The end of football

It’s September, which means it’s football season. Saturdays are for tailgating and BC games, Sundays are for the NFL and the Giants. It’s an exciting time.

My relationship with football is very different than with baseball. When I think of baseball, I think of warm summer nights, of a slow and easy pace – it allows for an almost hypnotic viewing experience. It keeps the blood pressure down. Most of the time, I watch baseball alone. The hours roll by and then it’s 10:07 PM and the Yankees have won 6-2.

Football is the opposite. When I think of football, I think of cold weather and high-intensity situations. I think of the different themes and broadcasters on CBS and FOX and NBC* and ESPN. Usually, I’m either in a crowded room or a loud stadium. I almost never watch football alone. The conditions are rough, and each game carries much more importance. The game is the event, but the action on the field is only a part of the experience.

*NBC’s Sunday Night Football always reminds me that the weekend is over. I used to hate that, since it meant a new week was about to start and I would have five straight days of classes and homework and early rise-and-shine’s. That theme will forever be connected with the conclusion of the weekend – it is football’s version of 60 Minutes.

America shares this passion for football – it is our country’s most popular sport, and it is ingrained into our culture. But it is impossible to ignore the reports that football causes long-term head injuries, and in many cases, premature death. Concussions go ignored – because, hey, it’s a part of the game. Suck it up. It’s the machismo nature of the sport.

And then, five years into retirement, you can’t walk. Or support your family.

It seemed like these reports were highlighted on ESPN daily during the offseason, especially in May following Junior Seau’s death. There were calls for the NFL to do something, anything – and to their credit, Roger Goodell and the NFL donated $30 million in efforts to pioneer player safety.

And then, the football season started and everyone forgot about it because there were games to be played.

All of this leads to the big question – how much longer will professional football be around?

I’ve had this discussion with a few friends, and everyone seems to have a different opinion. There are some that believe that football will be gone in 20 years. Others believe that safety measures and rule changes will be improved to prevent these sorts of injuries. And then there are those that think football will continue to grow, player safety be damned.

Would I let my kids play football? I’m not so sure I would. And I think more and more parents are seeing it that way. But there’s also the other side of it – football pays a lot of money, and if you’re big and strong from a young age, the incentive to play is there.

I’m not so sure what the future holds for football, because people enjoy it too much and it is a staple of our fall weekends. I don’t think it will ever be gone, but I do think there will continue to be a mass movement from parents to guide their kids toward other sports.

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