Didn’t Even See it Coming
March 20, 2013 7 Comments
Like the great Roman and Greek civilizations, the National Football League’s demise has officially begun.
America’s 365 day a year pass time took a big blow right in the gut today. After a 31-1 vote, the NFL’s passed the ‘Helmet Rule’, which penalizes a player who makes or initiates contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box. The NFL has made a big statement with this rule change in regards to the health of its current and future players.
However, the NFL made another statement that just might not be one that anyone can foresee right now: The NFL will cease to exist in 50 years.
Go ahead, call me crazy.
But before you do, think about it.
The NFL is currently at its pinnacle with regards to not only its own history, but in the context of professional sports history as a whole. In terms of advertising, television viewers and gross revenue in general, the NFL is second to none. To put it simply, the NFL has become the ultimate money-making machine.
The game is changing though. Due to the enormous amount of law suits that have been piling in from former NFL players, Roger Goodell has been forced to act. Head shots have been taking out of the game, and rightfully so. Quarterbacks are treated like royalty, and rightfully so.
The NFL is going too far though. Even though Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk has pointed out that the new helmet rule is more limited than it is widely believed to be, this is a classic sign of the beginning of the end.
The NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35 yard line last year, which has partially removed the kick return from the game. The next logical step would be to eliminate the kickoff altogether. Well, doesn’t that sound fantastic? It won’t be long before the NFL removes what can be the most exciting play in any given game. A play that has the potential for fireworks every time it isn’t kicked out of the end zone. I’m looking at you Jacoby Jones.
Although former players will always have a biased view, not much different than the elderly man at the bus stop who yearns for the way things were back in his day, they correctly understand the game is leaning too much in the direction of safety. They know what the risks are, and they accept them. Current players make the same conscious decision. As callous as it may sound, those are the cold hard facts.
Professional football is not a bubble-wrapped world.
The NFL has been able to create this empire in large part due to the violent nature of the game. The NFL is the first world version of the Roman Gladiator’s. The greatest physical specimens are placed in a confined arena where the ultimate goal is to smash their opponent into oblivion while each armed like Iron Man light.
And we love it. Maybe it’s just me, but the rugby shoulder tackle isn’t quite as exciting.
It’s probably not the first time you have heard this, but the game is slowly but surely turning into a game of flag football. While flag football may be a lot of fun to play, I imagine it’s not as good on TV, even if it is in high def. Little does the NFL know that this gradual transition is putting the league towards its inevitable termination.
These changes do not just have ramifications on the way the game is going to be played in the future for professionals either. Every rule change affects how the game is being viewed by parents looking to put their kids into sports at a young age. From 2009-2011, the number of kids who play tackle football was down 15 percent. Although it could be viewed as a good thing that the game will be safer to kids, a lot of parents might simply be saying, why risk it? If all these rule changes are necessary for the game to be safer, what does that say to a parent who has the choice between soccer, baseball, basketball and football for their child?
There has already been a drastic decrease in youth participation in football across the United States. To believe that these rule changes will work to increase those numbers is a very utopian outlook on the situation. Despite the rule changes, the risk will always be there as long as players are armed with the equipment that they have. Most parents will understand that.
With the ever-expanding body of medical evidence outlining the damaging effects playing football can have on an individual later in life, the NFL will be forced to make the game even safer as time goes on. That, or face an enormous amount of law suits.
What’s the next?
Tackle football, with helmets and pads, is an extremely dangerous game. The way to change that involves compromising the very thing that makes the game appealing to so many fans.
The NFL is succeeding at both.
The seemingly natural evolution, or de-evolution, of the rule changes that have transpired over the past few years would be to continue down this safety road. The NFL reached its peak of violence and, not coincidentally, its peak in revenue and viewership. As the decline in violence continues, so will its decline as the league all other leagues aspire to be.
Before we know it, the game will have turned into something almost unrecognizable. Again, this won’t be an immediate transformation. It will be a snail’s pace change that will face serious opposition from a multitude of outlets.
But 50 years from now, the NFL as we currently know and love, in all its concussion-filled glory, will be no more.
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