To witness the death of the multibillion-dollar National Football League, you really don't need to see sportswriters wringing their hands over the moral dilemma of covering America's Roman circus of brain trauma.And that's before Aaron Hernandez's autopsy became public, and Our President injected himself into the ostentatious disrespect of The Star Spangled Banner.
And you don't need to watch multimillionaire football stars, pampered for most of their lives, ostentatiously disrespecting the American national anthem, kneeling, their raised fists in the air.
You don't need to see the desperation in the NFL's television commercials: actresses in team gear, holding snack trays to feed their (virtual) extended team-gear-wearing families, as the NFL begs middle-class women to mother their game before it dies.
You don't have to do any of that to see how football is dying.
All you have to do is go out to a youth football field, as I did on Sunday morning, and talk to parents and coaches.
But the signs are there, the signs are there.
You really think the NFL is worried about young athletes? If so, they'd have changed the rules years ago, abandoning face masks, enlarging the ball to make it difficult to throw, switching to one platoon football.And yet, the Rockford television stations, which would put the story of a Chicago Cub pitcher carrying a perfect game against the White Sox into the ninth inning hitting a walk-off home run (because they'd use the designated hitter on the south side) that breaks up the Sox pitcher's no-hitter behind a story involving a high school cross country team that's running in the state championship, have been, during their high school football training camp reporting, featuring teams that have gone from eleven to seven on a side, and there are some new teams reflecting consolidations among high schools. In both situations, it's fewer kids going out for football, despite the shot at more than fifteen minutes of fame on local television.
Perhaps, though, the real portent is a recent agreement between Wisconsin and Old Notre Dame.
This series would be an easy sell for both fan bases; the city of Chicago is filled with alumni of both schools, while Green Bay is about a five hour drive from South Bend, Indiana (depending on Chicago traffic). Another added historical bonus is the Packers’ historical connection to the Fighting Irish; the Packers’ initially wore blue and gold as a tribute to Notre Dame’s uniforms because team founder Curly Lambeau had attended the university.That's right, one game on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, where the University of Wisconsin Marching Band put on at least one halftime show (and hangs around for the Fifth Quarter) each season for the entertainment of Packer fans, and another game at the Chuckholed Prairie of Soldier Field, where the decorations might read Northern Illinois, but the attendance is overwhelmingly Iowa or Wisconsin (or any of the other Big Ten universities).
Stay tuned for more details and projected dates, but football fans in the Midwest should start getting excited about the prospect of another thrilling college football game at the greatest pro football stadium on Earth.
But Notre Dame scheduling a major opponent away from Touchdown Jesus? They've always drawn well at home, and it used to be that Notre Dame would defect from whatever college football cartel the Oklahomas and Texases and Ohio States and Universities of Spoiled Children cobbled together, because they'd get a better division of the revenue going it alone.
Follow the money, or the lack thereof.