No football this week, yet somehow the NFL survives

By Sunday, January 30, 2011 1 No tags Permalink

Imagine a week with no NFL to watch. Sounds like any week from February (after the Super Bowl) to August  (preseason, which no one watches). Astonishingly, every year, fans return to watch games and buy merchandise. They’ve somehow survived the arduous 6-7 month off-season. For their part, the NFL team owners and the league have managed to survive on a meagre $195 million (lowest team revenue – Minnesota Vikings – according to Forbes) and a dismal $8 billion (yes, that’s a b – according to Forbes). I think it’s obvious that something needs to be done before this league vanishes. Luckily, since there is no risk of long term injury, the players can easily absorb 12.5% more wear on their bodies.

It sounds like a moronic idea for a league that has already seen the impact and long term consequences of repeated hits to the head to suggest lengthening the season, but when you really step back and look at it objectively, you realize that you’ve just offended morons by lumping them in with the geniuses who came up with this idea.

In truth, there is little doubt that the NFL takes the concussion issue seriously; without players there is no NFL, they need one another. How seriously the NFL takes it is another matter. Seriously enough to make mid-season instructional tackling videos, but not seriously enough to end one of the most incredibly stupid, reckless and short-sighted proposals in pro sports history: an 18 game NFL season.
I am a huge football fan. The couch in front of the tv is a great spot to be on Sundays from September to early February. But, in case nobody has told the NFL, professional football players are big dudes. They’ve also got a bit of strength too. With the amount of hitting and tackling these guys endure, it’s going to cause injury. That includes brain injury.

The NFL acted swiftly and decisively to demonstrate its ‘commitment to player safety’. This knee-jerk reaction sure looked good in October, like they were actually doing something about concussions. By handing down fines for every hit to the head, yet allowing the guilty player to play every week, the league missed their golden opportunity  – one that Rodney Harrison presented in no uncertain terms on an internationally-televised broadcast.

Harrison said, drawing from his own experience, that fines meant little, but suspensions – taking players away from their teammates, away from the games – truly got the message across. Unfortunately, the NFL didn’t listen to one of its former, hard-hitting, aggressive, defensive stars. Instead, it opted to keep its star players around. After all, the NFL regular season is only 17 weeks – or 16 games – long. Every game matters. That said, suspending players, with potentially dramatic effects on team performance, would definitely send the message that the league isn’t messing around.

I don’t know the best way to reduce brain injury in the NFL, but suspensions for hits to the head seem like a good place to start. Extending the season sure doesn’t.

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