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Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons Battle Over the NFL’s Future

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is helped onto a cart after being injured in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) is helped onto a cart after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

 

In recent years, even the biggest NFL fan would have to acknowledge it can be difficult to watch at times. Quite simply, athletes that big still being that fast and colliding that often is dangerous. Indeed, we don’t even know exactly how dangerous, since brain trauma can have effects that don’t appear until years down the road. As columnist Bill Simmons writes:

“These dicey moments have changed how we watch football, that’s for sure. Twenty years ago, I would have written a joke about the [Carolina Panther] Luke Kuechly Concussion Face [photo above] and moved on to the next riff. Now I’m a little haunted by it. We have too much information about head injuries. I feel like an accomplice.”

Along with The Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell, he set out to explore just how much this has changed the way we watch football and, in the coming years, how much of a problem it will be for the NFL.

Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons at the 2010 New Yorker Festival at DGA Theater on October 2, 2010 in New York City. (Getty Images)
Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons at the 2010 New Yorker Festival at DGA Theater on October 2, 2010 in New York City. (Getty Images)

 

Along the way, they take many digressions, with Gladwell making time to pay tribute to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell‘s father. (He was a congressman who took a stand against the Vietnam War.) Ultimately, there is cause for great concern — both men are horrified by the health risks the game poses. Still, Gladwell manages to pay wonderful tribute to those actually playing the game (and make clear why he’ll invariably take their side against the owners):

“A group of young men create an extraordinarily beautiful game through their own talent, discipline, and creativity. They quite literally risk their lives and long-term health in the process. Their efforts create billions of dollars of wealth for the league, which responds to that windfall by giving the players, over the past several collective bargaining agreements, a smaller and smaller share of the pie.”

To read the full debate, click here. For a nice introduction, you can watch a conversation between the two along with NFL Player’s Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith in the video below.