(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
The suits running the NFL have forbidden new San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan from wearing a suit on the sidelines this upcoming season. Nolan wants to look professional – like a man in charge – and that’s ok, as long as he does it in NFL licensed apparel.
Currently there aren’t any league sanctioned maroon and gold Brooks Brothers suits, so Nolan will have to suit up in tacky, oversized windbreakers and sweaters with patterns so bizarre and loud they could cause seizures if stared at long enough.
My guess is they only want their coaches to be seen in outfits that Joe Public can go out and buy at the local mall or outlet store. My question is: Who wants to be seen in a Carolina Panthers electric blue and black turtleneck? The answer has to be: The same people that ran out and bought up all those Zubaz pants in NFL colors during the fashion crash of the early ‘90s.
I mean have you seen Bill Parcells? Each Sunday he looks like someone’s grandfather who’s been relegated to grocery store duty, angrily pushing a cart around while looking for the right brand of lunch meat.
Can you imagine some of the legends of the game forced to wear khakis with a hideously designed, short-sleeved pullover? I can’t.
Hall of Fame leaders like George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Hank Stramm, Paul Brown and Tom Landry all dressed for success in natty business suits. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they were all winners. I’m fairly sure Oakland’s John Madden started the slovenly slide into sartorial apathy, but he was a winner.
So, winning and dressing aren’t directly related. However, with the importance that Paul Tagliabue and the boys put on the aesthetic of their league, you would think it would extend to the coaches. The NFL holds the players to a high standard. They have strict uniform policies that the players must adhere to.
The appearance of players is so important to the league, that they are quick to levy fines for infractions such as illegal headbands and writing on shoes. This is the same league that fined Denver quarterback Jake Plummer last year for paying tribute to his college teammate and fallen war hero Pat Tillman, after the designated memorial weekend set aside by the NFL had passed.
Basically, if the NFL can’t make any money off of something, that something is verboten.
The NBA, which is the second most popular professional sport in America, has no such dress code for their coaches. Even when George Karl ruined it for old white guys everywhere by rocking a Nuggets throwback jersey during a regular season game this year, the NBA said nothing.
David Stern is always concerned about the image of his league, but he understands enough to know that what a coach wears is the least of his problems. Unless that coach is wearing a ‘Free Ron Artest’ shirt.
Pro football already has the stigma of being the “No Fun League”.
The more rules they impose on their employees, the more dissention will develop. With that much authority in every aspect of the game of football, a rebellion is almost inevitable.
So, unless Emperor Tagliabue has a Sith Lord on his side, he should lighten up and realize the suit makes the man.