Clay Travis reports that TV networks are set to lose about $500 million dollars due to ratings decline in their NFL coverage. NFL viewership is down about 20% from two years ago. Many observers are blaming the decline entirely on the protests. Other observers say that the protests are just one piece of a larger picture.
Travis argues that there are four reasons for the decline: (1) kick-off times no longer concentrated on Sundays, (2) poor quarterback play, (3) the addition of two teams to Los Angeles, and (4) the protests. I highlight Travis’s article not because I wish to weigh-in on the debate about the decline in NFL viewership. I cite his article because of what he says about number two—poor quarterback play.
Travis argues that CTE is going to change the future of the quarterback position in the NFL and thus the overall quality of play. He writes:
I think the biggest threat to the NFL’s product right now is the lack of quality quarterbacks. The scary thing for the NFL? I don’t see that improving because with the CTE issues now becoming a major point of discussion across the country there are going to be fewer and fewer kids playing football. You know most parents won’t let their children box now because we know what it does to a person’s brain, what if the same thing happens with football?
You might think the declining numbers of kids playing football won’t impact things very much, but it’s important to contemplate the position that will be most impacted by this decision.
I think CTE is likely to decimate the quarterback position in football.
That’s because quarterbacks tend to come from two parent, middle class households and the players would probably go to college even if they didn’t play football. Playing quarterback is expensive, you have to go to exclusive camps now to refine your craft and become elite.
The parents of quarterbacks are the most likely parents to pull their sons from football.
Look at the list of top quarterbacks in the NFL, how many of them needed to play football to go to college? Maybe Dak Prescott. Maybe. Are there any other star quarterbacks in the NFL that wouldn’t have gone to college without football?
Not that I know of.
That means football is something that they are choosing to do as part of many other potential activities, sports and otherwise. Football isn’t their way out of poverty, it’s just a sport they start playing and happen to be good at. Odds are most top quarterbacks in the NFL could have also been pretty good at baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis or lacrosse if they’d played those sports instead.
What would happen if you took the top ten quarterbacks and removed them from the NFL? The league would be virtually unwatchable, right?
In the next decade will the Manning brothers, the Brady’s and Brees’s, the Cam Newton’s, Matt Ryan’s and Russell Wilson’s of the world play football? I doubt their parents will let them.
They’ll play other sports.
If that happens, the NFL’s bad play is going to get worse and worse in the years ahead.
Whether Travis is right about the ratings decline, I can’t say. But anecdotally, I think I can confirm what he is saying about CTE. Parents are becoming more and more aware of safety issues in football—in ways that no one was concerned about back in the olden days when I played in high school.
The trend seems to be that the more engaged parents are with their children, the more reluctant they are about football. Obviously, that is not universally the case, but it does seem to be happening in some measure. Such a trend will have inevitable consequences for the NFL in the long term, and those consequences may already be occurring.
I’m curious if readers are seeing the same thing I’m seeing. Are you reluctant to let your sons play football? Why or why not? Weigh-in on the conversation here.
How CTE may be affecting decline in NFL viewership. https://t.co/zUaqZrYQPL
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) November 29, 2017
LSU and Alabama are playing tonight. Can the Tigers pull out the win? Well, my head says “no,” but my heart says… well, it says “no” too. I hope I’m wrong, but the analyst in me doesn’t see a way forward in this one.
So with that bleak assessment, we can move on to peripheral things. A couple of former players for LSU and Alabama are now teammates on the Cincinnati Bengals–Brandon LaFell and AJ McCarron. And it turns out that they are both still wearing their pads from college.
Underneath that sad Cincinnati orange, LaFell is sporting Purple and Gold, and McCarron red and black. Why? They claim they fit better than new pads, but they also admit that there is more to it than that. ESPN reports:
LaFell, 30, and McCarron, 27, attended rival schools, but they didn’t play at the same time.
Their colleges are clearly still close to their hearts. During the bye week, LaFell returned to Baton Rouge to celebrate LSU’s 2007 national championship team, and stayed on the sideline the entire game.
The pads he wears today are the same pads he wore when he caught a touchdown pass in the BCS National Championship Game to beat Ohio State that year. He has kept them through stints with the Panthers, Patriots and Bengals. He refuses to get rid of them.
“I’ve been wearing those pads since 2006,” LaFell said. “I had to get them refurbished when I got to New England because they were falling apart. Those are my babies. I’ve been wearing those since day one and I’m not changing.”
I totally get it. I only played football through high school, and I can still remember my last game during my senior year. After the game was over, I walked around talking to as many people as I could, lingering around the field. I didn’t want to take my pads off. I didn’t even want to take my mouthpiece out. I knew it was the last time I’d ever wear them, and I didn’t want it to end.
