Interesting news from the NFL today, as the league has announced that thigh and knee pads will become mandatory in 2013.
Thigh and knee pads used to be universal in pro football (hip and tailbone pads, too), but they've fallen out of favor with an increasing number of players in recent years. Why? There are three primary reasons:
• Some players -- mainly wide receivers and defensive backs -- are obsessed with being as light and fast as possible. They believe the pads slow them down.
• Some players -- again, mainly wide receivers and defensive backs -- want to look as sleek and smooth as possible. For them, going padless is a style thing.
• Thigh and knee pads are required in the NCAA. So when players reach the NFL, veterans often tell the rookies, "You're a pro now -- stop wearing those sissy pads and dress like a man." (This is the same thing MLB rookies are often told about double-earflap helmets, which are mandatory in the minors.)
There's talk that the players' union may appeal the new rule about the pads, since it wasn't collectively bargained. If the rule survives that challenge, however, it could have a major corrective effect on one of the NFL's worst uni-related trends in recent years: the scourge of biker shorts. If the league starts requiring knee pads, that means the pants will have to cover the knee. And that, ideally, will spell the end of the short-shorts.