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OT: Football's "death spiral"

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Old
02-03-2013, 11:41 AM
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tarheelhockey
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OT: Football's "death spiral"

I'm neither endorsing nor disputing the content of the article, but it provides an interesting hypothesis.

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/03/footballs_death_spiral/

In short: football popular because American culture favors violent, hyper-masculine, excessively produced, TV-friendly entertainment that is played on weekends. It was pushed to the top of the sports hill by MLB's suicide in 1994, as well as an almost WWE-esque illusion of cartoonish unreality.


The author predicts that the bubble has already started to burst for the following reasons:

- Primarily, it's no longer possible to pretend that brain damage and football aren't linked. The author compares emerging medical studies to those that linked tobacco to cancer, or to the church sex abuse accusations. A lot of people are still looking the other way, but there will come a point where it's no longer possible to pretend it's a non-issue.

- As a direct result of the brain damage issue, Pop Warner is already threatened. This effect is going to trickle up the development ladder, cutting off the sport's talent stream. After a certain point, kids grow up thinking of it as a secondary sport. This was a large part of what killed boxing.

- College football corruption scandals have become almost a daily fixture of the sports headlines. Public backlash has been tempered by the sheer popularity of football, but if that is on the wane...

- All of these things wrapped together dictate that football MUST transform itself into a less violent, less corrupt, less "American" sport. It could survive the transition, but not as the dominant figure that it is today. People simply don't perceive the game as positively as they used to, and the next 20 years or so will only increase that disconnect as the reality of the points above sets in. Football is going to start moving backwards.

The author doesn't predict an immediate collapse in the next few years, but he argues that the end of football as the "king of the hill" is now foreseeable.

Thoughts on this? If he's right, it would signal a reorganization of the sports hierarchy over the next couple of generations, similar to what happened between 1980 and 2000.

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02-03-2013, 12:16 PM
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I don't see it happening.

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02-03-2013, 12:19 PM
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I don't see it happening.
Because...?

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02-03-2013, 12:24 PM
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Not buying it. They will find ways to reduce concussions and this will be a non issue. To paraphrase Ed Reed, players know what they are signing up for. Why water down the sport when players are well aware of the dangers? The real crime is that the NFL hasn't taken care of these guys after they retire. So many heartbreaking stories of guys cast aside.

They may very well see fewer kids playing football, but I think that's already occurred to a certain degree and won't drastically affect the game.

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02-03-2013, 12:24 PM
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a ridiculous article. College football at the turn of the 20th century was far more violent than the NFL today & it survived & thrived. Americans like violence & they like violence in sports. Football will adapt & it will be fine....

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02-03-2013, 12:27 PM
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The biggest threat might be the drying-up of the talent pool. Growing up, I maybe knew one or two kids in my immediate circle of friends who played football, compared with many who played baseball or soccer or lacrosse or basketball. About half of my high school football team did not play organized football before high school. Many were track & field athletes or basketball players who the coach convinced to play football in the fall.

This might be different in other parts of the country, but in North Jersey where I am from, with regards to participation, soccer is king in both suburban and urban areas, followed by baseball. Lacrosse is third-place in the suburbs, with basketball taking its place in the city. Football falls after those, even though it still draws the largest audiences for games.

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02-03-2013, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I'm neither endorsing nor disputing the content of the article, but it provides an interesting hypothesis.

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/03/footballs_death_spiral/

In short: football popular because American culture favors violent, hyper-masculine, excessively produced, TV-friendly entertainment that is played on weekends. It was pushed to the top of the sports hill by MLB's suicide in 1994, as well as an almost WWE-esque illusion of cartoonish unreality.


The author predicts that the bubble has already started to burst for the following reasons:

- Primarily, it's no longer possible to pretend that brain damage and football aren't linked. The author compares emerging medical studies to those that linked tobacco to cancer, or to the church sex abuse accusations. A lot of people are still looking the other way, but there will come a point where it's no longer possible to pretend it's a non-issue.

- As a direct result of the brain damage issue, Pop Warner is already threatened. This effect is going to trickle up the development ladder, cutting off the sport's talent stream. After a certain point, kids grow up thinking of it as a secondary sport. This was a large part of what killed boxing.

