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Is the NFL Doomed?


The Commissioner
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Football's problem with danger on the field isn't going away
George Will - washingtonpost.com

Are you ready for some football? First, however, are you ready for some autopsies?

The opening of the NFL training camps coincided with the closing of the investigation into the April suicide by gunshot of Ray Easterling, 62, an eight-season NFL safety in the 1970s. The autopsy found moderately severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), progressive damage to the brain associated with repeated blows to the head. CTE was identified as a major cause of Easterling’s depression and dementia.

In February 2011, Dave Duerson, 50, an 11-year NFL safety, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest to spare his brain tissue for research, which has found evidence of CTE. Brain tissue of 20-season linebacker Junior Seau, who was 43 when he killed himself the same way in May, is being studied. The NFL launched a mental health hotline developed and operated with the assistance of specialists in suicide prevention.

Football is bigger than ever, in several senses. Bear Bryant’s 1966 undefeated Alabama team had only 19 players who weighed more than 200 pounds. The heaviest weighed 223. The linemen averaged 194. The quarterback weighed 177. Today, many high school teams are much bigger. In 1980, only three NFL players weighed 300 or more pounds. In 2011, according to pro-football-reference.com, there were 352, including three 350-pounders. Thirty-one of the NFL’s 32 offensive lines averaged more than 300...

Click HERE for the rest of the article.
Scary stuff. That nagging feeling Will talks about may get worse and worse as more of these studies come to light. I'm not sure we will legislate against the sport, and I think Boone's comment when I Blogger about this a year ago was prescient: there are enough parents who are football-crazed to continue feeding into the system.

But I think the fans may start to feel guilty little by little, and that may impact the sport, though it will take a while.
I already feel a little guilty, Goal.

But I still watch. I still buy my team's stuff. I am still a fan.

It will take more than guilt.

Let's face it. Humanity hasn't progressed as far since the days of the Roman Colosseum as we would like think. In fact, if you squint and look at FedEx in the right light, it bares a remarkable resemblance to the ruins of the aforementioned Wonder of the World.
I would be interested to see the attendance/viewership numbers for SD this season after the Seau tragedy. I suspect that fans of a big name, high profile fan favorite who suffers an unspeakable tragedy like Seau did might feel more guilt, and might even adjust their viewing habits.

Also, boxing's inexorable decline was slow, not overnight. Football is king now, but I wouldn't be surprised if, in 50 years, things were different. Very, very different.
I can say this, I will not allow my son to play football until he is a teenager...if he wants to play by then. Plus, there is no greater sport to have a child expend all his energy than soccer. He'll be out on a soccer field running around very early. :laugh:

Goal, boxing's appeal slowed because of corruption, not the guilt of watching two men fight.

Edit: I don't think the NFL will suffer because of this issue. I think it's going to be because the game day experience is not as important since the games can be viewed with a group of friends with a 82" HD TV. It's happening in the parking lot at games. People are going down for the Tailgate and then some of them are bringing their iPads to stream the game and hooking the iPad up to a big screen TV.
El, I agree completely about the game day experience. Last game I went to had Vick playing QB for ATL, I took my dad, and we heard so much swearing, and witnessed boorish fights and such that I really haven't had the desire to return since then.

Having said that, I still the NFL will suffer as more info comes out about these injuries. They've been on top for 20 years now, but nothing lasts forever. One of the contributing factors to the NFL's explosive success has been Fantasy Football, which attracts marginal (if not otherwise uninterested) fans. These are the very types of fans the NFL has to be concerned about. Those of us on this site are not marginal fans, and our fandom will not allow our interest to wane (not anytime soon anyway); but those only interested in FF may be different.
Trying not to get off-topic too much, but isn't the NFL much safer when it comes to concussions, than MMA ? When the subject of long-term brain damage from repeated sports concussions comes up, why isn't MMA ever mentioned ?
I think those guys suffer far more in both quantity or severity.
I'm not an expert in the medical field or on the MMA sport, but just using simple logic tells me they would be at the greatest risk :
- no head protection
- far less padding on gloves than boxing
- repeated ground and pound from close range fists
- repeated banging of head on the floor during ground and pound
- repeated fists to the head
- repeated elbows to the head
- repeated kicks to the head

I know this isn't an MMA thread or forum, but to try to keep it on-topic, doesn't the hits in the NFL pale in comparison to MMA ?
The MMA hasn't been around long enough for guys to hit their later years and the effects to really become apparent - so that might be why there's not a lot of focus on that sport yet. Just a guess...
Yeah Fear, I think boxing would be a better example than MMA simply because boxing has been around much longer, organized at least, where one could begin to get sample groups.
Pay-per-view is the biggest culprit of boxing's downfall.

