Football Will No Longer Be America’s Favorite Pastime by 2050(TKS Brandi)


Bryan Graham's avatar image By Bryan Graham
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The NFL is a national obsession, generating an estimated $9.5 billion in annual revenue. Last year, 34 of the 35 most-watched programs on TV were football games, one of the last vestiges of monoculture in a fragmenting media landscape. It’s estimated that 32 million Americans play fantasy football, spending an average of $467 per person every year.

Football permeates our society in so many ways, it’s hard to imagine an America where the NFL isn’t king. 

Alas, all empires fall. Here are eight reasons why football’s comedown may arrive sooner than you think.

Nothing lasts forever.


In 1950, America’s most popular sports were baseball, boxing and horse racing. In the decades since, the “four major sports” — baseball, basketball, football and hockey — have driven the mainstream sports conversation. History shows that America’s sports agenda is always in flux. Just because one sport is dominant today doesn’t mean it will remain on top indefinitely. The only constant is that tastes, preferences and sensibilities change.

The head-injury crisis is shrinking the talent pool.

Source: John Russell/AP

Last month, it was revealed 76 of the 79 deceased football players who donated their brains to research showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. While the NFL has gone to extraordinary lengths to contain the crisis, the link between football and brain trauma is now beyond dispute. It’s not unlike the research into dementia pugilistica, once known as “punch-drunk syndrome,” which undercut boxing’s supply line and helped marginalize a sport that once commanded America’s attention.

As the scientific evidence mounts against football, it stands to reason that fewer parents will allow their children to play a sport that all but guarantees traumatic brain injury. The trickle-down effect can already be seen anecdotally: Just last month, one of the nation’s top high school wide-receiver prospects made headlines by opting for soccer over football.

Change is coming and the NFL’s core fans won’t like it.

Let’s be real: Fans are drawn to football for the bone-crunching hits and high-speed mayhem. But the efforts of the league to clean up the game have softened the violence central to the NFL’s appeal. The players certainly aren’t behind it.

Us players use to Joke around and say we play a grown mans version of tag.. Well now…Jokes over, 2 hand touch by 2015 watch what I say lol

These rules are getting out of hand, I wonder when they realize they are going to have to change the name of the sport

Soon everyone will get a trophy for participation

The best guess is the league will one day be forced to abandon the hard-shell helmets, which are essentially used as weapons, in favor of the soft headgear worn by rugby players that demands tacklers be far more careful about how they hit. Will the NFL’s die-hard fans stick by a sport that’s vastly different, in rules and aesthetics, from the game they fell in love with?

The league is overextending itself.

Source: Bill Sikes/AP

Football, once exclusively the province of Sundays, now is broadcast on Mondays, Saturdays and (controversially) Thursdays. The league, with the goal of increasing annual revenue to $25 billion by 2027, has stopped at nothing to maximize all possible streams. Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, believes greed will be its downfall.

“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion,” Cuban said in February of the NFL’s oversaturation. “When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you.”

The NFL is losing traction among millennials …

Source: Jason DeCrow/AP

A recent study indicated the NFL’s brand is in crisis even as its bottom line soars, with 4 out of 5 millennials — who will soon be the most important consumer demographic — saying they were less trusting of the NFL than of the NBA, MLB, NHL or NASCAR. Among the survey’s more damning findings: 48% of respondents identified the NFL as a “sleazy” organization (including 61% of Millennials) and 54% believe the NFL is anti-gay.

“Eventually, as trust erodes, it will impact the bottom line and you have to be concerned about whether the NFL will lose relevancy to up-and-coming sports like soccer,” said brand marketing researcher Jeetendr Sehdev, who conducted the survey. “The key finding for us is that transparency is the cost of doing business now for most organizations, especially among Millennials, and that’s where the problem lies.”

… which has created an opening for alternatives.

In 2012, the ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report revealed soccer was America’s second-most popular sport for those aged 12 to 24, ahead of NBA, MLB and college football. That study found Lionel Messi (16th), David Beckham (20th) and Cristiano Ronaldo (24th) rated among the nation’s 50 most popular athletes.

