Is the demise of football imminent? The sport is at its all-time popularity peak, but decisions are being made in both the NFL and college football that imperil its future.
And naturally, money is at the root of it all.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down very hard on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty program, suspending coach Sean Payton for the season and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely. Goodell had no choice. The league is already facing more than 20 lawsuits from former players, claiming they did not get sufficient protection against concussions.
So the next move for the league is to expand the number of Thursday night games to 14?
There is no way players’ bodies can recover from the rigors of a game in four days. It’s not difficult to predict that there will be more injuries than ever, some of them concussions, with this increase in Thursday night games. And, by the way, the quality of play in these games is seldom high because there isn’t enough time to prepare, either for coaches or players.
But it’s not difficult to see the reasons for these games: They’re all on the NFL Network and represent an additional revenue source.
And while the NFL is making a lot of noise about steps to prevent concussion, nothing serious is being done about steroids or equipment that causes injuries.
Steroids are a much bigger problem in football than in baseball, where fans and writers have become upset because they think statistics matter more than reality.
In baseball, if players take steroids, they’re only damaging themselves because baseball only rarely becomes a contact sport. Football, as Duffy Daugherty famously proclaimed many years ago, is a collision sport. Those collisions are much more serious than they once were because players have become bigger and faster because of steroids. It’s the difference between two sedans colliding at 40 mph and two SUVs colliding at 60.
The NFL claims to have a drug-testing program, but it’s a slap on the wrist. Occasionally, a player gets caught and serves a four-game suspension. That’s it, while many offenders continue their drug use, undetected.
This is a joint problem and it should be solved by the NFL meeting with the NFLPA officials to put together a serious program, for the players’ own good.
At the same time, they need to look at their equipment. The NFL loves the war-substitute image, but the helmets and equipment cause injuries. Rugby, an equally rough sport, has nowhere near the injuries of football because players are not dressed like warriors.
College football, too, needs to look at what it’s doing, especially since only a minority of players ever are able to cash in on their athletic skills professionally.
Yet, the number of games keeps increasing. In the ’60s, a college team played 10 games, with the best teams playing one additional bowl game. Now, they play at least 12, sometimes 13, and many couch potatoes and media people are clamoring for a postseason playoff system.
Football is my favorite sport, but I fear that those in charge are ruining it, for no reason other than to make more money.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.