Chronicle of a (Football) Death Foretold: The Imminent Demise of a National Pastime?

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of the History of Sport, 2014, 31 (1-2), pp. 120 - 133
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Football today, most conspicuously at the professional level (National Football League), is the economic and cultural colossus of American spectator sports. To speak of its ‘life cycle’, then, would seem nonsensical: although it has a clear ‘birth’, to speak of its ‘death’ might seem ridiculously premature. Yet, recent developments make imagining such a death possible. In this essay, I will explore two current controversies – over ‘athletes’ rights' at the collegiate level and the dangers of traumatic head injury at all levels – that have the potential to destroy American football at least in the form we know it today. And it will trace the factors behind those controversies – the insistent and persistent ‘amateurism’ of American college athletes and the fundamental violence of the game itself – back to their origins. What might end American football as we know it was present in the game from nearly its beginning.
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