?No. 5—Strike a blow for nonconformity. Loosen up on the dress code. Let a guy's shirttail hang out, or his socks drag. "The dress code has nothing to do with football," Raider safetyman Mike Davis says. "The way things are going, the NFL might as well dress the NFC teams in white and the AFC teams in blue, because they're trying to make us all look alike." Relax the numbering code on uniforms. Noland Smith, the Chiefs' tiny kick returner, wore No. 1. Jim Otto, the great Oakland Raider center, wore double-zero. Bring back individuality in numbers.
?No. 6—Officiating. Make one working referee a member of the Competition Committee, rotating the referee annually. Officials are high-grade people, and they're basically competent. You only have to watch a college game to realize how much better the officiating is in the NFL. But the officials are out of touch with the essence of the game. They're protected by the league office, and they're removed from the mainstream. They can't distinguish between techniques that are inherent to the nature of football—such as a cornerback shading a receiver, slowing down to keep him from the ball just as he's coached to do—and a flagrant foul. They're too tuned in to incidental stuff that doesn't affect the actual play. Many of them feel they're not doing their job unless the flags keep flying. Make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's an obvious takedown. No more 55-yard markoffs on chintzy stuff.
?No. 7—TV presentation. Speed up the officials. On an obvious call, let the man make his announcement right away instead of turning it into a production number. Get in and out of commercials faster. No more double commercials on a kick-off. You know, before the kickoff and after. That's more than two minutes of dead time to 20 seconds of action. Keep the action cleaner, both from a sound and sight standpoint. Let's have less clutter on the screen and less jargon and general gab through the microphone. Use the Vin Scully approach. Let the action speak. And for god's sake, do away with those 10-second highlights from other games between plays. They just clutter your brain. Most of the time it's just the same old thing anyway, a touchdown pass.
?No. 8—The player's image. No more guaranteed contracts, unless an injury ends a player's career. This will probably have to go on hold until after the USFL folds, if it does, but a guy getting paid whether he's cut or not lessens the old incentive. Put a set amount of community and charity work into each player's contract. They're getting paid enough. Let 'em mingle with the fans a little.
Drugs. Weekly drug testing is the only way. The guys who are clean won't mind. No more of the cosmetic, quickie drug cures—the three weeks in Hazelden or Camelback. Detoxing is one thing, curing is another. It's a long process and a serious problem. A month on the reserved-non-injured list won't do it.
?No. 9—Tighter screening of prospective owners. Carroll Rosenbloom pushed the Colts' Bob Irsay on the league, but 10 minutes in front of a businesslike owners' committee would have convinced such a group that Irsay didn't belong in pro football. Edgar Kaiser was another disaster, a quick-buck guy who turned a nifty $33.5 million profit in three years with Denver and then bailed out.
?No. 10—More and better gimmicks. C'mon now, coaches. Give us more original thought. If Tom Osborne can come up with a Fumblerooskie, and Joe Kapp a Rugby Special, then the collective minds of the NFL can do more than the same tired old flanker reverse and flea-flicker and halfback option pass. They're wearing so thin, they don't fool the program sellers anymore. In the St. Louis—Philly game I saw three gimmick plays called, two flea-flickers and a halfback option. One play got sacked, one got penalized, the third got intercepted. Where's the old pass-lateral, or maybe two laterals, or an inside lateral instead of an outside one? Or a quick kick? Or a two-minute, hurry-up offense in the middle of the game? Do something different. Anything.
?No. 11—The press. Once we were really into the game. The locker rooms were open before the games, and always after, and during the week. But the NFL has gotten more remote, more secretive, and this isn't smart when you're in an era of declining interest. It's time to make the locker rooms and the practice fields open to the press at all times. And let the media interview the official who made the tough call. Popes and presidents can be interviewed, why not NFL officials?
Once upon a time Pete Rozelle was a gung ho young publicity man who was trying to push a very colorful football team from the University of San Francisco, with stars like Ollie Matson and Gino Marchetti and Burl Toler. I wonder what he would have said if someone had told him, "Pete, Gino's shirttail is hanging out. Better fine him. And Pete, you've simply got to keep the writers out of the locker room after practice."
He'd have looked at you as if you were crazy and probably would have said, "Take a hike, pal. I'm trying to get something going here."