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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Would less equipment
cut violence?

XFL founder Vince McMahon says he wants tough players who'll remind fans of the ones who "played with leather helmets."

I know what he's saying. But I think the only thing the league's players will have in common with Knute Rockne-era football will be their salaries.

XFL players will have cameras in their helmets and that's a device you sure couldn't insert in a leather skull piece.

Fact is, XFL players will be wearing helmets just as heavily armored as NFL players.

And while they're designed to protect their wearers, they are also weapons. Some guys derive their courage from the safety provided by Riddell.

I don't mean players like Chicago's Olin Kreutz, whose line coach believes he's a throwback to the leather helmet period.

If you thought NFL and NCAA helmet assaults have been outrageous, just imagine what you'll see in the XFL, a league designed to market mayhem.

Former University of Hawaii center Dustin Owen must know what he's in for as a draft pick of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. How about a team with an assassin for a mascot.

Certainly, former Rainbow defensive lineman Taase Faumui has an idea what will be expected of him when he plays for the Los Angeles Xtreme.

There haven't been many rules released yet for the XFL. To keep it distinct from the NFL, league czars probably don't want to make too many.

Maybe there's room to innovate with the XFL helmets.

Spring-action blades that pop from the crown or tear gas that pours from the face guard might prove popular.

Never underestimate a WWF enterprise. If McMahon's plan is to make the NFL look like a church league, he'll have to ban whistles.

Pity the quarterbacks. They could be more at risk than the NFL's, and that's an ugly thought. Recall some of the notable helmet-to-chin incidents in the senior league?

Bill Romanowski busting Kerry Collins' jaw in two places in 1997. Corey Fuller's shattering of Doug Pederson's jaw in 1998 on a blitz with 45 seconds remaining.

I guess that those incidents make what San Diego Chargers' safety Rodney Harrison did to Oakland Raiders' tight end Jeremy Brigham pretty tame.

Harrison was fined $40,000 last week -- one the largest in NFL history -- for a helmet-to-helmet smash. He was pretty indignant about the fine.

And teammate Junior Seau told the Associated Press, "Rodney's a guy who loves to go and hunt down someone's head, and it's entertaining to us."

Harrison's hit was helmet-to-helmet. One ram bashing another in the horns.

Two weekends ago, San Jose State's Josh Parry pounced on Hawaii quarterback Tim Chang, knocking his helmet clear off, and dug his face guard into Chang's head. Chang suffered a concussion and cuts. Helmet play at its nastiest.

I wonder what would happen if today's contact-sport athletes were forced to wear much less armor. If today's pro and college football players had to pull on leather helmets.

I know that seems ludicrous, but I think you'd be surprised how quickly wanton aggression would subside. Attempts to maim would drop to an all-time low.

It's a fact that since the NHL and college hockey went to helmets, blatant stick violence exploded. Take away the insulation and give the goons a reality check.

Of course, that might be bad for business. Especially in the XFL.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.
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