Is the NFL too big to fail?

The NFL has had a lot of bad press lately. But it doesn't seem to have any impact on sponsors or fans.
The NFL has had a lot of bad press lately. But it doesn't seem to have any impact on sponsors or fans.
AJ Mast

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

The NFL first. If American banks, which nobody likes, are too big to fail, then the NFL, which everybody likes, is too popular to fail. Probably too big by now too. Despite all the negative news recently, has it really been damaged? Why, one of its smallest franchises, the Buffalo Bills, just drew a record price. Do you see any indication that fans have, in disgust, turned to Gilligan's Island reruns Sunday afternoons? Not to mention Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights.

Long ago Walter Winchell used to address his radio audience: Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Well, Mr. and Mrs. NPR and all the planes in the air: Do you have any friends who have sworn off watching NFL games? Have you?

Verdict: guilty on all counts. As punishment, by popular demand, we sentence the NFL to more playoff games for us to watch.

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Next up for trial: Roger Goodell. He, the boyish blond, with a shoeshine and a smile; lifetime league functionary, promoted to a $40 million-a-year position thanks to the Peter Principle. Back more than a year ago I said here that he wasn't up to the job. It's only become more obvious since. Long before he was "ambiguous" about what might have happened to Ray Rice's fiancee on that elevator, he was disingenuous about his sport's dangers, ignorant of team bullying and team bounties. He doesn't even have the courage to tell the owner of the Washington franchise that his team's nickname is racist.

Verdict: guilty on all counts. The court hereby orders the NFL to hire someone from outside the football family of stature, honor and sensitivity to be the new commissioner.

And lastly on trial this morning: football itself. A new study shows that almost one-third of NFL players will suffer long-term cognitive problems. Granted, that's professionals, but obviously younger brains are at jeopardy on all gridirons. What mother or father can any longer willfully allow a son to play such a game with such odds?

Verdict: Football is dangerous to your brain.

The court orders that some brave college conference with high academic standards — like the New England Small College, the Midwest, the North Coast, the Southern California IAC — have the courage to lead the way and drop football.

That's called a no-brainer. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit