February 13, 2012

An Economic Look at the End of Football

Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier, writing for Grantland:

“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 most plausible route to the death of football starts with liability suits. Precollegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year.
...
This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn't worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it's mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.
There's a lot less money in the sport, and at first it's "the next hockey" and then it's "the next rugby," and finally the franchises start to shutter.”

(Via kottke.org.)

Hard to believe coming true, but not all that hard to imagine. Those head injuries are a bomb waiting to go off.

Why else did the NFL respond to them with significant rule changes this past season? From the goodness of its owner's hearts?

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