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Football as we know it is done, because the lawyers are here. When the lawyers arrive, things as you know them are over. After making an initial beachhead with concussion lawsuits in the NFL, The Lawyers (capital letters necessary) are pushing inland and making great, great gains. There are lawsuits against helmet manufacturers, against the NFL, the NCAA … anyone with a finger on the game at this point, in the year 2017, will be liable for the game’s excesses, violences, and lasting damage.
Do not for one second read that as “blame The Lawyers.” You can if you like. It’s fun, and no one wants to stand in the way of fun as long as you don’t actually mean blame The Lawyers. Like foot soldiers in a war, lawyers are merely rubber ducks on a great tidal swell of football-related backlash, doing what they are told, and being pushed by currents sweeping back from a century of American football’s flailing about with no regard for itself or fellow swimmers.
Football is not under attack from anything other than football. Football declared war on itself long ago, and advanced the campaign in a thousand small steps. In 1905 it outlawed the Flying Wedge and legalized the forward pass, but stopped short of further liberating linemen and backs from constant impact by loosening the rules on eligible linemen. In the 1970s player size followed the national obesity curve upward, increasing the m in F=ma to unprecedented and increasingly dangerous levels, making the F (force) involved in the game greater than ever.
When the 2000s rolled around and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) emerged as a real correlation with the game of football, the NFL and others followed the noble example of tobacco companies by falsifying research, denying all charges, and focusing on selling the product to children.
That is what sent the lawyers to football’s shores in the first place, and now deep into its heartland and beyond. Not a sense of aggrieved offense by coastal elites at the uncompromising game of the American interior. Not the allure of potential settlement money hitting the nostrils of the American legal community.