A while back I wrote a blog titled The National Felony League, a comment on the growing criminal activity that was ruining the sport. At that time my focus was on New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who now sits in a Boston jail awaiting trial accused of three murders. Certainly, an NFL player as an alleged murderer is a rare occurence ( although Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was acquitted of involvement in a murder a few years ago).
Now it is Ray Rice, who threw that haymaker in the elevator that decked his fiance (now wife) and caused a media firestorm and the wrath of any right thinking American sports fan. It is no news that the NFL has an image problem as more and more stories emerge about domestic abuse by current players, players who in all cases were not punished except a promise to go into anger management classes.
But the Ray Rice debacle aside, the National Football League has a whole gridiron of felonious or at best behavioral problems – illegal use of performance enhancing or mood changing drugs, alcohol-induced bar fights, firearms violations, rapes, homophoic outbursts and increasing numnbes of domestic abuse allegations, and I haven’t even mentioned the concussion compensation fiasco and the racist argument over the branding of the Washington Redskins. With a multi-billion dollar industry at stake and the label of “America’s sports pastimne”, the NFL has moved forward with blinders on toward that holy grail of revenue with illegal activity a mere minor bump in the road.
The punch in the elevator has at least for a time awakened many Americans to the troubled sport of football. This current PR mess will soon blow over and fans can get back to their man caves with the boys and cheer on those bone-crunching tackles and end zone victory dances.
But I was intrigued to read a few accounts by sports columnists with a brain and a heart who feel that in perhaps twenty or thirty years football will go the way of boxing, a sport with limited support watched by fans willing to pony up thirty dollars for a pay per view game.
There are already signs of football’s future demise and the analogy to boxing as parents are taking their kids out of pee wee football and even high school teams have some no shows as mom and dad tell their athletically inclined kids to find another sport. The fear of concussions or other long term injuries has soured a growing numnber of parents and indeed young people on ” America’s pastime). Take this attitude out some twenty years and football is in trouble and becoming the new boxing.
What will replace football, well that’s easy – football or as we call it soccer. Already gaining in popularity, soccer is a sport that mixes endurance with skill without shoulder pads and helmets. Now the international organization that runs soccer – FIFA – makes the NFL look like a bunch of choirboys as it remains scandal-ridden. But the sport itself is attractive and a lot safer than our brand of football, and at the moment not overly populated with criminal and miscreants.
Ray Rice didn’t know it the night he clocked his fiance, but he may have contributed to the decline of American style football and given new meaning to the title of his employer – The National Felony League.