I attended an interesting debate regarding the (legal) future of football at Tulane the other night. I find the changing landscape of the sport an interesting study that attempts to balance perception, neuroscience, liability, performance improvement and [game] fundamentals. This discussion attempted to focus on using "what we know now" about the physical impact of football participation with the financial recourse of the NFL (and more importantly the 32 franchises that assume legal risk) and how this will shape the game in the coming decade.
DISCLAIMER: For what it's worth, I really don't have any preconceived notions on the issue. I find the NFL's legal finagling (and analyst reviews of hits) unrealistic, though I do understand the position they are coming from. What interests me most is understanding the physical toll of the game, particularly in areas we have been ignorant up till now. I think we all would like to ensure the safety and well-being of players. I don't see this impacting how the game is taught; an emphasis on proper fundamentals (separation/extension in line play - striking with the chest in tackling) has to be grounded in everyone involved. This does not make the game less violent or aggressive. However, this issue is certainly bigger than collisions and contact. Examination of these trends cannot be addressed with singular solutions, thus requiring us all to get the full picture and keep an inquisitive open mind. It's also important to delineate our emotional response to providing safety to the game; blowing out a knee is worlds different than bruising your brain.
The event was moderated by Tulane Law professor, Gabe Feldman, with panelists Andrew Brandt (ESPN), Mike Pesca (NPR) and George Atallah (NFL) and delved into a very academic discussion of where the game's current momentum is leading it. Steve Gleason and Scott Fujita also joined in the dialogue.
Yes, it is NFL-centric though the trickle-down impact and dilemmas are brought up late in the discussion. Also, the "bounty" issue is belabored a little too long at the opening remarks. That being said, this was an extremely worthwhile and mature discussion without the typical rhetoric.
Short rundown of discussion points:
- Bounty Issue
- Safety of the playing game vs ethics of watching the game
- Role of the player union in ensuring a safe work place
- Safety vs the momentum of revenue
- No one solution to CTE issue; exploring how to reduce it
- NFLPA's role in championing safety and influencing the NCAA
- Role of a football player's in society
- Safety rules are lopsided against defensive players
- Dilemma of PED testing in the NFL
For audio only - listen/download here > "Future of Football @ Tulane Hillel"
For video - please visit Robert Morris' work at the Uptown Messenger
"Regarding the evolution of the NFL, I believe the greatest asset the NFL has is the talent. The game will not, in my opinion, change because of viewers or governance. The evolution of the game will come from the talent pool. The safety measures, despite comments like Pollard's have primarily come from the talent pool (the players).
I do not feel the viewers will ever stop watching because they are put off by violence. More likely, the talent pool will diminish because a six year old kid says he wants to be like Junior Seau when he grows up. Now that kid and his parents do not want to grow up like Junior. As a result, the talent pool has diminished, and thus, the game slowly becomes less relevant. Obama, with his hypothetical comment, in his own way, diminished the hypothetical talent pool, which again, is the greatest asset the NFL has."
UPDATE: Another timely piece that is worth reviewing