Is football fixable?

With a new NFL season drawing nearer, columnist George Will is arguing that there’s no way to make football safe without drastic changes to the game. Will writes:

Football is entertainment in which the audience is expected to delight in gladiatorial action that a growing portion of the audience knows may cause the players degenerative brain disease … Accumulating evidence about new understandings of the human body – the brain, especially, but not exclusively — compel the conclusion that football is a mistake because the body is not built to absorb, and cannot be adequately modified by training or protected by equipment to absorb, the game’s kinetic energies.

Today’s Question: Is football fixable?

  • Rich

    No. The fans love the “gladiatorial action.” Just look at the pay for view numbers for Ultimate Fighting Championships or Mixed Martial Arts. The violent contact and physical athleticism are what fans pay for.

    Math and physics make Mr. Will’s case for him.

  • Steve the Cynic

    No. I’ve said so before in discussions about other TQs. It was interesting to see that George Will agrees with me. 😉

  • Bruce

    It’s already fixed, as in who wins and loses. It’s one step above or below Professional Wrestling.

  • Jim G

    No. Fueled by the testosterone of young men and funded by public billionaire-fair it will continue to consume the knees, shoulders, and brains of its participants. Players are physically “old” in their 30’s and die in their 60’s. For this former college player, it was an addictive game to play. Because of this addictive quality, players I knew stopped playing only when bodies could not function properly because of injury and abuse. As for brain damage, just ask my wife about the “crazy” guy she married.

    Soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, football, should be the only football. Americans have turned our game into a simulation of war. The war simulation is still potent enough to destroy the bodies of its participants and enrich suppliers (college programs) and owners of the professional meat grinder euphemistically called a game.

  • Max

    The question implies that football needs fixing. It doesn’t. New evidence about the long term effects of concussions and other brain injuries has been coming to light. The result is that more attention is being paid to these kinds of injuries when they occur. This along with the renewed emphasis on player safety in the NFL will reduce the incidence of long term damages over time. Football is the most popular and profitable sport in the US. It’s not going anywhere. George Will is a baseball fan. A sport that suffers from rampant steriod abuse and a season so long that games are irrelevant. Is baseball fixable?

  • GregX

    of course… they do it every year. Vegas bookies make out huge! …. oh you mean the safety in the game … sure … rule (1) if you injure someone – you are out for the same amount of time they are. if its a career ending injury – a committee must review and determine if the action was willful. (2) the only permitted equipment is protective eye-wear. No cleats, no pads, no helmets, (3) Every time a player swears or praised god – its $100 in the jar for community kids.

  • Elijah the Tishbite

    No. Footbaal will never stop demanding human sacrifice.

  • Lance

    Is boxing fixable? MMA? UFC? Rodeos? Hockey?

    Personally, I don’t watch any of them including football, but participants in all of them are subject to injuries. Former Viking Robert Smith said it was better to walk away early than limp away late. I’d say he was right.

    Our society puts far too much emphasis on sports and other celebrities and not nearly enough time looking at real issues of the world. Is Hollywood fixable? Is Welfare fixable? Is the tax code fixable?

    Is society fixable?

    Bread and circuses.

  • georges

    Of course it is “fixable”.

    Just enforce MN State law:


    Subdivision 1.Substantial bodily harm.

    Whoever assaults another and inflicts substantial bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

    I know of no State assult laws anywhere in the USA that exempts assults committed during a sports contest.

    Use the fix we already have in place. An assult is a crime no matter where it happens. Go for it.

    We went through this 37 years ago, when the State charged and tried Dave Forbes for criminal assult for butt-ending Henry Boucha in the eye, ending his career. Unfortunately, the jury was hung, no conviction was ever achieved.

    Today, we could probably get a conviction. It wouldn’t take more than a couple jail sentences to get these guys in line.

  • david

    I think you are looking at the wrong part as being broken. The players know the risks going into the game. That is their justification for their ridiculous salaries, maybe justifiably so. The broken part is the NFL’s racket where they are able to extort tax dollars to build their business’s infrastructure. This is the worse of the worse of misapplied corporate welfare.

  • Paul

    Weight restrictions, padded helmets, and knee braces would seem to address most of the issues.

  • Mark Snyder

    I’m indifferent to Football any more, but have to ask your question another way. Is it somehow less ethical / moral for Pro Football players to work for a short time and for big money in a game than for other businesses to inflict similar damage to their workers over a longer time? I think of all of the workers who reach the end of their career with back damage, chronic pain, silicosis, or other disabilities, often getting a pink slip when they near retirement, and for a lot less money. In the end, neither the ex-football player or the ex-worker can play with their grandchildren, so the offense seems very similar to me.

    Admittedly, businesses seem to do more to protect their workers, especially to minimize the damage to them to a level that maximizes their working life. The physical intensity of football means that players have a shorter career, so the motivation to protect the player has been less. I feel that the NFL should do more, maybe altering the padding so they can’t use it as a weapon. I haven’t researched comparisons between Football and Rugby in terms of long term injuries, but the comparison would be interesting. As it exists now, I would have to say that the NFL is morally and ethically behaving the same as most other businesses in the USA.

  • JasonB

    Yes, assuming that football’s issues suggest that something is broken in the first place. If you take George Will’s perspective then you assume that most if not all football fans are bloodthirsty. Like NASCAR fans who only want to see crashes there will always be those who are into a sport only for a sadistic thrill. It does not necessarily mean the sport is broken.

    Injuries come from the pressure to be more competitive, to take chances and to devolve a sport into something more akin to warfare. I’ve always thought that sport was intended to provide an outlet for competitive aggression that was non-lethal, a safe alternative to war. By this definition a sport like football can and should stress contact not intended to be damaging.

    Anyone can be a thug. But talented linemen and linebackers make clean, solid tackles all the time where the opponent gets up immediately and may even praise the tackler for a good hit. Football is about skill and discipline in order to beat an opponent without beating their head in.

  • jockamo

    I won’t name any names here (girls swimming team, for one), but if you don’t know the words to the National Anthem, don’t pretend that you do by fake singing.

    It is embarassing. Just do like Michael Phelps does…stand there with a big smile, like you are really enjoying the whole thing, and keep you lips closed tight.

  • John

    If you can fix building 7 to blow you can

    fix anything.

  • Michelle

    Sure, a fetus can dream can’t it?