Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finis for Football?

Tyler Cowen asks about the prospects for an end to football, American style.

When I was in high school, my debate coach, himself a former football star, told us we were crazy to play football. I took his advice, but my more talented colleagues mostly didn't, and 6 years later our superstar quarterback was a crippled old man who had trouble walking down the street. And that was before we knew about the cumulative damage concussions do. Football is a very dangerous, brain destroying sport, but its also strategically the deepest sporting event, and by far the popularity champ.

Recent rule changes to limit hits have perhaps made the sport a bit safer at the margins, but have also been unpopular. A huge problem is the fact that players keep getting bigger and faster, increasing the momentum tranfer in collisions.

I don't see any good way to limit speed, but there is a very simple way to limit size. Modern football linemen are enormously muscular, but they are also packing 50-60 pounds or more of lard. As a result, they lack endurance. End unlimited substitution, and the average size would shrink dramatically, I'll bet.

Allow substitutions only on time outs and change of possession, and limit those to just a few players, and the player size would change drastically. Payrolls would also shrink a lot.