I am a football fan; I love high school football and the NFL, but I am not much of a college football fan. This post has been on my mind for sometime now. Chris Borland’s recent decision to retire from the NFL after one very successful season reignited my thoughts.
How will the end occur?
The end will not be an overnight occurrence. The process is already underway with a number of former and prominent NFL players filing suit against the NFL. Retired players often cite not being informed of future brain trauma. These players once stated they feared not being able to walk upstairs or get out of bed one day, but many were caught off guard by what is now called CTE, which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
The end will start with little league football players. Parents and guardians are now electing to either wait until their sons and daughters are older to play football, or they are encouraging them not to play. NBA player Lebron James recently announced he would not allow his sons to play football, citing health related concerns. With parents now directing their kids in a different direction, the early talent pool shifts to other sports. Thus, high school programs are the first to feel the impact. Very few middle school students will matriculate to the next level of play, forcing high schools to drop the program for other sports. In states where football is a big deal, the transition will look different. Schools will be reluctant to drop the program, but the talent and level of play will dissipate, creating greater disinterest. Middle class families will be ahead of lower income families due to means and information.
What About Colleges?
Programs outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest will experience the impact first. However, much like high school programs in areas outside of the Deep South, DI type schools will eventually feel the impact. They will slowly see the decline of 4 and 5 star athletes. This will be noted in their football camps and via scouting. DI programs will recruit athletes they normally would not have recruited in the past. This shift along with declining interest in areas outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest, will force smaller programs to close. This will later be seen at other levels and schools in different regions.
With a number of former players filing lawsuits and a diminishing pool to draft athletes, the NFL slowly transitions into a stage that looks more like boxing. I suspect the NFL will create programs and use greater safety precautions to garner more interest, but in the end, those actions will fail. Fans of the NFL have already grown concerned and annoyed by changes made. Even NFL players have voiced concerns related to new safety changes.
One player in this ESPN interview had this to say:
“I admire [Borland] for what he did. I admire him for being man enough and smart enough to know what’s more important in life,” Walker told ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor. “If I had to do it over again, and I knew I’d end up in the amount of pain I’m always in, there’s no way in hell I’d play football again. With all of my injuries, including my neck, I took a chance of breaking my neck and ending up in a wheelchair. I look back and ask, ‘What was I thinking?’ ”
“Every individual has to make his own decision, and there’s so much money to be made these days. But is money more important, or is your life more important? I could never see myself hurting myself, but there have been times when I’ve thought, ‘God, I wish you’d just end this right now.’ I don’t sleep, I’m in constant pain, I haven’t felt my feet in 20 years. I feel like there are times when my whole body shuts down. Sometimes I feel like I’m 90 years old.
“[Commissioner] Roger Goodell is a good friend of mine. But I want the NFL to tell truth about what’s happening with players, and I think they sugarcoat everything.”