Will this "Hitting Montage" be followed by a "Pretend To Be Concerned About Player Safety Montage", CBC?— Andrew Bucholtz (@AndrewBucholtz) May 9, 2012
Since the conclusion of the draft, ESPN's NFL coverage has seemed to focus on two areas. The continued spotlight on Tim Tebow has certainly irked many fans like myself although in all fairness, ratings and page-views indicate that more Tebowmania is what the people want. The other area of focus is the much darker storyline of the NFL's two front war with player safety, and in particular, concussions.
On one front, the NFL is doing its best to mitigate a growing legal battle waged by a bevy former players via multiple class action lawsuits. The NFL is also battling increased scrutiny and criticism from fans and the media.
Although I can recall ESPN covering health of former players in the past, only recently have they seemed to really sink their teeth into it. Across all platforms and programs, ESPN is now churning out numerous thought provoking segments bringing to light the unfortunate toll professional football has taken on many of the greats of the gridiron.
ESPN is an interesting entity as they often flex their journalism muscle while also showcasing personalities who clearly aim to garner ratings and interest by fanning the flames of self created controversy. But there is a new found appetite for content covering the growing pressure on the NFL to address the long term effects the game has taken on its former employees.
The NFL is on trial. Not yet in court, but by the media and by fans. Looking at how the public sentiment is lining up behind former players, the NFL's ability to stonewall this blooming controversy doesn't look good. Whatever the end result is legally, the core issue boils down to the league's culture of sacrificing long term safety for the short term on field product.
The NFL's hypocrisy in this manner has been well established, selling pictures of hits they were punishing as illegal. But with that in my mind, the NFL isn't alone in this "sin" of a culture that didn't yield to player safety. When your quarterback was questionable with a head injury or any injury, were you crossing your fingers saying,"I hope he doesn't play because the long term effects of head injuries concerns me." No chance.
Both the local and national media also share in that guilt for contributing to that culture as well. Although the media has suddenly been forced via public sentiment to trade in their "These guys are warriors who will do anything to win" hats for "The NFL has been negligent for decades in taking care of their own." It's clear that it's a little late and they're merely following the sudden sway of public sentiment.