In September, the National Football League confirmed an actuaries report that stated roughly one-third of its players will develop long-term cognitive problems during their career. The numbers served as confirmation for Malcolm Gladwell, who has been writing — and preaching — for five years now that the NFL is killing its employees. The violent collisions are responsible for physically and mentally destroying men, cutting their lives short.
Gladwell appeared on Bloomberg Wednesday and summarized the report this way:
So basically, when you watch football on Sunday, one-third of players you are watching are incurring an injury that will significantly impact their life, Can you point to another industry in America which, in the course of doing business, maim one-third of its employees? This is untenable. We’re not talking about people just limping at the age of 50, we are talking about brain injuries that are causing horrible, protracted premature death. The idea that we are paying people to engage in a sport for our own entertainment that causes irreparable damage to themselves is appalling.
Gladwell appeared in last year’s documentary The United States of Football calling the NFL “a ghettoized sport.” He compared it the Army saying, “We will go to a middle position where we will disclose the risks and essentially dare people to play. That’s what the Army does. So we leave the Army for kids who have other options, for whom the risks are acceptable. That’s what football is going to become. It’s going to become the Army.”
Sports don’t last forever if they don’t have some kind of compelling narrative.
It’s hard to fathom a multi-billion dollar industry collapsing and falling into obscurity, then again, did you believe Gladwell five years ago when he compared the league to dog fighting? Maybe he’s on to something.