unique combination of toughness and goal-scoring prowess made the choice of Shanahan for this position an easy one.

With all of the current angst being aimed by fans at the current NFL Overlord Commissioner for a variety of reasons (some justified and others not..er...well, let's face it. Most of it is deserved) the NFL could take one of those bullseyes off of Roger Goodell. I would like to see the NFL implement its own version of a Department of Player Safety, but with a few alterations.

Due to the fact that each team plays only 20 games in the preseason and regular season combined, suspensions of any length can affect the likelihood of a team making the playoffs. In an 82-game season, and with the ability to 'call up' skilled replacements from teams' minor league affiliates, it is easier for an NHL team to get by in a player's absence.  NFL suspensions, whatever their length, have a greater impact on a team's overall success than in any other league with the possible rare exception of a season-long suspension.

In hockey, players are responsible for both their team's offense and defense. If the NFL organized a DPS with a single director, there would likely be instances where that player's background as either a defensive or offensive player might create a perceived slant in their opinion of an on-field incident. For this reason, a minimum of 2 individuals would be needed - both a retired offensive and defensive player - for each circumstance.

Another aspect to be considered would be the team (or teams) for which the retired players played. NFL players are famous for continuing to represent their former team in an ambassadorial capacity or simply as a fan well beyond the end of their playing career. Others are known to carry a grudge of animosity towards a particular team, including one they may have played for. Would a Baltimore Raven want their fine or suspension overseen by a retired Steeler like Hines Ward? I think not.

That is why my idea would call for a "Council of Elders" of sorts. Thirty-two retired players, one from each team, equally split between offense and defense, and then the tie-breaking vote (if needed) would fall upon the shoulders of the previous NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, (or the current Head of Officiating) keeping Roger Goodell's hands clean of these matters.

An incident involving two NFC teams would require the judgement of the sixteen AFC representatives (8 offense and 8 defense) and vice versa for an incident involving AFC teams. In the event that the incident involves an interconference game, the two teams in question receive no say and the remaining thirty representatives decide the matter, again with someone like "Tags" settling any split decisions should they occur.

These former players would be much better equipped to discern the intent of an incident, much like Shanahan's analysis of the Shawn Thornton incident, and their judgement would be much more respected than that which currently occurs from the office of the Commissioner who, himself, never enjoyed a career in the sport he oversees.

I'm sure that the process could continue to be fine-tuned beyond what I've already laid out above, however, the groundwork is there. Otherwise, the NFL will likely continue down a slippery slope towards something none of us want to see.  A wise man once commented...

You tell him that the quarterback was in the grasp or that he should have pulled up on a defenseless player!
Bill Schaefer

Week 14 Uniform Matchup Rankings

Week 14 featured a load of dark-dark combos, a few surprises and lots of snow.  And so far, I think the best week of matchups this season.

16) Panthers-Saints:  CAR in white/white, NO in black/black.  All white and all black on a late season Sunday night.  Meh.  Saints would have done well to have gone with gold pants.  Panthers might have the one to try the rarely worn black pants, but both teams stay in their boxes for this scrum.  Not sure I agree.

15) Colts-Bengals:  IND in white/white, CIN in black/white.  I'm a little torn here.  Should the Bengals have worn all black for this one to cancel out the all white Colts?  Or was it better to go with the Bengals did and wear white pants?  I tend to go with the latter, simply because there were a load of all dark combos being worn this week.  Nice pairing.

14) Seahawks-49ers:  SEA in white/white, SF in red/gold.  No complaints with the Niner red and gold, but a bit of anguish with the Seahawks in all white.  Of the three color pant choices for the Seahawks, white works the worst here.  Hard to pick between gray or navy, but either would have been preferred.  So, sorry Niners, this falls in the lower echelon.

13) Falcons-Packers:  ATL in white/white, GB in green/yellow.  The Packers, who sport one of the best looks in the NFL when in dark, go against the Falcons, who rock a rather blah white combo.  And while the Packers greens lift this matchup, as it does any matchup, it doesn't do enough to push this game to the heights.