I know it’s different, and I can imagine that LaFell and McCarron have an even greater reluctance about casting off the gear they wore in their national championship runs. Who would want to shed that gear for the last time? I wouldn’t.
There is a new study suggesting a link between football violence and degenerative brain disease. Here is the description from The New York Times.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
C.T.E. causes myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped…
The set of players posthumously tested by Dr. McKee is far from a random sample of N.F.L. retirees. “There’s a tremendous selection bias,” she has cautioned, noting that many families have donated brains specifically because the former player showed symptoms of C.T.E.
But 110 positives remain significant scientific evidence of an N.F.L. player’s risk of developing C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death. About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players would have tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.
The N.F.L.’s top health and safety official has acknowledged a link between football and C.T.E., and the league has begun to steer children away from playing the sport in its regular form, encouraging safer tackling methods and promoting flag football.
Read the rest here.
Earlier this evening, I saw John McEnroe’s interview with CBS News anchors who grilled him about some remarks he made about Serena Williams (see above). McEnroe said in an interview with NPR on Sunday that he believed that Serena Williams would be ranked about 700th in the world if she were playing on the men’s circuit. The anchors suggest that McEnroe is denigrating Serena Willams’s success, that he owes her an apology, and that he made the remark in order to increase his book sales.
McEnroe refuses to apologize, and I think he was right to do so. If you look at the NPR interview, it is clear that McEnroe was not denigrating Serena Williams. He was asked a pointed question, and he gave an honest answer. Read it for yourself:
Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.
McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.
Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?
McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?
Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?
McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.
Garcia-Navarro: You think so?
McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.
McEnroe did not denigrate Serena Williams. On the contrary, he called her the greatest female tennis player of all time. McEnroe did not bring the issue up to increase book sales. On the contrary, the NPR reporter raised the question. McEnroe merely answered the questions by stating the obvious.
It is a fact that men generally have greater muscle mass, denser bone structure, and taller frames than women. That means that male athletes are generally bigger and faster and stronger than their female counterparts. Is McEnroe really supposed to apologize for saying something that everyone already knows to be true? I hope not.
This little episode reveals just how much our culture’s understanding of male and female has shifted. Because of transgenderism or as in this case feminism, people are increasingly willing (and even expected) to overlook the biological realities that distinguish men and women. The result of this drift is that what used to be considered common sense is now considered insensitive. That is what caught McEnroe by surprise. But it doesn’t make what he said any less true. It just reveals a cultural drift toward the absurd.
Which team would you prefer to win the College Football National Championship?
(Not who do you THINK will win, but who do you WANT to win?)
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) January 1, 2017
My working theory is that most people are getting tired of Alabama and would like to see the dynasty fall. Let’s see if this poll bears that out.
Y’all know who I’m pulling for in this one. If I had an orange shirt, I might even wear it. Geaux, Tigers!
My Bulldogs got it done last night in a nail-biter against Navy. Read about it here: “Louisiana Tech’s terrific trio too much for Navy.” This is the third bowl win in three years for my alma mater. How ’bout them Dawgs!
I am a fan of Les Miles. I admire Les Miles. I think Baton Rouge and LSU owe so much to Les Miles. He’s the winningest coach in the school’s storied history. He gave us some great teams and, no question, some great players. He was the Mad Hatter with more tricks than you could shake a stick at (one of my favorite bits of mad-hattery above and another below). He brought the school two SEC championships (2007 and 2011), two national championship appearances (2007 and 2011), and one national championship win (2007).
In addition to that, he has meant so much to the community in Baton Rouge. He showed leadership and rallied the community during Katrina, during the racial unrest over the summer, and during the aftermath of recent devastating floods. In spite of the downturn in Tiger football of late, people in Louisiana genuinely love and admire Les Miles. That is why he got one more shot to coach the Tigers after a disappointing 2015 season. That is why after the victory over A&M last year, his players carried him off the field. They love him, and so do so many others in my home state.
So what happened that led to his abrupt firing earlier today? If you think it was due solely to the heartbreaking loss to Auburn yesterday, you only know part of the story. The real story is that LSU football has been in decline since 2012. In fact, we can put our finger on the exact moment that the decline began. It was January 9, 2012. Continue Reading →
On 9/11, Todd Beamer bravely said “Let’s roll.”
At Wheaton College, his heroic words continue to inspire. https://t.co/eAmTG9t6la
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 10, 2016
It’s hard to believe, but Todd Beamer’s son is all grown up and is playing football at Wheaton this year. See the CBS Sports feature above.
Commentators (and even some of us uncommon ‘taters) have been anticipating the first week of college football to be the biggest and bestest ever. Whether it lived up to expectations remains to be seen. In any case, here are my random fan reflections on the whole shebang. Continue Reading →