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Is the NFL morphing into the National Flag Football League?

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NFFL stands for “National Flag Football League.” I fear this is the next logical step in the evolution of the NFL and the sport we have all come to love.

NFL: Pro Bowl Experience Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I understand that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but football is truly a beautiful game.

At its highest level it can be breathtaking to witness. Two opponents trying to impose their will upon the other by relying on their speed, power, and intelligence. Teamwork is imperative for success. A player must trust his teammates to maintain their assignments while he works to achieve his own. Any breakdown in a team’s execution can be game-changing. That’s why every play matters! Football is a game of momentum, but you never know which play will cause it to shift, or when this will happen. This sheer excitement is what causes fans to be emotionally invested.

Football can either make your day or ruin your week.

Either way, you’ll have something to talk about standing around the water cooler.

Football is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one inherent truth has always remained the same, it’s a physically demanding sport. You have to be tough to play football because it’s a game that requires repetitive, intentional collisions. This simple truth is unavoidable. Trying to change the physicality of the game will change the game forever. I for one pray this never happens, but a shift in participation nationwide suggests it might already have started to happen.

Growing up, we all heard mothers everywhere say “My baby ain’t never playing football!”, but now you hear more and more fathers echoing that statement. Maybe not the “baby” part but you know what I mean. Many children who show above-average athleticism are foregoing football to focus on soccer, basketball, baseball, etc., and who can blame them? Sometimes football isn’t all fun and games. Any player who’s had to endure the rigors of a football camp in the sweltering heat of summer knows what I’m referring to. Another added bonus is less wear and tear on their bodies even at a younger age can lead to fewer injuries and allow them to play multiple sports with overlapping seasons which affords additional opportunities for individual recognition and exposure to potential college suitors. What parent of a child with the potential to be a professional athlete wouldn’t steer or advise that child to participate in one of the other major sports where the average yearly salary is much higher (with mostly guaranteed contracts), and the average career is substantially longer due to fewer career-altering injuries and violent collisions?

So why should we be concerned about any of this? Because football as we know it may become a thing of the past, and I believe that may have already started. What happens if fewer and fewer young people decide to play football? The product itself suffers. The quality of play slowly starts to deteriorate. Many schools and communities have been forced to drop their football programs due to financial hardships and simply not having enough support or players available to participate. This creates a significantly smaller talent pool for college programs to draw from, and far too many of the players being recruited haven’t received adequate coaching. When you take into account the limited practice schedule imposed by the NCAA it’s no wonder why so many rookies come into the league raw, lacking basic positional technique.

Many of today’s generational talents will instead be playing other sports. The next great All-American tight end or defensive end will end up being an NBA power forward or a MLB slugger. The All-Pro wideout or corner will end up playing center field for the Yankees.

Every level of football seems to have taken notice of these developments, from youth leagues all the way to the NFL. They have vowed to make the game safer through the “Heads Up” program and also by consistently implementing new rules to make the game less physical. While all of these efforts are commendable, the reality is it’s impossible to make the sport totally safe while still maintaining the integrity of the game.

I fear we are headed to more of a flag-football type of situation if something doesn’t change soon. We were given a glimpse of this possible reality before the NFL Pro Bowl game in Orlando. All the best regional flag football teams were there and they showed the championship game on television. Both teams were excellent and very talented. It actually was quite entertaining, but it just wasn’t the same, if you know what I mean.