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Super Sunday Special: is the writing on the wall for football

February 3, 2013
michael johnson
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Living examples of cultural change speak louder than our abstractions about "transformation," and so forth. The possible shifting status of football's place in our culture may be an example to follow over the next few decades in order to understand how relatively deep cultural change happens. The following is from Andrew O'Heir of Salon:

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.

Coates was more precise about the possible process:

...you tell a parent that their kid has a five percent chance of developing crippling brain damage through playing a sport, and you will see the end of Pop Warner and probably the end of high school football. Colleges would likely follow. (How common are college boxing teams these days?)

After that, I don't know how pro football can stand for long.

He is laying out the benchmarks for some intense karma can trump narratives of aggression and manliness. That's how change happens: see reality as it is, align with the karma, then the steady drumbeat of  one  step  at  a  time...

 

(P.S. I grew up in Texas and was a football fanatic for more than 30 years, even lettering four years in high school.)

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