12) Giants-Chargers:  NYG in white/gray, SD in navy/white.  Expected looks by these two.  Blue is the main color, but it is adequately complimented by gray, red, yellow and a touch of powder blue.  Actually, the red trim on the NY white jersey does square off smoothly with the deep blue Chargers jersey.

11) Chiefs-Redskins:  KC in white/red, WSH in burgundy/yellow.  A lot of red, a lot of yellow and a dash of snow.  While the fiery colors dominate, I think all of the right color combos were worn.  Both teams said nay to white pants, which might not have made a huge load of difference to the Skins, but would have been a major loss in the standings had the Chiefs gone mono white.  They didn't and that made this one a success, uni-wise.

10) Texans-Jaguars:  HOU in white/navy, JAX in black/black.  A lot of darkness in this one.  And I happen to like it.  It's still a bit jarring to see the Jags in all black as this uni can't seem to figure out the primary trim. Is it teal? Is it white? Maybe the gold on the helmets?? Regardless, it does seem to pair well with the Texans' white jerseys and navy accessories, with nice red numbers.

9) Raiders-Jets:  OAK in white/silver, NYJ in green/green.  Was ready to put this matchup in the basement until...bingo...the Jets get the green pants out of mothballs just in time for 2013.  And just like that, the Jets finally wear a combo that I can sink my teeth into.  It also helps the Raiders cause as well, cuz their white combo does little for me.  But when paired with the green Jets, they look a bit better.

8) Browns-Patriots:  CLE in white/brown, NE in navy/silver.  The more I see this, the more I like.  Since we'll likely never see the Pats go all navy in the near or distant future, the Browns pick up the slack on a routine outing by going with brown pants. And it does add a little visual variety, even if it is a rather unpopular color like brown.

7) Vikings-Ravens:  MIN in white/purple, BAL in purple/black.  Purple grape jam in effect here, with a helping of snow flakes.  This is almost as much purple as one will see in the NFL.  And the Ravens chose to go with the two toned dark look in the NFL.  I like this one.  Maybe more black than I would prefer, but it is certainly still more on the + side than the - side.

6) Cowboys-Bears:  DAL in white/mint, CHI in navy/white.  After the Cowboys rocked the uni world by wearing normal blue jerseys at home in North Texas for the first time in 50 years, things revert to normal in frigid Chicago. Cowboys in the familiar whites and the Bears in standard navy and white.  And it is goodness.  Nice helping of silvery blue and mint, blues in royal and navy, as well as orange for a good mixture of color.

5) Titans-Broncos:  TEN in white/navy, DEN in orange/white.  Broncos in the very beautiful orange jerseys and like the Packers green and Steelers black, a rather can't miss combo.  So, even though the Titans would have been much better served in columbia blue pants than in the navys, this matchup is still better than most.

4) Lions-Eagles:  DET in white/silver.  PHI in green/white.  Normally, a rather routine uni matchup.  BUT add in a healthy dose of snow and presto! it looks soooo much better.  The Lions silver lids seem to glow against the snow and the Eagles green look like a small forest of evergreens.  Thanks, Mother Nature.

3) Rams-Cardinals:  STL in white/navy, ARZ in red/red.  Glory be!  Had this matchup occurred in say Week 5, I think this would have been a really dull matchup, dominated by white everywhere.  But in Week 14, the Cardinals slap out the red pants and the Rams counter with the navy trou.  White is kept to the Rams jerseys and the Cardinals helmets.  Some gold and black round out the color schematic, and this is boffo.

2) Dolphins-Steelers:  MIA in white/aqua, PIT in black/yellow.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Dolphins for rocking the aqua pants.  Really, does anyone think that the Fins in all white really look better than in white and aqua??  No.  Whether the swirling snow in Heinz Field had any bearing on the choice doesn't matter. With the white and aqua going against the always reliable black and yellow look of the Steelers, the matchup zips up the food chain.

1) Bills-Buccaneers:  BUF in white/blue, TB in red/pewter.  Now this one is way better than the two teams' W-L records.  Just a gorgeous matchup.  The white of the Bills, with perfect mixes of red and blue.  The Bucs' red with dollups of pewter, black and essence of orange.  This just gives me goosebumps of glory.

Heading for the homestretch, fans. Keep it right here!!


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