Has The NFL and Football Itself Jumped the Shark?
For those of you a certain age--you know exactly what the Headline is referring to, but there are at least two generations of people in the internet age who may very well not.
For those unsure---it refers to what many "Older" Pop Culture experts refer to as the moment something peaks and starts its downhill slide. In this instance it refers to the immensely popular TV Show "Happy Days". Before the episode---which featured star Henry Winkler at "The Fonz" inexplicably donning water-skis and ski jumping over a supposed "Shark" hemmed in by buoys near a California pier. (Note--the show was not based in California).
Shortly after the episode, the ratings for Happy Days plummeted, the ratings never again reached the pinnacle they once held and the show stayed on the air another 7-years in various incarnations before leaving the air in 1984.
But enough TV history....we're talking 'bout "Football".....
It might be a mixed metaphor, it might not--but you can easily argue Football is slowly approaching this same point in its existence. The unquestioned "King" of Professional and College Sports, the game continues to rake in Billions upon billions of dollars and TV Ratings for most games at both College and Professional dominate TV and online ratings and conversation.
Problems are however not just on the horizon---they are fully in view. Perhaps the biggest of them being safety/injuries to players.
The latest "Headline" featured 29-year old, star QB Andrew Luck walking away from the Indianapolis Colts because he could no longer deal with the successive string of injuries he is and has been dealing with during his 7-year career.
There have been a variety of pro's, including Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders who walked away long before he had to citing health concerns. There have been a rash of players worried about recurring concussion issues walk away because they were concerned what the damage was doing to their brains and ability to deal with every day life.
Concussions continue to be a constant concern among players not just at the professional level as everyone from Pee-Wee Leagues on up have had major concerns about the impact the game is taking on both young kids and relatively young men.
So many people---particularly those who got the reference at the beginning are often the first to decry the athletes from shying away from the game, from being concerned about their health. Often the response is "You get paid to do this!" or "I paid good money to see you play".
It's a dilemma--and a growing one at that. The NFL, NCAA, High School and others are beginning to have to deal with and there are no easy answers. Players at all positions are bigger, faster and stronger and the encouragement for the violent collisions that come with the game are always popular among the fans.
So how do you balance the nature and competitiveness of the game with the wants of the fans and the needs of the coaches and the health of the players.
I don't pretend to know a good answer for it--I enjoy the game, but how do you make it work for all parties? Someone (much smarter than me) is going to need to come up with a workable solution or your going to see the game decline.
It's a tough sell to the parents of a 10-year old to say "Play Football" it's the most popular game. Especially if the parents are concerned about their child's health. There are other options at that age. Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Golf and more.....
I'm not even getting to the financial issues which are different at each level. The NFL Ownership has seemingly more money than god, cities begging to spend billions to build them stadiums yet won't pay the players putting their health on the line when they ask for it.
Players won't be happy no matter what they are getting paid. If someone gets a bigger paycheck, they want the same thing. (Note---most NFL contracts aren't guaranteed)....Never mind the attendance which has been declining (albeit slightly) over the past few seasons. Forking over $100 per ticket and $20 for a hot dog and beer is catching up with a lot of people.
That being said--it hasn't shown yet in viewership. The numbers in 2018 were up over the sliding 2017 viewer numbers though they don't approach numbers 10-years ago. A lot of that has nothing to do with the league--rather that their are just less people watching broadcast television.
College Football's issues are a bit different though the contact/injury issue does come into play. In MY opinion, the biggest issue the game faces is lack of parity.
Yup, I said it. While having some combination of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma playing for titles every single season is great for ESPN, it's awful for the game.
I've said a zillion times there's no point in having Power 5 schools like those above competing for the same title Group of 5 schools are. There is no universe where having 120 teams with ZERO chance of winning a National Championship before the first game is played is a sustainable business model. Which is exactly what we've currently got.
All that being said, I don't want to see football go away and I'm reasonably certain it won't in at least the rest of my lifetime. But the other sports are gaining ground. At a grass roots level, you could argue certain sports have passed Football in popularity. Go to your local rec center park and see how many kids are playing soccer.....
I don't know if there is a way to fix the issue though I'd love to hear if you do. Because I'm telling you---if something doesn't change or give way, then we've already had "Peak Football"....everything after this seriously should be viewed under the premise the game itself has already "Jumped the Shark"....