It’s said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the National Hockey League should be blushing intensely right now. The National Football League has decided their crap-tastic all-star game needed a new format, so it’s borrowed the NHL’s “fantasy draft” idea for the Pro Bowl.
The traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup has been eliminated. It will be replaced by a fantasy-style draft, with captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, Pro Bowl team captains and two NFL.com fantasy football champions picking the two teams from a pool of players that was voted in, the NFL said. ESPN was first to report the format change.
First, let’s applaud the idea that two fans will get some input in choosing these teams, even if it’s symbolic. That’s pretty sweet. But Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders helping the team captains? Snore. If you need some added star power in AN ALL-STAR GAME, why not just use some Z-list celebrities? (“Team Caliendo selects [does John Madden voice … again]”)
The Pro Bowl now has a modicum of interest, which is amazing given that it’s the Pro Bowl, thanks to the NHL’s “inspiring” all-star game format.
So what else can the NFL take from the NHL in order to finally achieve widespread popularity and a rich television contract like hockey has?
Here are seven other things the NFL is allowed to steal from the far superior NHL. (Sorry, Chara's off-limits.)
Trophies You Can Drink From
Look, that paperweight Tom Brady gets to hold over his head every few years is nice and all, but as Ben Roethlisberger probably discovered it’s impossible to use as a chalice/goblet/pimp cup to slurp down celebratory champagne.
You know, like you can do when you win The Greatest Trophy In All Of Sports.
The Stanley Cup is the Holy Grail, but it's not hockey's only serving trophy. The NHL’s best regular season team is given the President’s Trophy, complete with a shallow bowl at the top that can be used for cereal or soup or to collect the tears of the team that wins it but falls short of the Final. (Chicago Blackhawks excepted.)
The Penalty Box
“Two minutes, by yourself, you know and you feel shame, you know.”
Denis Lemieux’s comments about the penalty box in “Slap Shot” ring true 36 years later, because the Sin Bin is still sports’ greatest “rub the puppy’s nose in his own mess” mechanism.
What happens in the NFL on a penalty? A flag is thrown, a player’s number is announced, the ball is marched up or down the field by the official, the player returns to the huddle where someone calls him a dumbass and then everyone claps their hands and goes back to the line.
Where’s the shame? Where’s the embarrassment? Where are the drunk fans mercilessly taunting the offending player in green body suits? How will the puppy ever learn?!
The Playoff Format
The NFL currently allowed 12 of its 32 teams into the playoffs, or 37.5 percent. The NHL allows 16 of its 30 teams into the playoffs, or 53.3 percent.
Now, you might say, “That’s why one League’s regular season is a national obsession while the other’s is a tepid appetizer before a five-star meal,” and you’d be right. But we prefer to see it as “exclusive” vs. “inclusive,” and what is our society if not one that seeks to enlarge the tent, help out our fellow citizens and give everyone a chance to achieve greatness?
And by that we mean the Columbus Blue Jackets have been in the playoffs more recently than the Cleveland Browns. More playoff teams, more better!
Because who doesn’t want to learn everything you never wanted to know about the NFL during the most critical parts of the game?
No, seriously, steal him.
Seriously, listen to this slice of fried gold:
Touchdowns are cathartic moments of elation, just like goals. Both are the result of successful team plays, extraordinary individual efforts or debilitating mistakes. Whatever the case, having that moment punctuating with a blaring locomotive horn is a near perfect aural accompaniment to that orgasmic instant.
Yes, this can become problematic given how many scoring plays are reviewed in the NFL. But you know what that means? Double horns when the ref confirms it’s six points for the home team.
Hey, remember when the NFL had hitting? Open field tackles in which the player on the receiving end was “blown up” and there wasn’t a flag thrown immediately afterward for harm being done to a “defenseless receiver”?
Welcome to the NHL, right now:
In fairness, both League have their concussion problems – and in the NFL’s case, it’s concussion litigation problems – but hockey still remains a place where hitting happens while the NFL treats its quarterbacks like their made of porcelain and tissue paper.
Er, on second thought, let’s not put skates on NFL players.
At least until Ndamukong Suh retires …
Thanks to Kaduk and ‘Cooks’ for their help.
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