An NFL sportscaster for over three decades now, Bob Costas has covered his fair share of football controversies. But even after Deflategate, Bountygate and all the other scandals that have rocked the league over the past 30 years, Costas asserted on Saturday that the league’s central problem isn’t anything that can be changed in the locker room or by management; in fact, it’s one that really can't be changed at all. The NFL, Costas said, has “an existential problem” -- and that problem is that it promotes a sport that is inherently harmful to all that play it.
A guest on Jason Whitlock’s Fox Sports Radio show this past weekend, Costas claimed that while football is doubtless the most popular sport in America, it is also -- inarguably, scientifically -- “a fundamentally dangerous activity.”
“Common sense and evidence lead me to the conclusion that football has an existential problem ... with the very nature of the game,” Costas said. “[During every NFL scandal] people in the media and some football people say, ‘We hope to get our focus back on the field.’ But it’s when you get to the field that you find football’s single most significant and ongoing problem.”
That is, while some leagues have the potential to distance themselves from the respective scandals that plague them -- the MLB and steroids, the NHL and on-ice fights -- the NFL doesn’t have that luxury, as football’s problem is, well, football.
“You can’t play football at the [highest] level … without a substantial portion of players suffering some sort of brain trauma,” Costas explained. “[And the league has] already directly acknowledged that somewhere between 25 and 30 percent -- that’s the NFL’s estimate -- of players will sustain some measure of brain difficulty subsequent to their playing careers.”
According to Costas, football’s existential crisis really amounts to an identity crisis, as the sport is predicated on violence. And therein lies the league’s problem: As the long-term health consequences of head trauma gain increasing attention in the public eye, the NFL has no way to address or resolve the issue. Because while the MLB may have to deal with a steroid scandal every so often, every single play on the gridiron has the potential for controversy, and every time players suit up in pads and helmets, they're rolling the dice and taking a potentially fatal risk.
Eventually, shouldn't we ask ourselves whether this is really worth it?
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