Let me dispense with one item quickly; tonight’s Thursday Night Football game is a toxic waste dump. The Colts are dead last in the AFC South; the Broncos are dead last in the AFC West; the combined record of these two teams is 7-19. You absolutely must have something better to do with your time this evening…
The NFL’s concussion protocol seems to be taking a mandatory 8-count for the moment. It just is not working nearly the way it is purported to work in the name of player safety. Two events caught on video in the last couple of weeks demonstrate that the concussion protocol is honored sporadically at best.
- Russell Wilson took a big hit and was sent to the sidelines for examination. They put the blue tent over him – partially – wherein he bolted out of the tent having had no examination at all, grabbed his helmet and returned to the game.
- Tom Savage took a big hit such that his arms seemed to convulse while he was on the ground and then returned to the huddle looking dazed.
In what seems to be a PR move, the NFL and the NFLPA pay an homage to “player safety” now; curmudgeons tend to think that the various lawsuits pending and settled against the league regarding CTE are the motivating force behind that concern. No matter the motivation, the protocol in place is not working because it is not enforced. Supposedly, there are “observers” who are supposed to be able to identify players who need a neurological screen; in the two cases cited above, it is not clear what the “observers” were observing.
Let me be clear. I realize that this is a crass position to take; but at the bottom line:
- I do not really care if a player with a concussion finds the resources to hide that concussion from coaches or “neurological specialists” and continues to play in a game.
- That player is an adult; if he makes the choice to behave in that way, then I do not care if he puts himself and his future cognitive prowess in jeopardy.
- Adults make choices and choices have consequences.
My problem is that the NFL has this “protocol” in place and is not enforcing it. They have a rule book and officials are there to enforce those rules – despite the arcane nature of some of those rules. When you have a rule – and a “protocol” is nothing more than a rule with a fancy name – then it is a sham unless and until it is enforced. Imagine for a moment if officials did not enforce the offsides rule…
Here is the obstacle that is going to prevent anything meaningful from happening here:
- The NFL and the NFLPA will have to agree on whatever sort of enforcement steps will be taken in these matters.
- The fact is that those two entities cannot agree that Tuesday came after Monday this week.
Sometime during the offseason, there will be a joint announcement of a new and more rigid concussion protocol for next year. That will involve genuflecting in the direction of “player safety”, “truth”, “justice” and “the American Way”. And if the new more rigid concussion protocol is enforced with the same laxity as the current one, it will not amount to a pinch of pigeon poop.
Earlier this week, Kareem Abdul Jabbar pronounced that the NBA would overtake the NFL in popularity sometime in the next 10 years. Perhaps, he is correct; let me suggest, however, that he may not be the most unbiased interpreter of data in this matter. Jabbar cites the fact that surveys show a decline in NFL popularity over the last decade and a smaller decline in popularity for MLB over the same decade. However, NBA popularity is up in that same time period. Moreover, TV ratings for NBA games are up while TV ratings for the NFL and MLB are down. Here are some reasons why I doubt that the NBA can eclipse the NFL in the next 10 years:
- In 2017, the NBA revenues are approximately $8B; the NFL revenues are approximately $15B. That is a huge gap to make up in 10 years – unless you suspect that the NFL revenues will decline significantly over the next 10 years.
- The TV ratings analysis needs some perspective. Here in the DC area, NBA games get ratings in the range of 3.0 to 4.5 depending on the “juice” surrounding the game. That is a major improvement over about 5 years ago when NBA games here got ratings near 1.0. However, last Sunday the Skins played in the late afternoon time slot and the Eagles/Rams game was on the other network in the same time slot. Not surprisingly, the Skins/Chargers game drew a rating of 11.8. What is surprising is that the Eagles Rams game – in the same time slot, remember – drew a rating of 11.6.
- The early Sunday afternoon NFL game here – Giants/Cowboys – had a 14.4 rating and the Sunday Night game – Ravens/Steelers – had a 16.5 rating. On Monday night, the Pats/Dolphins had an 11.1 rating.
Yes, the NBA numbers are up over the past two years and the NFL numbers are down over the last two years. Nonetheless, the TV ratings for the two leagues are not remotely close.
Jabbar’s prognostication sounds good and he puts a lot of emphasis on the fact – undisputed – that youth participation in football has declined over the past decade and there has been no such decline noted for basketball. I will stipulate all those stats and, at the same time, point out that I have heard that argument before.
- Soccer was going to be the “next big thing” because of the exponential growth in youth soccer programs. The growth was there; the growth continues; soccer is not the “next big thing” today and is not going to be the “next big thing” in my lifetime. [Aside: Of course it will not be; Jabbar says it will be NBA basketball.]
- More specifically, pundits proclaimed that the success of the US Women’s National Team in World Cup competition would generate interest in girls’ soccer that would translate into an economically viable women’s pro league in the US. There is indeed a professional women’s soccer league – and a tiered system of leagues – in 2017. Few, however, would allege that professional women’s soccer is the “next big thing” despite the numbers of young girls playing soccer.
Mark your calendars for December 2027 with a reminder to compare the status and economics of the NBA vis a vis the NFL. I hope I am alive then to see how this prediction turns out.
Finally, if you want to think about sports that might have great growth potential, consider this observation by Brad Rock in the Deseret News recently:
“Poker, pole dancing and foosball are taking steps toward becoming Olympic sports.
“In other words, at some point synchronized swimming is going to look totally normal.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………