Super Sunday: Predicting the death of football | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Sunday: Predicting the death of football

Posted By on Sun, Feb 3, 2013 at 8:29 AM

GLORY DAYS: My boring story doesnt include lifelong after-effects of the sort that have people questioning the future of football.
  • GLORY DAYS: My boring story doesn't include lifelong after-effects of the sort that have people questioning the future of football.
The Super Bowl brings a rash of articles about the future of football. Permanent injuries. Escalating costs. Overemphasis that warps academic missions and sacrifices children to predators. In this context, it is not totally fantasyland to talk about whether football might join jousting as a passing pastime.

Still, in SEC country you might as well talk about outlawing buffalo wings and Big Gulps. It is hard to visualize a diminished presence of the dominant sport — make that dominant topic of any sort — in our culture.

But if you care to contemplate the notion, here's an article from Salon:

Football still rules the American sports and media landscape, and Sunday’s Super Bowl game will probably be the highest-rated TV broadcast of the year, as usual. In an age of narrowcasting, when very few spectacles still qualify as mass culture, the Super Bowl does. If you don’t care about the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, you’ll watch the halftime show; if you don’t care about football or Beyoncé, you’ll have the chance to dissect the most expensive and elaborate advertising campaigns of the year.

That position of cultural dominance likely won’t change next year, or the year after that. As the grotesque shadowplay about which Ravens and 49ers do or do not support gay rights should tell us, we treat the whole damn thing with much more seriousness than it merits. But the writing is on the wall for this bloated, behemoth sport, which in recent years has been plagued by scandal after scandal, and now faces a steady drumbeat of appalling medical news and troubling scientific research. Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic, who’s been tracking this issue for years, recently wrote a post predicting the “impending death” of football, starting with parents pulling kids out of Pop Warner leagues and trickling up to the demise of the NCAA and the NFL. It’s not impossible; given the grim news on the medical front, the sport as we know it either has to die or be so drastically reinvented it will barely be recognizable.

I went down this road before it was fashionable. I was born with one eye. My parents thought football too great a risk, though, irrationally, they let me play basketball unprotected (memorably losing my prosthesis in a rebound tangle one day in West Lake, La.). I finally wore my parents down my senior year in high school, with the Wildcat football team poised to head to the state championship game. I was no more than practice fodder for future LSU tackles, a sideline warrior during games. I managed to learn enough to make the varsity as a freshman at a Division III college, only to have hopes of glory dashed by the college physician. He reviewed medical records after a heart attack felled a college soccer player and decided I posed too great a risk for contact sports, at least at that particular university. Appeals to the college president fell on deaf ears. Just as well. There was beer to be drunk. Plus the might-have-beens are far more glorious than the reality. I coulda been a contender.

My parents were, of course, right in the first place.

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