What Would the End of Football Look Like?

Economists Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier, writing for Grantland back in February:

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.

I think the only way the game survives, long-term, is if the rules change dramatically to something like flag football — to a sport that resembles basketball in terms of athleticism, pace of play, and violence. Me? I think I might enjoy watching such a football very much. But I don’t think most NFL fans would. Too many NFL fans are in it for the violent hits, not despite them.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

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