New York - Unleashing a last-minute rule change that is certain to spark controversy, the National Football League has banned the use of helmets in the upcoming Super Bowl.
"The NFL wants Super Bowl XLVIII to be the safest championship game ever played," said league commissioner Roger Goodell. "That means knocking out the current epidemic of concussions."
The solution, according to the commissioner, can be found in the canyons of computer printouts that dominate his desk. "Our research shows that helmet-to-helmet contact is the leading cause of concussions by far. Lose the helmets and the problem disappears."
The NFL Players Association at first responded to the change with a scathing press release that accused the league of exploiting football's violent characteristics.
"Nothing draws crowds like a bloodbath, and without helmets, that's just what the game would be," the release said. "We demand that the NFL revoke this proposed ban before someone is seriously injured."
But a hastily called meeting between player reps and the Commissioner resulted in the Players Association shifting its position. The group issued a major revision to its initial press release declaring:
"Nothing draws crowds like a game that has removed the major barrier between the players and their fans. We applaud the NFL for creating this proposed ban in the interests of safety and more lucrative player endorsements."
One unnamed player said it's all about marketing. "In the promotion game, your face is your ace. You don't want to be covering it up with a big helmet."
Goodell noted that other changes to the game on the field would be explored "now that everyone is on board with the headgear issue."
Among the proposals:
- change the shape of the ball to a perfect sphere, eliminating the hazardous points
- put the foot back in football by prohibiting players from touching the ball with their hands
- tear down the goalposts and replace them with goals, guarded by proper goalkeepers
- smooth out the herky-jerky flow of the game by keeping the ball rolling nonstop over two 45-minute periods
One reporter questioned if the proposals did anything to address the problem of violence in the sport. He was escorted into a small room where he was persuaded to pursue a different line of questioning.