- College football corruption scandals have become almost a daily fixture of the sports headlines. Public backlash has been tempered by the sheer popularity of football, but if that is on the wane...

- All of these things wrapped together dictate that football MUST transform itself into a less violent, less corrupt, less "American" sport. It could survive the transition, but not as the dominant figure that it is today. People simply don't perceive the game as positively as they used to, and the next 20 years or so will only increase that disconnect as the reality of the points above sets in. Football is going to start moving backwards.

The author doesn't predict an immediate collapse in the next few years, but he argues that the end of football as the "king of the hill" is now foreseeable.

Thoughts on this? If he's right, it would signal a reorganization of the sports hierarchy over the next couple of generations, similar to what happened between 1980 and 2000.
I agree. I used to enjoy watching both sports, but don't ever watch anymore. The problem with both of these sports - football and boxing - is that the kind of violence that's integral to those sports make brain damage unavoidable, and that's too high a price to pay for recreation. A boxer I once saw in a match lost his life later in a match in Vegas. Now football players are dying early because of brain damage. I've spoken with an official high in the NHL about their need to get ahead of their head injury problem. But the thing that's different about hockey is that violence is not integral to the sport - in fact, most levels of hockey don't have much violence, so we know it can be limited. Not so with football and boxing. I guess I'm part of the leading edge of what that article predicts, because when the game comes on tonight, I won't be watching. I don't mind a rough sport, but not one that destroys the brain. Not worth it.

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02-03-2013, 12:35 PM
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Not buying it. They will find ways to reduce concussions and this will be a non issue.
I don't see how it would be possible to do that without fundamentally changing the sport. A typical running play involves more head contact than you'd see in entire game of almost any other sport.

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02-03-2013, 12:38 PM
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The biggest threat might be the drying-up of the talent pool. Growing up, I maybe knew one or two kids in my immediate circle of friends who played football, compared with many who played baseball or soccer or lacrosse or basketball. About half of my high school football team did not play organized football before high school. Many were track & field athletes or basketball players who the coach convinced to play football in the fall.

This might be different in other parts of the country, but in North Jersey where I am from, with regards to participation, soccer is king in both suburban and urban areas, followed by baseball. Lacrosse is third-place in the suburbs, with basketball taking its place in the city. Football falls after those, even though it still draws the largest audiences for games.
that and the fact that the NFL has very little talent pool from overseas.

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02-03-2013, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I'm neither endorsing nor disputing the content of the article, but it provides an interesting hypothesis.
The choice of most popular sport changes, constantly, over time. It is quite unlikely American Football will be as popular in 100 years as it is today. The question, then, is what will replace it?

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02-03-2013, 12:41 PM
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I don't see how it would be possible to do that without fundamentally changing the sport. A typical running play involves more head contact than you'd see in entire game of almost any other sport.
Technology. It has already cut down on injuries and lead to more accurate diagnosing. They've also tried to cut down on vulnerable players and targeting, which lead to unreasonably hard hits.

I'm waiting for someone to make a reasonable argument as to why football should be watered down for the sake of safety. It's the modern equivalent of gladiatorial sport. They get paid millions to sacrifice their bodies. Players know what they are getting into. Hell, more education on how severe concussions can be and closer monitoring of players might cut down on the excessive cases. They shouldn't let guys trot back out there when it's clear they've just had one.

Changing the way the game is played is a smokescreen to cover up for the total indifference the NFL shows towards retired and chronically injured players.

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02-03-2013, 12:42 PM
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I don't see how it would be possible to do that without fundamentally changing the sport.
Rugby is an extremely hard hitting game of similar form, and it doesn't seem (?) to have the same issues. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but perhaps the answer is to strip away the body armor and go back to leather helmets etc that turn hitting into a serious physical commitment on the hitters part, too.

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02-03-2013, 12:45 PM
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Rugby doesn't garner the same excitement level to Americans as football

They're not even on the same universe

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02-03-2013, 12:47 PM
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The brain damage thing is, I believe, an easier remedy than anyone would think.

When helmets were little more than heavier versions of hockey helmets, players were taught from the earliest ages to keep your head out of hits because it would knock you out. As technology improved, that way of thinking started to fade because the risks to oneself diminished. Now, when I was playing in high school, we used to do tackling drills in pads but no helmets to reinforce this, and our defense was absolutely savage in the tackling game.

