Just a quick follow-up on last week's main blog post on the No Future League, also known as the NFL. I've kind of been working off the assumption that football needs to do a better job protecting its players from head injuries, lest it face an existential crisis. That said, I felt that something -- American exceptionalism? -- would get that job done. I mean, we'll always have football, right?
Maybe not. This mind-blowing post over on the new Grantland spelled out a scenario for the end of football in America that is chilling for any fan:
This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn't worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it's mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.
There's a lot less money in the sport, and at first it's "the next hockey" and then it's "the next rugby," and finally the franchises start to shutter.
Along the way, you would have an NFL with much lower talent levels, less training, and probably greater player representation from poorer countries, where the demand for money is higher and the demand for safety is lower. Finally, the NFL is marginalized as less-dangerous sports gobble up its market share. People — American people — might actually start calling "soccer" by the moniker of "football."
Clearly the biggest factor is this: Will parents let their kids play youth or high school football, if more negative information comes out about brain injuries? That's becoming a hot topic, especially after former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner said -- partially taken back under pressure -- that he wouldn't let his kids take up the sport. Check out this New York Times post and the tenor of the comments from readers (OK, OK, it's the New York Times, but still...)