While sports fans celebrate the start of the NFL, College and High School Football seasons, they should probably know they are watching a sport on its way to a slow and painful death. ESPN and Sports Illustrated both floated this warning right after last year's Super Bowl--saying the sport was in danger due to lawsuits filed by former players seeking billions in settlements over concussions suffered during their careers--but not diagnosed properly. While that is certainly an economic threat to the sport at the highest level, the greatest danger comes from the sport's base feeder program--high school football--being banned across the country.
Last week, The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed piece from a "sports policy director" for the "League of Fans" laying out the argument that will be used to bring down football--"it's a threat to public health and safety".
These self-appointed "health and safety advocates" are already armed with statistics showing the "shocking" number of high school players who suffer concussions every year. And if the numbers don't add up enough to prove their point--they will conduct their own self-funded studies that will give them what they want. The internet has plenty of videos of kids from Pee Wee to Pop Warner to all levels of high school getting "blown up" on hard tackles--while the fans whoop it up from the sidelines.
Now before you laugh at the idea of high school football being banned, consider the success rate of such "public health advocates". Why do you have to wear a seat belt, even it you are only driving to the gas station around the corner? Why do motorcyclists in most states have to wear helmets? Why can't you smoke in public anymore? Why can't a 20-year old soldier entrusted with the maintenance of billion-dollar military equipment buy a beer after he or she steps off base? And why can't New Yorkers buy a Big Gulp soda?
And these worryworts will find sympthetic ears in their quest to ban high school football. It certainly won't be from fathers who take great pride in watching their sons follow in their cleat-steps. And it certainly won't come from coaches or athletic directors. But, it will come from "progressive" school boards around the country (especially those dominated by academics and bleeding hearts like the one here in Oshkosh)--who detest the influence that sports have on high schools and communities. They will nod their heads in agreement at statements like "even one child suffering permanent brain injury is one too many". And never having played the game, they will demand that coaches and AD's offer them some guarantee that no player is ever going to get hurt if the sport is allowed to continue--or if perhaps there is some way to make sure players "don't hit each other so hard".
It won't be tomorrow or even this decade--but football (at least in the form that we enjoy it so much in this country) will be dead. If you're in a Fantasy Football keeper league--you may want to start scouting guys that will go a good job of making sure the defense can't grab their flags.