That would have been unthinkable during the mid-1990s, when European matches could only be found on pay-per-view in the U.S., if at all. Bit by bit, the barriers to access top-flight soccer have fallen, first with introduction of Fox Sports World (which became Fox Soccer Channel) and later, even more importantly, with the birth of YouTube. Today, more English Premier League matches are available in the U.S. than in the U.K. As American culture becomes more globalized due to technology and population trends, the signature sports exceptionalism that marginalized soccer for generations moves swiftly toward obsolescence. 

Shifting demographics mean shifting interests. 

The demographic trends that augur a challenge of the NFL’s dominance aren’t just generational. Census projections indicate that non-Hispanic white Americans will no longer be in the majority by 2043. Hispanics, who currently make up 17% of the population, will more than double in absolute number and comprise nearly 1 in 3 residents. 

Source: Reuters

That portends a major rise in soccer’s visibility: An ABC News/Washington Post poll ahead of this year’s World Cup found that 45% of Hispanics describe themselves as soccer fans, compared to one-quarter of all other adults. 

Football’s image problem is getting worse, not better.

Source: Comedy Central/YouTube

From the grassroots level (see: the Sayreville, New Jersey, hazing scandal) to the NFL’s incomprehensibly tone-deaf response to its domestic violence epidemic, it’s been an annus horribilis for football on a public relations front. So far, the bad press hasn’t affected its bottom line, but can that invulnerability last forever?

“The consensus is that the NFL brand is durable enough to withstand any PR disaster, but it really is in crisis from a consumer-perception standpoint,” Sehdev said. “What we’re really seeing are issues when it comes to trust. There’s a lack of openness [related to concussions], a lack of acceptance [related to race and sexual orientation], a lack of compassion [respondents found the NFL six times less compassionate than MLB or MLS].”

The NFL isn’t going anywhere, but its days as America’s singular obsession are numbered.

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10 Responses to “Football Will No Longer Be America’s Favorite Pastime by 2050(TKS Brandi)”

  1. brandi says:

    Thanks for posting this Buzzy. Just for everyone’s information. The survey the attitudes in this article used (survey done by Street & Smith) was taken before all of the high profile scandals hit the NFL. When articles such as this were written citing this data, most of the Sports World was busy (mostly feigning) with shock and outrage and (IMO the primary interest) gunning for Roger Goodell’s head. So these got lost in the noise.

    Earlier today, I commissioned a new survey from an individual who does these types of surveys for the Ad Agencies. It’s not a massive thing…he’ll be surveying 100 people. But it’s a quick snapshot of if/how much these numbers have changed in the last nearly a year. It should take a little less than a week and I’ll let everyone know the results.

    Also, after that survey is completed, I’m having him start in on another survey. This will basically be putting a little more substance to all of the polls that show the overwhelming support by Fans for it Tebow to be playing in the NFL. It will be a larger study than 100 people. (probably more than 200 and less than a 1000) The purpose of that survey will be to try to gauge the accuracy of those various polls AND get a better picture on the huge gap between Football Fans and the NFL where Tim Tebow is concerned. That one will take a little longer than a week to do. But, again, as soon as it’s completed I’ll let everyone take a look at the results.

    • Sage says:

      Part of what has hurt the league is Goodell, who approaches the job first with the mentality of a lawyer, rather than a football enthusiast.

      The jones to avoid “liability” can become an obsession, forcing people into unnatural, cognatively disonant actions, tying themselves into knots. Better just to have a moral code and be reasonable.

      My point is that Goodall thinks like a bureaucrat rather than like a man or even a businessman. He’s a wet finger in the wind, i.e., worse than useless.

      • brandi says:

        I’ve been saying for years the NFL’s biggest problem is its advisers. It’s being run by lawyers. It’s top lawyers…the ones Goodell’s predecessor came from and went back to…were the tobacco lawyers who came up with the strategy of attacking doctors and medical studies that said smoking is bad for you. They then did the same thing about head injuries.

        The quick survey results are in.

