Football’s Danger Might Decrease Popularity Like Duk-koo Kim’s Death did to Boxing
The recent studies and incidents around concussions and spinal injuries in the NFL has brought serious questions as to how safe it is and some, including myself, really wonder how much we can still enjoy it. To illustrate this point, there have been more deaths during high school football games this year than all of combat sports since 2007.
Boxing has always been a dangerous sport. In the last few decades the rise of knockouts have reached unprecedented levels. With preferences towards lopsided mismatches to build up a fighter’s resume, to the very few fights a fighter will take in a year, there are a lot more risks involved. In the early 1900′s fighters couldn’t always go for a knockout because they often had to fight the next week or maybe later that month.
It really wasn’t until Duk-koo Kim that fans and networks became very aware of just how dangerous the sport was. Today, the after effects of playing football and the on-field incidents that have different contexts of now that we know the science of brain injury have caused concern amongst fans. Most importantly, youth football parents may soon be afraid to let their kids play football. In the book League of Denial a NFL executive was quoted as saying that if 10% of American mothers don’t want to have football in the home then the extreme popularity of the NFL is over.
The Junior Seau suicide might be the Duk-koo Kim of football. The suicide convinced the core football fan base how dangerous the sport is, even in spite of the NFL doing their best for years to cover-up the danger of their sport. Boxing didn’t have an organization to look out for itself. The film Concussion coming out soon starring Will Smith, might be the tipping point for the rest of the country.
There are a couple other factors that weigh into how I don’t think football will lose popularity.
First, the pads and helmets give the illusion of safety. All the padding might be equal to boxing gloves, they aren’t there to make the sport safer, they might actually make it more dangerous because they’re able to move faster than ever without threat of bodily injury, which leaves open more opportunities for brain injuries.
Second, the violence is disguised around scoring points on a field. The violence is the point of combat sports but football fans are still able to lie to themselves about how violent the sport actually is.
Third, football is almost too big to fail. It commands so much attention and dollars that it’s impossible for any business built to maximize profit to possibly distance themselves from football.
While boxing is without metaphor and is the truest form of competition it might be too raw and too real for the public at large to like it. Football disguises the extreme violence just enough and is maybe too ingrained into society for anything to actually pull football down.
What this means for combat sports:
No one will ever confuse any combat sport for being a safe sport. As stated before, the violence is the most integral part of the sport.
According to primary research I’ve done there is a lot that can be done in terms of educating audiences and moving their attention away from the violence.
The UFC using extra anti-doping testing is a strong move in the right direction in order to ensure that the sport is as safe as possible.