Well, he’s wrong about a lot of things, actually, but at the moment, I want to address his incorrect claims about football. Now, his recent column is based on the idea that the game cannot be made concussion free without fundamentally changing the sport. This is true. I’ll give him that.
Where he goes wrong is in assuming that this means the talent pool will dry up as parents forbid their children from playing the sport. It won’t. It will just make the game less skill based and more strength and speed based.
What’s the first thing kids immediately do when they don’t have to live by their parents rules anymore? Violate them. If they can’t play organized football, they’ll play disorganized football. And ultimately, college and pro football will start recruiting physical freaks of nature like Calvin Johnson and Rob Gronkowski who have little training in the game, but more than enough inherent physical prowess to make up for it.
The game will not be destroyed; it will simply morph back into what it used to be in the 1950s and ’60s. Only with, as Will notes, bigger players. There will be less strategy and more sheer strength to it. I suspect the running game will make a great comeback 10-25 years from now in pro football, because it requires less practice and timing and more physical ability.
There is a dark irony to all this, of course: as people keep their kids out of football, it encourages the sport to rely more on violent play at its uppermost levels to remain popular, as teams become comprised of untrained, unpracticed hitting machines.
Most football players, when asked, say “this is what we signed up for.” They don’t mind the risk. Watch players getting themselves pumped up before a game, and you’ll often see them headbutting each other. It’s not a full-force collision to be sure, but studies show that it’s by repeated, routine hits that the damage is done. And here the players are, doing it on purpose, voluntarily, to themselves and their teammates.
The bottom line here is that there is only so much you can do to prevent people hurting themselves if they are really hell-bent on it. (This lesson applies to so many areas in life.) Of course, I have previously stated my thoughts on the safest, most viable alternative to dangerous sports, but there are some, probably many, players who will accept nothing less than the real thing.