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Ask a sports reporter about the future of the NFL (such as the way Peter Robinson asked Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal on this week’s Ricochet Podcast) and one usually gets a recitation of the latest Nielsen ratings. Yes, football dominates today’s airwaves. But that is like complimenting a paint job on an old home where the timbers in the basement are a rotting mess of leaking water and a banquet for termites. The old place has charm – but for how long?
If you don’t like the building metaphor and wish to stick with sports, the National Football League is a thoroughbred racehorse, beautiful, sleek, and very powerful and yet dependent on very fragile legs that are sometimes asked to bear up to ten times the pressure of the horse’s weight. A slight bump, an entanglement with another animal, a sharper than anticipated turn and it collapses into a fall that is over 80% fatal.
As Peter noted in the podcast, more and more parents are saying “no” to the sport. Participation in youth leagues has been steadily declining, losing almost 40% of its participants since 2008. This has led to a decline in the high school game as well, but with the reductive nature of sports (most kids bail on organized sports by the time they turn 15) it’s off a more modest 3%.