Bob Costas got his big break hosting National Football League, and he hosted “Football Night in America” for more than a decade. But that doesn’t mean he has a positive opinion of the sport. As far as he’s concerned, football in America is coming to an end.
“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains," said Costas on Tuesday night during a roundtable discussion at the University of Maryland, reported USA Today.
He shared that he believes the sport will “collapse over time” unless the league is able to develop technology that could make it significantly safer. The decline of football, once a “cash machine,” is, in his mind, the biggest story in American sports history.
“The cracks in the foundation are there,” said Costas. “The day-to-day issues, as serious as they may be, they may come and go. But you cannot change the nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football.”
USA Today reported that Costas joined Sports columnist Christine Brennan, Tony Kornheiser, and Mike Wilbon at the Maryland’s annual Shirley Povich Symposium. The symposium, named after the late Washington Post sports columnist, dealt with a variety of issues in sports, but the future of football became a focus.
Kornheiser, a former sportswriter for the Washington Post, said he believed football would follow the same trajectory as boxing. In other words, he believed the safety concerns might lead to the game being obsolete in the coming decades.
“It’s not going to happen this year, and it’s not going to happen in five years or 10 years," said Kornheiser. “But Bob is right: at some point, the cultural wheel turns just a little bit, almost imperceptibly, and parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids to play.’ And then it becomes only the province of the poor, who want it for economic reasons to get up and out.”
He continued, “If they don’t find a way to make it safe, and we don’t see how they will ... the game's not going to be around. It's not."
ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon identified another issue with football. He said the sport lacks international appeal, partly because of the way it controls the players and their public images.
"Football wants to distance itself and put a moat between itself and its fan base. It doesn't want to talk to them," Wilbon said. "'Well, Tom Brady's available on Tuesdays to talk.' Well, LeBron (James) is available every d—— day. He's available every day on Instagram, on Twitter, on whatever it is. And it's not filtered."
Costas returned the conversation to the safety concerns. He noted that the NFL continues to study the dangers of the sports, in what he calls a defense mechanism. He doesn’t think that will help them.
“The more information (that) comes out, the worse it looks,” said the 28-time Emmy Award winner.
Costas believes that eventually families will read the stats and reach the “common-sense conclusion," that children should not play tackle football. He says they shouldn’t play until they’re 18—if they play at all.
“But then where’s the talent pool for college? What happens to college football?” Costas continued. “The whole thing could collapse like a house of cards if people actually begin connecting the dots.”