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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Has the NFL Peaked?

The lockout is over, but fans on talk radio yesterday indicated they are through with supporting the NFL.  This is typical rhetoric from distraught fans after lockouts and strikes, except for one factor, there were no games missed.  Have fans reached a level of frustration that may carry over and influence a leveling off of popularity?

Surely, the NFL will continue to be the most watched spectator sport, but it may never regain the momentum it had over the last several years and decades.  In short, the lockout served to show that fans are tiring of the theatrics from players and owners.  Sunday Night Football in America with Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth may be one of the last great vestiges of the NFL.  Expect TV ratings for all games to be down in general and ticket gate revenue should also be down greatly just as a result of the economy. 

The rise in the popularity of Soccer is also partly responsible for the NFL leveling off.  Soccer has had numerous opportunities to show its greatness with the public over the last couple of years.  MLS is the only top sports league adding franchises and the men and women are consistently providing good theater during their 'National' play, something the NFL can never accomplish because there are no other tackle football leagues around the world.   

Ultimately, though, it is the concussion crisis that is taking the steam out of the NFL's run.  Why would any middle-class parent approve of their son playing tackle football?

More and more high schools play the game on artificial turf.  Concussion science is proving over and over that the collision of helmets, helmet to pad or helmet to ground can change a life forever.  It is a case of simple facts.  The body has no cushion to stand the impact, the feet are planted on cement covered by astroturf, so the brain must act as the cushion.

The artificial turf has provided more speed and athleticism to the game, but has sacrificed integrity in the process.  Even if your outlook was bright to play college ball, why chance it?  Life is too precious to end up with repeated headaches, dizziness and lower brain activity for memory and learning.

Concussion science is proving that brain injuries start at the youngest of ages for those playing tackle football.  So, why do it?  There are too many other sports to play and enjoy to want to waste time with this one. 

Americans will always be able to relate to throwing and catching a football, but they will not tolerate a sport that does not provide adequate protection to its players.  Tackle football was meant to be played on natural grass with helmets tailored to the style of the game, but over time, adjustments have rendered the helmet a weapon instead of a piece of protection.

Now, highlights from Rugby and Australian Rules Football are becoming more commonplace on the internet and proving to many that they are exciting sports with the same aggression, speed and athleticism also associated with the NFL.  The difference is that Rugby and ARF are not in concussion crisis.

As far as American sports go, there is only a certain sector of the public willing to stand for violence in spectator sports, like Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing.  The NFL has had a serious image problem with its spoiled athletes for some time, but none of these problems can match the problems that the reputation for concussions are sending to the public.

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