What's notable is that I've spoken to many NFL players from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s who are still of sound mind (if not body). Those who came in starting around 1980 and later, on the other hand...well, let's just say I'm always surprised that they're not drooling on themselves five years after retirement.

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Originally Posted by MartysBetterThanYou View Post
The biggest threat might be the drying-up of the talent pool. Growing up, I maybe knew one or two kids in my immediate circle of friends who played football, compared with many who played baseball or soccer or lacrosse or basketball. About half of my high school football team did not play organized football before high school. Many were track & field athletes or basketball players who the coach convinced to play football in the fall.

This might be different in other parts of the country, but in North Jersey where I am from, with regards to participation, soccer is king in both suburban and urban areas, followed by baseball. Lacrosse is third-place in the suburbs, with basketball taking its place in the city. Football falls after those, even though it still draws the largest audiences for games.
I disagree strongly. Baseball, basketball, and hockey all are built around a set of finely-honed skills that preclude a late entry into the game. No one can simply take up baseball for the first time in high school and expect to go anywhere with it, nor basketball, nor hockey.

But in football, which is built much more around raw athleticism and schemes than the other sports, it's very much possible. Someone like Jason Pierre-Paul of the NY Giants went from never having played a down to a D-1 scholarship in one year, and four years later into the first round of the NFL Draft. That was in 2010. Antonio Gates didn't play a down of college football (he did play in high school); he played college basketball. He entered the NFL in 2003 as an undrafted free agent, and became a five-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler.

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02-03-2013, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
Because...?
One of the reasons is because of the demographic and makeup of football players. A large majority of football players are African American. Outside of basketball, football has heavy participation among African Americans. Football goes away, African American boys aren't going to all of a sudden pick up a hockey stick. Football goes away and many will try to see if they can become the next LeBron James or if they are fast enough, go into a sport like Track and Field. Some may choose to go into baseball if they are good enough to play baseball, but I have read that participation of African Americans in baseball is low compared to basketball and football, despite players like CC Sabathia, Ryan Howard, Matt Kemp, Jimmy Rollins, Torii Hunter and Giancarlo Stanton and previous greats like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Rickey Henderson as well as Barry Bonds.

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02-03-2013, 12:50 PM
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When helmets were little more than heavier versions of hockey helmets, players were taught from the earliest ages to keep your head out of hits because it would knock you out. As technology improved, that way of thinking started to fade because the risks to oneself diminished. Now, when I was playing in high school, we used to do tackling drills in pads but no helmets to reinforce this, and our defense was absolutely savage in the tackling game.
There's a simple equivalent in hockey; full face masks. In any league that runs them, you'll find that players are more careless with their sticks.

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02-03-2013, 01:00 PM
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Technology. It has already cut down on injuries and lead to more accurate diagnosing. They've also tried to cut down on vulnerable players and targeting, which lead to unreasonably hard hits.
The severity of the hits is one thing, but it's the repetition that really causes problems. As the article mentioned, 33 out of 34 brains showed traumatic injury. That's just crazy, and it can't be chalked up to individualized incidents. It's just a part of the game, and a part of learning to play the game, that you hit people with your head over and over and over. I certainly saw that as a high school player, guys walking off the field with the decals completely stripped from their helmets. Taking that element out of the game would make it a different game entirely... and again, referencing the article, one that is less appealing to a mass audience. A huge part of football's appeal (and hockey's too) is the violence.

Technology... all I can say is that helmets have been a focus of study by every military in the world for 5,000 years. It's hard to see a Wonder Helmet being invented by the NFL. Could happen, someday, somewhere, but it's not on the horizon.

Quote:
I'm waiting for someone to make a reasonable argument as to why football should be watered down for the sake of safety. It's the modern equivalent of gladiatorial sport. They get paid millions to sacrifice their bodies. Players know what they are getting into. Hell, more education on how severe concussions can be and closer monitoring of players might cut down on the excessive cases. They shouldn't let guys trot back out there when it's clear they've just had one.
Boxing. That's why. People don't like knowing that their entertainers are going to end up brain damaged if not dead. And the cat is out of the bag already, as evidenced at the Pop Warner level. People react most viscerally to the safety of their own children, and it's only a matter of time before that concern spreads to other areas of life. See tobacco, sex abuse, guns, etc. What starts with protecting kids ends with protecting adults.

