Culture

The Wussification of the NFL

Chris Chase of Yahoo writes, “Garrett bans hazing in Dallas, except for his helmet star restrictions.”

Wait, come again? What’s that last item?

After reporting that the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Garrett, beginning his first full season as head coach has banned the training camp hazing of rookies, such as rookies carrying shoulder pads for veterans and the juvenile practice of the vets occasionally taping a rookie to the goal posts for extended periods, Chase then writes:

There’s only one problem with Garrett’s new rule of equality: hazing is still very much alive and well in Big D and the champion of the cause is none other than the coach himself. Earlier this month, Garrett issued a decree that all rookies, from first-round picks to undrafted free agents, would not have the Cowboys star on their helmets until they earned the privilege.

“This team has been around 51 years, and it’s a great tradition,” he said at the time. “You have to earn the right to wear that star, and we’re very clear with the players about that. Just because you sign with the Dallas Cowboys doesn’t mean you earned that thing yet.”

Hazing isn’t just carrying pads or getting a crazy haircut or getting ice water dumped on your head. Denying rookies the same star worn by everyone else on the team (including new free-agent acquisitions who have been with Dallas for the same amount of time as the rookies) is less juvenile and humiliating but an equal mark of initiation. And no amount of coaching double-speak is going to change that.

That’s hazing? Having to earn the decal on your helmet? It’s true that the practice was only begun in Dallas under former head coach Bill Parcells, when his tenure began in 2003. Prior to that, from the glory days of Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson to the ignominious reign of Dave Campo as the head coach who preceded Parcells, incoming rookies all wore the same star-spangled helmets as the veterans. But it’s been a common practice at various NFL teams for decades to assign logo-less helmets to rookies at training camp as an added incentive to make the squad and thus earn the full team colors, which is why Parcells instituted the change as one of many motivational techniques when he took over.

If that now constitutes “hazing” in some sportswriters’ minds, then the manly art of professional football has fallen very far indeed.