End of a Golden Era?

Happy Tuesday morning Cougar fans. First of all, I cannot wait to finally watch our hoops team on the tube this week. How about you? Secondly, what about RG5? I think he is going to do wonders out of the backfield in our Air Raid Offense next fall!

So, I must admit I haven’t been keeping up with the current events of the last week since I returned home from Arizona. I was sick all last week, attending work feeling like bunk and then volunteering all weekend at a leadership event. Needless to say, my web browsing activity was at an all-time decline (seriously, some adult websites may have gone out of business with my absence).

Eye kiiiiiiiidddd..

Anyways, browsing last night, I came across an article on a site that I quite frankly despise.  You see, at some point in 2011, my favorite writer in the history of writers, Bill Simmons, launched his own website called Grantland. Simmons made his mark in Boston, before joining ESPN and has an incredibly loyal following. He was great at mixing pop culture references and sports into an ESPN Page 2 spot, as well as writing two of my all-time favorite sports books; The Book of Basketball and Now I Can Die in Piece. There was an apparent falling out of sorts with the World Wide Leader, and now fans are stuck with his pile of manure Grantland.

Anyways, over the weekend, a pair of his writers posted an article with the premise that high school, college and eventually the NFL as we know it may not be around in the next fifteen or twenty years. I was ROLMFAO at the idea of this article before actually reading it.

Click the jump to get some of their incredibly logical takes…..


LC and TSG at a book signing in 2009 at Sport Cafe in Seattle

Telling myself the article was gonna be a waste of time, the piece opened really well and had me hooked right away.

Before you say that football is far too big to ever disappear, consider the history: If you look at the stocks in the Fortune 500 from 1983, for example, 40 percent of those companies no longer exist. The original version of Napster no longer exists, largely because of lawsuits. No matter how well a business matches economic conditions at one point in time, it’s not a lock to be a leader in the future, and that is true for the NFL too. Sports are not immune to these pressures. In the first half of the 20th century, the three big sports were baseball, boxing, and horse racing, and today only one of those is still a marquee attraction.

From there, the writers go on to state that the most plausible way for it to die is through tort claims. They start at the high school level and mention the 90K concussions suffered in America annually, at the pre-collegiate level of football. It will only take a handful of high school players and families to win large lawsuits against school districts, officials, coaches and equipment manufacturers before insurance companies charge too much for districts to be able to afford the insurance.

Makes sense, right?

Then the article goes on to say if high school football programs begin to dissolve, eventually college programs will fold and then the NFL will have less talented players to chose from. From there, they talk about NFL franchises surviving for a few years on foreign players who are willing to risk their health for the monetary payout. With these players not being the same caliber we see at the college and pro levels today, interest will begin waning in the NFL.

Next the article begins looking at the impact if the NFL were to not be what it is today, and cites a really interesting bit of research.

Take Green Bay as a case study: A 2009 study of the economic impact of the Packers’ stadium estimated “$282 million in output, 2,560 jobs and $124.3 million in earnings, and $15.2 million in tax revenues.” That’s small potatoes for the national economy as a whole, but for a small and somewhat remote city of 104,000, it is a big deal indeed.2

Any location where football is the only game in town will suffer. If the Jets and Giants go, New York still has numerous other pro sports teams, Broadway, high-end shopping, skyscrapers, fine dining, and many other cultural activities. If college football dies, Norman, Oklahoma (current home to one of us), has … noodling? And what about Clemson, in South Carolina, which relies on the periodic weekend football surge into town for its restaurant and retail sales? Imagine a small place of 12,000 people that periodically receives a sudden influx of 100,000 visitors or more, most of them eager to spend money on what is one of their major leisure outings. It’s like a port in the Caribbean losing its cruise ship traffic. (Overall, the loss of football could actually increase migration from rural to urban areas over time. Football-dependent areas are especially prominent in rural America, and some of them will lose a lot of money and jobs.)

Well if football were to not be as popular in a few decades as it is today, then other sports stand to move up as the new cash cow(s). They go on to mention basketball and track and field would be the two biggest winners, as well as academia. Then they close with this doozy.

This outcome may sound ridiculous, but the collapse of football is more likely than you might think. If recent history has shown anything, it is that observers cannot easily imagine the big changes in advance. Very few people were predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, or the rise of China as an economic power. Once you start thinking through how the status quo might unravel, a sports universe without the NFL at its center no longer seems absurd.

While this is a doomsday scenario, after giving it a read, it sure doesn’t seem that far fetched to me. Given that we live in a sue-first, ask questions later, high insurance premium world where politicians seem hell bent on solving issues that government really shouldn’t be sticking their nose in, anything seems possible. Thanks Grantland, I wasn’t expecting this turd to come pouring out of my milk container onto my cereal.

What do you all think about this possibility? Have a great day, Go Cougs!