Pro football is in trouble. A significant decline in viewership of NFL pro football could trigger a death spiral for the entire sport.
Pro football has a concussions issue, an overall safety issue (e.g., spinal injuries), a saturation issue (football on Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night), an empirical ambitions issue (games in the U.K., Mexico, etc.), a feminist/metrosexual issue (football is too mean, violent, aggressive, and manly), a players-as-felons issue (Ezekiel Elliott, Ray Rice, etc.), and a race-&-politics issue (Colin Kaepernick, a decent QB who is shunned because he chose an outrageous platform from which to stage his socio-political protests). The cumulative magnitude of these issues is being revealed by a substantial decline in recent TV ratings.
Thus we have a Bob Costas piling on, with his observation that we may be headed toward a day when the only remaining players will be athletes for whom football is the only way out of poverty – “At some point . . . parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids to play.’ And then it becomes only the province of the poor, who want it for economic reasons to get up and out.” Is it a coincidence that the NFL is presently 70% black?
Some fans, especially former players and coaches, have already indicated that they find the pro game boring and they think college football is way more interesting because it involves more action, more innovation, more complexity. These fans say they have already switched to college ball and they do not miss pro ball at all.
Well, here’s the problem. If pro football became a niche sport, why would an elite athlete want to play college ball? Young athletes do not matriculate in order to study Sophocles or Thomas Acquinas, they do it to prepare themselves to play football for big money. Take away pro ball, you take away college ball in pretty short order. And maybe high school ball and Pop Warner, which are already in trouble. Even with all the slimy agents and alumni, college players do not make seven figures a year. Blacks would drop football if it no longer offered them a future, and whites would drop football if their mothers would no longer let them risk concussion and paralysis. Game over.
Commissioner Goodell thinks he should be retained as NFL Commissioner because the NFL has made a ton of money during his regime. That might be persuasive if the NFL were a publicly-owned corporation offering positive projections, but it is not. The future does not look so great, largely because Goodell has failed to resolve any of the critical issues and has no apparent plans for doing so, meaning he stinks at his job regardless of the NFL’s 2016 financials. If Goodell had the necessary talents for the job, we would never have had a Tom Brady fiasco, an Ezekiel Elliott fiasco, or a Colin Kaepernick fiasco. But we did, and millions of fans were alienated and the NFL was left with a legal/social/political crisis. Help!