The Future of Football

Every so often in my line of work, I come across a celebrity or former athlete. This past week, I had the pleasure of caddying for a former NFL player who asked me to keep his name anonymous. He isn’t well known by any stretch, as he barely saw the field during his only year in the league in the early eighties, but I took the opportunity to ask someone who made to it the game’s highest level a few questions about what he thinks of the game today, in comparison to how it was when he played.

He came right out and said that “It’s changed dramatically. The league is more worried about lawsuits from concussions and other injuries over the quality of the sport itself. For us it was never about the injuries or what could happen, it was about the competition.” He then went on to say that all players that are drafted or undrafted know what they’re up against and what they’re signing up for, especially nowadays when they are paid handsomely to do so. “I was a defensive end but made the St. Louis Cardinals as a special teamer in 1983. I knew my job was to make a play on kick and punt returns even if it meant breaking someone’s legs. You had to do what you had to do to prove to the coaches that you belong.”

All of this got me thinking of just how it could trickle down. Already we’ve seen parents pulling their kids back from playing football. The number of kids that go out for the sport go down every year. Campuses such as our own and SUNY Purchase don’t have a football program because of how much is involved. The coaches need to have experience so the players can learn proper technique. Equipment needs to be certified on a yearly basis. And of course the most important controversy, what happens if a player gets hurt on the field and doesn’t have health insurance. Those are three components that don’t exactly fit the budget of smaller colleges.

At the pro level, football is entertainment. At the college level, it’s entertainment. As far as the grade school levels, the focus should be on developing safe playing habits. College and pro athletes make the decision to play a dangerous game, while young kids play because they watch the NFL on TV and fall in love with the sport. Some say football is dying, and that one day it’ll be deemed too dangerous for anyone to play. That’s hard to believe though, because every year something crazy happens in the Super Bowl and the league makes more and more money, and everyone remembers why they love football.

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