Sunday, July 21, 2013

Author Malcolm Gladwell wants college football to stop -- what about the pros?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success” (reviewed on the Books blog, Nov. 27, 2008) has been calling for colleges and universities to end their football programs, because of the apparently inevitable and progressive head injuries that will occur for many players, inevitably leading a significant portion of former players to develop brain damage and dementia even by middle age.

He calls being a football fan “morally problematic”, and bad karma.

It’s a good question, as to what would happen to the NFL and pro football if his ideas were followed.

He suggests that influential alumni, such as Stanford graduates who run Google, could influence universities to change their thinking. Zakaria showed statistics indicating that the values of football program for many state universities is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  
He also discussed the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) as a school whom he had approached.

Some schools have reduced the number of practice sessions and tightened safety equipment rules but no one has seriously considered abandoning college football.
The New Yorker has a video where Gladwell makes his proposal, here

Katy Walman has a story for Slate here  leading to another New Yorker article.

What happens to the NCAA?

I have only been to a few football games in my life, at William and Mary, at KU, and then at the Minnesota Vikings (in the Metrodome) twice, and once in Dallas (in the old Texas Stadium in 1984, where I happened to sit next to the visiting St. Louis Cardinal linemen and wondered about what it would be like to go through life playing a contact sport that required you to be 300 pounds, when in my world something like 6 feet four and maybe only 180 pounds is considered desirable).
I resisted being “made to play football” as a little boy back in the 1950’, and was viewed as a sissy and as evasive.

Update: Aug. 17  The Wall Street Journal argues "mend it, don't end it" in considering Gladwell's cliaim, here, the Saturday essay, "In Defense of Football: It's a rough, somewhat dangerous sport, but critixs exaggerate football's risks".  It become a tool of male socialization. 

Update: Aug 29 (still 2013)

The NFL and ex-players agreed to a $765 Million settlement, story here. The media interviewed some ex-players with severe disabilities -- the consequence of how we "entertain ourselves" with a secular religion (sort of "Hunger Games").  And ESPN is reported to have canceled a deal with PBS Frontline reporting on the problem.  

Update: Aug 25, 2014

UVa English Professor Mark Edmundson writes in the Washington Post on Aug. 24 Outlook, "Yes, let your kids play football", link here. His take on helmet safety is merely pragmatic. 

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