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02-03-2013, 01:01 PM
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Rugby doesn't garner the same excitement level to Americans as football
Nobody suggested otherwise. It was brought into the discussion in relation to head injuries, not popularity.

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02-03-2013, 01:14 PM
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Nobody suggested otherwise. It was brought into the discussion in relation to head injuries, not popularity.
Ahhhh ok, my apologies

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02-03-2013, 01:20 PM
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Ahhhh ok, my apologies
No worries. Internet == Device optimized for sowing confusion and misunderstanding.


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02-03-2013, 01:21 PM
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I stopped really caring about football when the league transitioned into offensive-happy fantasy / stat obsessed game. If the Patriots are on, I'll watch it but not in the same light that I watched in the past. I used to be able to watch any team play, now it's become a watered down product catered to the casual and offensively stat-crazed fan who likes to drink Bud Light. No thank you.

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02-03-2013, 01:21 PM
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There's a simple equivalent in hockey; full face masks. In any league that runs them, you'll find that players are more careless with their sticks.
That's also due to the failure of the North American governing bodies to adapt the international high-sticking rule.

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02-03-2013, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post

Technology... all I can say is that helmets have been a focus of study by every military in the world for 5,000 years. It's hard to see a Wonder Helmet being invented by the NFL. Could happen, someday, somewhere, but it's not on the horizon.
The military thing is different. Modern versions do their job exceptionally well. But we aren't talking about protecting guys from shrapnel here. As Mayor Bee pointed out, Helmets have improved to the point where guys are comfortable using their heads. Time will tell if we see a swing far enough to increase safety. I know that many companies are working on this, with things like the gel inserts that detect excessive force.


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Boxing. That's why. People don't like knowing that their entertainers are going to end up brain damaged if not dead. And the cat is out of the bag already, as evidenced at the Pop Warner level. People react most viscerally to the safety of their own children, and it's only a matter of time before that concern spreads to other areas of life. See tobacco, sex abuse, guns, etc. What starts with protecting kids ends with protecting adults.
Boxing is unpopular for a long list of reasons, but boxers getting hurt is pretty low on the list. If, for whatever reason, we had televised deathmatches with gladiators, it'd be pretty popular. MMA is just a thinly veiled attempt at this, and its popularity has exploded. I don't really buy the argument that the NFL is 'too violent.' The ratings and money involved would suggest the exact opposite. It is, however, too glamorized and glossed over. There are lots of cases where kids get paralyzed playing high school football and the school doesn't have any insurance to help care for that injured player. It's the same for College. In the pros, you no longer exist once you are cut from a roster. That this hasn't been addressed in any meaningful way is the crime that everyone needs to be looking at. These guys are paid millions to entertain us with their destruction. The least the sport can do is provide for them the best medical care possible, even long after they leave the bright lights.

The article seems predicated on the notion that parents don't know football is violent or dangerous. It's been that way for awhile. I'd argue that we've adjusted, and though fewer players are playing, there's still plenty of talent to go around. Being a running back isn't really that complicated, nor is being a tackle. They get paid (and drafted) mostly for innate physical traits than anything else. There's no 5'9 suburban white kid trying to make it in football as a nose tackle. It just doesn't happen. The game pre-selects out a huge portion of the population. Hockey is the polar opposite.

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02-03-2013, 01:28 PM
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Rugby does have a very high concussion rate. It's a myth that rugby is safer due to lack of helmets.

Rugby has been even slower to respond to the concussion issue than the NFL or NHL. There is massive underreporting. The few medical studies that have been done (where they track whole teams for a season) show a markedly higher rate of concussions than the officially reported stats.

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02-03-2013, 01:32 PM
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The two highest paid athletes on the planet last year, in any sport, were boxers. Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Left-wing magazines like Salon have been reporting the "death" of boxing since the 70s. Yet it still is big business.

The article is just wish-casting by the author. He wants to see a "death spiral" for football, so he imagines a semi-plausible scenario where that happens.

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