It could kill the NFL if they go down that road, too. And, IMO, it's the only thing that could.
my fear is that the game devolves into something like "pro" wrestling like the WWE.
At the end of the day, these guys know what they're getting themselves into, and accept the risk associated with it. It will become a tougher choice, and hopefully will lead more to actually take advantage of their college opportunities.

Sometimes, head injuries prepare you for your upcoming career also! Just look at Heath Shuler, he's a perfect fit for US Congress! ;)
Remarkable story here:

The door to Ann McKee's office is a shrine to the human brain: artistic, scientific, and comic. An iridescent Andy Warhol carrying a Campbell's Soup can keeps company with a newspaper photograph of the anatomist and neurologist who created the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University. A teenage boy slouches across a 2006 cover of The New Yorker, the lobes of his not-yet-adult brain depicted under a baseball cap. "MySpace" dominates his prefrontal cortex, an illustration of just how much has changed in social media, sports, and brain science. A bumper sticker asks, "Got brains?"

Brains she's got. Brains in glass jars in the storage room across the hall from her office. Brains blown up in digital images taken from autopsies she has done on some of America's most famously deceased athletes. Brains stored in a deli case in white plastic tubs that might otherwise accommodate 10 pounds of potato salad. Brains in baggies, slices of tissue that, she says, remind some people of the pickled ginger served with sushi.

This is the Brain Bank at the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts. Here, in a small room dominated by stainless steel, McKee performs autopsies. She examines the brains of athletes — men and women — who, without really knowing it, put themselves in harm's way. She sees the brains of soldiers who knew the risk. In all of them, she sees what happens when the brain is assaulted.

Edit: I don't think the NFL will suffer because of this issue. I think it's going to be because the game day experience is not as important since the games can be viewed with a group of friends with a 82" HD TV. It's happening in the parking lot at games. People are going down for the Tailgate and then some of them are bringing their iPads to stream the game and hooking the iPad up to a big screen TV.

This may be spot on, the NFL's attendance figures have been declining for several years now.

After peaking in 2007, NFL attendance steadily has declined

Posted by Mike Florio on July 8, 2012, 9:39 PM EDT

Getty Images
The recent focus on reducing blackouts has obscured a more important stat when it comes to keep NFL balance sheets deep in the black.

Despite unprecedented growth of TV audiences, attendance at NFL games reached an all-time high in 2007. It has consistently dropped ever since.

In 2011, the NFL posted the lowest total attendance since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 with the addition of the Houston Texans. That year, 16,883,310 paying customers attended the 256 regular-season games. The number climbed over the next five years, maxing out at 17,345,205 in 2007.

Since then, the numbers has dropped each year. In 2011, the total paid attendance of 16,562,706 was lower than the prior year’s 16,569,514, even though the 2010 figure excluded the Giants-Vikings game that was moved to Ford Field after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed.

It translates to an average paid crowd of 64,698. That’s the lowest per-game number since 1998, when 64,020 tickets were bought per game for 240 total regular-season contests.

Repeated shrinkage over the last half decade underscores the challenge the NFL is facing. At a time when everything else regarding the sport is growing, the league has seen its paying customers steadily drop by more than 4.5 percent since 2007.

And so, on the subject of the various changes being made to make the in-stadium experience as good or better than staying home, the NFL isn’t being proactive. The NFL instead is reacting to a troubling downward trend.

Link: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/07/08/after-peaking-in-2007-nfl-attendance-steadily-has-declined/

As far as the physical danger issue, I think improvements in helmet technology as well as advances in body protection pads may at least delay any major changes in how the game is played-it's making too much money for potentially market damaging changes to have all that much of a chance of implementation I think-not for a while at least.
let's not forget...the equipment will evolve over time......if the investment is made.

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