The untimely death of Junior Seau marks the latest in a series of events that have marred the reputation of the National Football League. From Spygate and Bountygate to random thuggery and concussion related lawsuits, the string of bad press for this organization has been relentless.
Never mind that football is America’s greatest pastime. Never mind that more than a million youth play this truly American sport annually. Never mind the wisdom of greats like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll. Never mind Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw or the rest of our gridiron heroes.
Forget “The Immaculate Reception” , “The Drive” or any number of other plays that had millions of American’s captivated. Right now, the sport has immense challenges. From those who simply think it is too violent to those who are justifiability outraged at the actions of some coaches, this great American pastime is at a crossroads.
The challenge that the NFL faces is far worse than just the bad press. Rather, it is going to be the monetary damages related to the relentless litigation by former players. More than 1500 current and former players including Jamal Anderson, Chris Doleman and O.J. Santiago have joined together claiming that the NFL hid the dangers of concussions from them.
From a pure assumption of risk standpoint, it might seem presumptuous to think that hits to the head could possibly, just possibly, cause concussions. After all, football is a contact sport and one wears a helmet for a reason. But, alas, in the American culture of victimization where litigation reigns supreme, it seems that these claims may actually find their way to a jury of peers, who just may happen to be football fans. While these fans may have the best of intentions when ultimately doling out big jury verdicts, they may not truly understand the long term implications on the viability of those teams having to pay the award.
The consequence of such litigation isn’t lost on those who would just as soon see the sport banned. Just this year, the city of Los Angeles banned football on local beaches. This coming Tuesday at NYU, ABC Nightline Correspondent John Donovan will host a debate entitled “Ban College Football”. While this movement may be small today, the litigation will be a means to achieve their end against a sport that a few deem to be too competitive in a society where competition, accountability, results and success are continually in the crosshairs.
Not too long ago, children were playing dodgeball and tag at schools that have not only banned these games, but recess, cupcakes and Santa Claus as well. While it is a sad commentary on our society, it is a reality that football fans better proactively guard against.
As the host of the blocking and tackling blog, it is no secret that I am a football fan. Not only for the sport and the life’s lessons it teaches our young men, but for the strategy, sportsmanship and wisdom that can be used in our real world business dealings.
While it may be premature to make a prediction about the demise of the NFL, and potentially the entire sport, it is something that all fans should take under advisement. As the concussion related litigation ramps up, it will only be a matter of time until equipment manufacturers, coaches, sponsors and other deep pockets are named as defendants.
As that happens, the media will be relentless in their quest to proclaim football as America’s most dangerous pastime. Never mind that hoopsters, cheerleaders and bicyclists sustain far more injuries than football players. With a media that tends to blow things way out of proportion, it will only be a matter of time until parents begin to reconsider football as an opportunity for their kids. As coaches find themselves named in lawsuits, they will second guess their choice of career. As sporting goods manufacturers are sued for “faulty” equipment, they, too, will seek greener pastures. All as the result of litigation, which may be well intended by the “victims”, but is likely to have dire consequences for sports fans.
While we shouldn’t minimize the tragedies in the NFL, we should consider that this is a sport with tremendous risks. If a person puts themselves in the path of a 300 pound lineman there is a chance that they will get injured. It’s called assumption or risk, and it is a valid. While safety should be a concern, so too should the preservation of a sport that is uniquely American.
In our deeply divided society, football is one of the very few things that has transcended race, religion and politics to bring Americans together. Rather than demonize the sport, we should learn all that football has to teach us, which is far more than hitting hard and scoring points. It is the combination of teamwork, strategy, faith, perseverance, accountability that gives us all the ability to effectively execute our basic blocking and tackling on a daily basis.
Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books, including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary! He is a veteran of the insurance and finance industry, have worked with multiple top 10 P&C carriers. He currently provides consulting services to multiple industry leaders. To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail email@example.com.
Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at firstname.lastname@example.org