        The question was…

        Please tell me how much you agree with the following statement:The National Football League is a sleazy and untrustworthy organization


        Strongly agree 8.91%

        Agree: 25.74%

        Neither agree nor disagree:


        Disagree: 28.71%

        Strongly Disagree: 12.87%

        This was a quick snapshot. Is this good news or bad news for the NFL? The surveyor said, this being a cross-section of people, many just don’t even care about the NFL enough to have much of an opinion. Again, good or bad?

      • ck says:

        Hey Sage! Not a fan of Goodell either as The NFL seems to be on the downhill slide under his rule!:( Guess the #’s are proving it too!

  2. brandi says:

    I’ve started the Surveyor on the Tebow surveys. The first question is real basic…

    Has Tim Tebow been treated fairly by the NFL?

    After this, he’ll be going much deeper. How many feel Tim has been “Blacklisted”. Of those who do, how many feel it’s because of his faith. How much has Tim’s treatment by the NFL damaged the league. What will happen if a “Blacklist” movement of NFL Sponsors grows?

    I’m open to questions, areas of concentration.

    • ck says:

      Here’s my opinion Brandi: No, he has not been treated fairly due to his outspoken beliefs that do not coincide w/PC mandates; simple as that!

      • brandi says:

        It’s hard to fathom not having another shot to see if lightning in a bottle happens twice. Some of the media, certainly much of it outside of Sports, has had an agenda. Within Sports, nobody wants to admit how much Sports Media is like much of the Financial Media. So tightly coupled with the Biz, that it doesn’t just sway their “reporting”, it twists their thinking. Or at least skews it a bit.

        I heard ONE complaint from friends in Sports Media in Denver and New York. Tim’s “handlers”. I’ve yet to find even one BeatReporter who didn’t very much like Tim personally. But several complained that many times, it was like a wall was placed between them and Tim and it created a tension. But that’s the ONLY negative thing I’ve heard that stems from anything other than either their own pre-conceived notions of what is and what isn’t “NFL Football” OR was parroting GMs or, even more often, Front-Office or Coaching personnel below the GM or HC level.

        I began hearing that Tim’s popularity was the real problem a few weeks before the Miami Dolphins just came out and said it to a local BeatReporter who wrote it.

        This is not just the NFL’s but Football’s in general’s problem with a tendency toward control-freakism. But if you’re going to loosen control for any reason, wouldn’t Fan Popularity be it? If the Fans wants don’t count, why is there even a league? That’s my take on it.

        But outside of direct Football, it all becomes convoluted with agendas.

        • ck says:


          • brandi says:

            I’ve heard people talking about a “Blacklist” of NFL Sponsors. I don’t know how much steam it’s getting. BUT, this is what I’m beginning to see both anecdotally and from the surveys.

            The numbers of people who are pretty upset with the NFL over Tebow aren’t crushing. But they’re pretty big. By crushing I mean, if you take those who have alot of energy on the subject, match it up with those who would watch much NFL, let alone do something like paid subscription service, it’s probably somewhere around 8-10% of NFL Fans. That’s significant. But maybe not in the NFL’s eyes.

            BUT, as a cross-section of US Consumers, the numbers who are really worked up is about a third.

            THAT is significant if you’re a Sponsor and that many people decide to put you on a Blacklist. Especially if they really do it. That’s CEOs getting fired significant.

            So we’ll see.

          • brandi says:

            BTW–Two things,

            First, on those numbers…This goes back to what I tried saying a couple years ago when I said I don’t think the NFL really knows what it costs them to NOT have Tebow. Having him is somewhat easy. That roughly a third of US Consumers number, dwarfs NFL Numbers, Those are Super Bowl Numbers. Having that much added interest in the league isn’t just big. It’s bigger than anything the NFL has ever seen. Which, by the way, is the very first thing John Elways said about Tim Tebow. That the NFL has NEVER seen anything like this.

            BUT, trying to guess what losses they incur by not having him is a much different thing. If you take those numbers and just hit certain parts of the country, they’d be higher. In others they might not be anything at all.

            Second, the NFL isn’t out of the hot water with some Women’s Groups and Mothers Groups. IF any kind of serious Sponsor Blacklist or Boycott ever got started and they jumped in, as many probably would, you’d see something we’ve never seen before in this Country, the total panic of a major sports league overnight.

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