Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

The NFL Crystal Ball, Part 2

The last time I wrote one of these, the Cowboys were 0-1 and looked like the worst team in football. So, yeah, I got that one wrong. I was right about London games continuing to stink, though. Let’s see how these predictions work out:

College football will be dramatically scaled back. Like the Dot Com Bubble and the Real Estate Bubble, the Higher Ed Bubble is something everyone sees coming, but nobody seems to take seriously. Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt, almost 12% of it is delinquent, and all of that is getting worse. A bachelor’s degree is arguably still worth it – the keyword being “arguably” – but that’s likely being pumped up by high salaries in tech fields. The outlook is considerably less rosy for liberal arts majors.* And since only a fraction of college football programs make money, when the bubble bursts, administrators are going to be facing some tough decisions. If the choice is between continuing Directional Tech’s glorious gridiron tradition – five time Porcelain Bowl champs! – or closing down the English Department, I know which way I’d bet. With that in mind…

The NFL will develop a legitimate minor league system. They’ll have to. With college football reduced to just a handful of teams in a few power conferences – sorry, “Conference USA” – it’s either develop talent elsewhere, or draft entire college teams en masse, Spurrier-style. There are lots of guys playing good, solid, entertaining football in the arena leagues. Instead of forcing them to try and catch on as camp bodies, put them under contract like minor league baseball players. And much like the Major Leagues…

The NFL will start scouting worldwide. American football is so-called for a reason, but while it probably takes a lifetime’s cultural habituation to become a pro-caliber quarterback, defensive back, or receiver, lots of other sports have analogous skill sets and body types. How hard would it be, for instance, to turn a sumo wrestler into an offensive lineman? Good technique is crucial, yes, but that can be taught; size and strength can’t. Just as many NBA teams find athletes with the right body type overseas, so NFL teams might find raw linemen outside North America. Have you seen some of those Russian hockey players? Put one of those guys in your new minor league system, hire a world-class dietitian to bulk him up a bit, and in a few years you’ve got a left tackle.

Talent will flow the other way, too. If college football is drastically reduced, what happens to all the high school athletes who want to monetize their gifts, but can’t quite make the roster at the few (now nearly pro-caliber) football factories? A lot of them will sign on with minor league football teams, of course, but there are other options. Instead of playing football in high school, why not play soccer? Some Americans play for European clubs, as do some American (and Canadian) hockey players who can’t quite make it in the NHL. And with continued economic stagnation, schools at every level will be looking for cheaper alternatives.

Greco-Roman wrestling might emerge from its niche in the Midwest and go national. Or, more likely, Americans will finally embrace soccer. And since nobody flops better or riots harder than motivated Americans, soccer might actually become slightly entertaining. What’s the most popular sport in mainland China? They’re already the world’s largest economy, despite that whole theoretically-still-communist thing. They’ll need some world-class entertainment options.

As always, feel free to drop back by in twenty years and tell me how wrong I was. Thanks for reading!

*Full disclosure is in order, I guess. I work in the higher ed biz, and have liberal arts degrees. I don’t see why that matters – I’m arguing against my own continued employment – but I don’t want anyone to think LWOS has an agenda other than bringing you high quality sports coverage.

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