R.I.P. NFL: Chris Borland’s retirement is bad for football and good for everyone else
On Monday, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired after one outstanding rookie season in the National Football League. The reason: The rising star is worried about head trauma during games leading to neurodegenerative disease later in life.
Borland told ESPN: “From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk.”
I'm going to assume that most of you at least understand a bit about the science of concussions, so I won't belabor such facts as that, even during teenage football games, head collisions can have a lasting negative impact on cognitive ability, and so on.
The NFL for years has dragged its feet when it comes to concussions and head trauma: barely investing in research or promoting education about head issues, or making the game safer. This is perhaps because there's no way to make a game in which grown men smash the crap out of each other any less dangerous. It's just football's nature.
And that's why football will in the next decades no longer be the country's premier sport.
Yeah, it’s predictable: Liberal writer says NFL is kaput because one guy decides to quit due to concussions
But Borland's decision to forego potentially tens of millions in NFL salary—he's that good—will have a lasting impact on American families. Moms and dads watching their kids grow up will think twice about letting them strap on a helmet.
His choice will also prompt other professional athletes to speak out against the NFL. Or more players will simply retire.
The NFL establishment and aligned coterie of flacks, blowhards and reporters on TV and Twitter this week insist that pro football isn't going anywhere because of Borland. That it's too big of a beast, a cultural boss, to fizz out like neurons no longer making a connection.
I disagree. Too much respect for Borland's bold move. He's inspiring. He makes me want to change the channel on the NFL as well.