We haven't heard much lately about the future of Football being in jeopardy. But that doesn't mean everything is all hunky dory. The headlines may have disappeared. But Football's problems haven't. Interest is still on the decline in the US and there still isn't any interest abroad other than in Canada.
The NFL still has TV Ratings problems despite picking up from its historic lows. Digital Streaming is showing it can't make up for cable losses. Youth & High School Football still have large pockets of problems in fielding Teams. Many High Schools robbed their Junior Varsity Programs for as long as they could and now just cross their fingers for injury-free Seasons. Others have had to cancel the last Games of their Season because they ran out of healthy Players. Even College Football is having trouble filling the stands. Something that seemed impossible just a few years ago.
The hype is gone, for now. But a slow death of the sport may have replaced it.
Head Trauma, The Football Problem That Won't Go Away
In the movie "Concussion", a league Physician was quotes as saying that if Mothers found out about Football's problem with head trauma, the Game would lose 10% of its support and that would eventually end it.
But we've already surpassed that 10% decline the NFL feared. Yet the Game still exists and still seems to be going strong. Weakened but not beaten.
That perception is as off base as the perception some had that head trauma is a problem limited to Football. As we now know, it cuts across nearly all contact Sports. So why was Football so hysterical about the problem? Well part of that is historic. Football's problems with head trauma goes back over 100 years. The Game was literally saved by Teddy Roosevelt and the deal that saved it from being outlawed ultimately led to the creation of the NCAA.
Since that day, Football has gone through many times where its future was at risk. Despite a belief among some that CTE was only "discovered" recently, it actually was known for almost a full century longer. It was not only identified prior to the creation of the NFL, it was even named. So the Owners of the National Football League have known about the problem since before the league even existed.
Nearly everyone associated with Football in America has been sued, with most still under the dark clouds of current and impending Lawsuits. In the NFL's case, even its own Insurance Companies are suing it, claiming the league knew more than they'll admit and failed to take proper precautions.
Or even inform Players of the risks.
Youth Football, High School Football, College Football, all are the subjects of Lawsuits. And those suits aren't going away. They're just slowly making their way through the Courts.
Football Concussion Lawsuits Against NCAA
Football Concussion Lawsuits
By now everyone knows about NFL Players suing over head trauma/concussion issues. It was this Lawsuit that pushed the problem into the spotlight. But it's all of the other lawsuits that put the Game itself at serious risk of disappearing.
Pop Warner has been sued. Lawsuits have been filed against High Schools in every state. Nearly every major College or Conference and the NCAA have been sued. All told these lawsuits could total $Trillions in awards and settlements.
That wasn't a misprint. I said $Trillions. The average payout in Suits has been a $Million and there are millions of Players involved. Football Organizations can't handle these costs and insurance companies aren't about to pay them off without a fight. And, as we've already seen with the National Football League, the Insured is a potential target of the insurance companies.
If Football is going to survive, Congress will have to enact legislation to limit liabilities for School Districts and Colleges. Youth Football is already abandoning Tackle Football. The NFL has taken its name off USA Football's "Heads Up" Program. But it uses its name and logo in promoting Flag Football for Youth.
That may be one of the most telling on the health of the sport.
Insurance Companies May Have The Last Word On Football
Talk to anyone trying to run a Football Program what their biggest hurdle is and most will say "Finding affordable Insurance".
I've been part of a Football Coaches Forum for years. Over 300 Coaches, mostly High School and College. I've been listening to their problems and one that has been upsetting them is the growing risk that one day they'll be told the Football Program is getting shut down. Because they can no longer obtain insurance. Football Coaches are notorious control freaks. They hate anything that they can't control. They spend alot of their time trying to gain control over anything that can affect their ability to put a winning Team together.
But when it comes to dealing with Insurance Companies who are trying to protect themselves from $Billions in Lawsuits, Coaches can't fix that. Neither can Athletic Directors or School Superintendents.
Even Governors and State Legislatures are meeting their match. If the doors are suddenly closed on Football, it will Insurance Companies who are installing the padlocks.
Football's Character Problem
Theodore Roosevelt chose Football Players to be his "Roughriders" because he felt the Game of Football "builds men of character". What would Teddy think of today's Football Players?
In a survey, as many picked "turns its young make fans into sociopaths" as concussions/head trauma as the NFL's biggest problems. Really think about that one for a minute. With no prompting, without a pre-set list of selections, almost 1 in 4 asked what do they consider the biggest problem facing the National Football League said it turns their young male fans into sociopaths. Sociopaths. Could the NFL's problems with the perception of its character possibly be any worse than that? So beyond any common expectations of basic decency that millions believe that young male fans are transformed into unfeeling, uncaring blights upon humanity.
That's a long, long way from building "men of character".
But why wouldn't many think that way. Young Women aren't safe on College Campuses, especially on days when Football Games are played, because they're at enormous risk of being sexually assaulted. And when a Football Player or Football Program is implicated, the entire University Support System kicks in to destroy the Woman or Women involved. How real a problem is it? In Rape and Sexual Assault claims involving College Football Players, more Young Women claiming assault are forced to leave School than Players.
And the Young Women know this. They know they'll be destroyed and that the Player will be surrounded with impenetrable protection.
This is just one problem. Sexual Assaults, Physical Assaults, Drinking, Drugs, it's an endless list. And the message continues to be delivered that all a Player has to do is perform well on the Field. It's a Culture problem that has shown itself to be nearly impossible to change.
And while die-hard Fans won't care...which is why the problem can't be fixed...those who aren't become adversaries. From concussions to assaults and a feeling of privilege among Players, Coaches, Organizations Football has worked hard at gaining enemies. Arrogantly convinced it has enough friends to survive anything.
One day Football may find it has miscalculated on that.
Will Football Survive?
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- A New York Times Editorial called Football one of the two "preventable" scourges in America. What was the other?
- How Many Football Players Died in 1904 to Put the Game at Risk of Being Outlawed?
- In what Year Was CTE First Described In Medical Journals?