The questions about football's inherent risk grow louder with every passing day, and moves such as the NFL's settlement of a class-action concussion lawsuit do nothing to quiet the concerns of players, fans and parents who experience the long-term impact of a head-to-head game. A new documentary film, "The United States of Football," opens this weekend nationwide, and some of its implications for the future of the game are dire indeed.
Most notable among the predictions for the game's future is author Malcolm Gladwell's assertion that the game will become "ghettoized" within a few years because of the possibility of head injury. “We will go to a middle position where we will disclose the risks and essentially dare people to play,” Gladwell says in the film. “That's what the Army does. So we leave the Army for kids who have no other options, for whom the risks are acceptable. That's what football is going to become. It's going to become the Army. That's a very, very different situation. That's a ghettoized sport, not a mainstream American sport.”
Gladwell, the author of several bestselling books including "Outliers" and "The Tipping Point," knows full well what he's implying by using the word "ghettoized." The idea that minority and lower-middle to lower-class whites would fill out football's ranks meshes with his conception of football as a sociological equivalent to the Army.
"Suburban white kids or their parents are going to opt out," Sean Pamphilon, the film's creator, told CBS Sports. "More affluent people are going to decide they don't want to put their kids in that position. His assertion is that [football is] going to stay relevant, at least for the time being, in lower-income areas, and then also football hotbeds such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, certainly Texas — places where it transcends socioeconomic conditions."
Pamphilon believes that colleges will begin to drop football as interest in certain parts of the country wanes, and it will decline from a national to a regional game, at least among amateur players.
Your thoughts, then? Is football as we know it doomed?