Football isn’t dying, it’s evolving. That’s because
football isn’t boxing, it’s a sport.
There – two thoughts that have been gnawing at us like
roof rats in your attic. Ever since Tony Kornheiser
appeared on AZ Sports 620 and forecast the future of the
NFL as follows:
“All you have to do is look at boxing. Boxing was the
most popular sport in America for a hundred years,” said
the TV-radio-print commentator/columnist. “And the
cultural wheel turns at some point. And now it’s
conducted on pay per view and it’s not on television all
the time and nobody wants their kid to grow up to be a
Football isn’t boxing, although it’s inherently high
contact and often violent. Thing is, you don’t score
points for a pancake block or a devastating tackle. Put
simply: on the gridiron, you score points by scoring the
football. There is a game that supersedes the hostility.
Boxing is battery. In the ring, the only objective is to
assault your opponent. You compile points by piling on.
Unless he’s knocked out cold first, of course.
Boxing is violence that parades as a sport (Cue Russell
Crowe: “Are you not entertained? Are you not
And there’s another way that football is not boxing: it’s
not corrupt to the core. In fact, quite the opposite.
The NFL is perhaps the best run and most profitable
business enterprise on the planet (all apologies to the
Now, is football where it was two decades ago? No. And
that’s a good thing. Hang on, you say. What about the
big hits (BIG, BIG hits)? We all miss the honkin-huge
dummy-type collisions that they used to sell on VHS tapes,
right? Wrong. #Buzzer.
Not anymore. Now that we know what we know, do you miss
it? I don’t. When a guy gets splattered and splayed by a
hit he never saw coming, do you applaud? No. Instead, we
wince and pray he’s okay.
And this comes from a guy who used to get ready for high
school football games by (unsuccessfully) channeling his
inner Ronnie Lott (Warning – author just got dangerously
close to a hit ‘n run High School Harry story).
Once again, football has evolved. And so have the fans.
No longer do we watch football just to see a defenseless
receiver get blow’d up across the middle. And, if we’re
honest, we never did in the first place.
Whether you’re in the stands or in front of your big
screen, you’re a fan of football the sport, not just the
mayhem. If I showed you a highlight reel of just the
brutal hits in a game, you’d ask me: what about the game
itself? What happened in the game? Who won? Who
That’s not to say that hitting isn’t integral to the game.
But, now that we know the consequences, will you miss the
blows to the head when they’re gone? Yet, in boxing, what
else is there? That is the DNA of the game.
And again, back in the day, I was Paulie Pay Per View.
But we’ve changed. Now, how can you flip on boxing and,
with every punch to the skull, not feel like you’re
huddled around a dimly lit ring watching human
“Football as we know it is over. It’s over. The football
that you grew up playing is over,” Kornheiser continued.
“And, as a parent, you probably think that’s probably a
pretty good idea. The football that became the most
popular sport in America… sold itself with this contained
roller-ball aspect of violence.”
Football isn’t over, it’s different. But it’s still
football. And it’s still the most popular sport in the
country because it’s much more than the violence. And
that’s why fans are still buying, not fleeing.