The National Football League has come up with a creative way to resolve the dispute between 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions Coach Jim Schwartz when the two teams square off this Sunday night.
You might recall that after the Lions and the Niners faced each other last season, there was a rather hostile handshake between the two. Harbaugh offered an overly enthusiastic handshake to Schwartz, who appeared to offer a verbal retort in return. When that didn’t get Schwartz the reaction he wanted, he opted to chase Harbaugh across the field and continue shouting at him. Players ended up getting involved, and the resulting scrum was worthy of a college football game between heated rivals.
The NFL was apparently concerned that the situation might repeat itself this weekend, and decided to intervene. The league’s decision? A cage match at midfield following the game. According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, this move is not completely unprecedented. “Look, in some Central American cultures, the losing team of a game was put to death,” Goodell said. “Because of our focus on safety, we didn’t feel it would be appropriate to make the coaches fight to the death, but we did want this feud to end. So whoever kicks the other’s ass will be the winner, and then we can all get on with our lives again.”
While Schwarz would not comment on the upcoming match, Harbaugh was more than willing to talk. “I will kick his ass into next week,” Harbaugh said in an interview on NFL Live. “And then when he is laying there, half passed out, I will grab his hand and shake it vigorously. I just hope they keep Suh from trying to stomp on me during the match.”
The NFL Network will air the cage match, although there was initially some dispute as to by which network would be granted broadcasting rights. While Sunday night football is televised on NBC, the network did not hold rights to any separate post-game activity. ESPN then stepped in seeking to make the match part of its follow up coverage on Sports Center, offering Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer as the cage-side announcers, but the NFL declined. According to Goodell, “I watched the game between the Chargers and Raiders, and I was horrified. Berman sounded like he was on vacation and Dilfer is sour on everybody; he’s like the anti-John Gruden. And if I heard one more joke about the players being on a baseball diamond I was going to scream. There was no way in hell I was letting the cage match be broadcast there.”
Steve Bornstein, President of the NFL Network and former Chairman of ESPN, offered a more realistic assessment for placing the match on the NFL Network. “Look, we are desperate for programming. NFL AM is a great show, but we’re almost having to run it twelve hours a day to mask the fact that we don’t have anything else to air. For God’s sake, we’re a network that is about to air a program on the things that we love about Tim Tebow. How much pride do you think we have?”
The cage match is scheduled for three rounds, with each round lasting three minutes. Randy Moss will be serving as Harbaugh’s cut man, while Ndamukong Suh will do the same for Schwartz. According the Goodell, the NFL is closely watching how this event unfolds to see if it has implications for resolving other league disputes. While he would not confirm that the league would utilize the format for resolving the lockout of NFL officials, Goodell made it clear that he was open to the idea. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I think there are a lot of people who suspect that Ed Hochuli’s arms are just a little over-hyped. He may be a demon at the gym, but that doesn’t always translate to the NFL field, nor to a cage.”
Reminder: The Rat’s Tale is a recurring parody feature that appears on Gridiron Rats. No coaches were harmed in the writing of this article.