Malcolm Gladwell and United States of Football Predict “Ghettoized” Sport in Future
The United States of Football, a documentary exploring the impact of concussions and head trauma in football opens nationwide this weekend. Some people have argued for the banning of football. At one point in American history, there was a group of people attempting to ban football and it took the presidential support of President Teddy Roosevelt for football to continue.
Of note, Malcolm Gladwell has said that the sport of football will be “ghettoized.” What he means by “ghettoized” is that the sport will be played only by the lower class. Gladwell relates the future of football to the current state of the military, where the risks are made clear to participants and people knowingly assume the risks because they have no other option.
The creator of the film, Sean Pamphilon, argues that the rich and upper class is not going to let their children participate. Pamphilon also states that areas such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas will continue to have football be very popular because the sport already transcends socio-economic conditions.
Ignored by many thoughtful thinkers on the future of college football and its relation to head injuries is the fact that football is a spectacle to everyone in the country. One doesn’t have to be a participant to enjoy viewing a sport. Take for example boxing, which is and always has been ruled by the lower class. When you look at who buys the PPV programming and attends the fights live you are more likely to find people who have a fair amount of money. Football continues to be so popular that it can be on network television.
I’ve already talked with multiple parents who won’t let their kids play football. It is interesting to note that the effects of concussions, the effects of CTE, and how the brain is impacted by trauma still has a lot of questions to be answered. However, what people don’t know is what is scaring them the most.
The only “ghettoizing” of football that we will see, if any, is that of the participants. We are going to see the lower class dominate participation in the sport more than we do now. The viewership will continue to be made up people from all races, ages, location, and social classes. Keep in mind that lower classes already make up the vast majority of top athletes at the collegiate and professional levels. Participation will mostly be impacted at the high school level and below.
Football is so heavily engrained in to the psyche and traditions of American society and institutions of higher education that they won’t disappear from the nation’s consciousness. The only thing that will change is a growing gap between the people who only watch the sport and those who participate.