Football's NEXT Problem
About a year ago, I wrote about local High School legend DeMario McCall. His story, in a nutshell, is that he set the state of Ohio on fire during his Junior Year in 2014 and then MAY have sat out football games during his Senior Year in 2015 in order to preserve his scholarship at Ohio State.
Young Mr. McCall would have had to have lived within 5 miles of me to go to North Ridgeville High School. So part of the reason that his story was so intriguing to me is that if the situation happened here, I assumed that the situation was happening all over the country.
Let's update McCall's status and then move forward.
Ohio State lost last night on National Television 49-20. DeMario McCall was nowhere to be found. He was not listed on the depth chart as one of the top 4 running backs going into the game and was not one of the top 8 wide receivers going into the game, either. He did not touch the ball against Purdue. As a matter of fact, here's his stat line for the SEASON.
Again McCall got into games at mop-up time against 1-7 Rutgers and 2-5 Tulane. He is OSU's 7th leading rusher and 11th leading receiver for the team on the season.
Now with a stacked roster, a finally "healthy" McCall is looking to carve out a niche on special teams. Let's check out those stats.....
Ooof. Maybe next year for McCall. Again.
Let's go back to the Purdue defeat. How in the world did Ohio State give up 49 points on defense?They have arguably the best defensive player in all of college football with Nick Bosa. Well he didn't play. As a matter of fact, he's done playing for Ohio State, he withdrew from school this week. He's injured, but feasibly he could have been ready to play in the college football playoffs (if Ohio State made it that far.) His family is adamant that Nick Bosa Is Leaving Ohio State Due to the Extent of His Injury, not the Extent of His Investment
I don't buy that. NOT FOR 1 GODDAMN SECOND. And let me tell you why. Nick Bosa's injury is to his "core." Alright medical students, go ahead and find Nick's core on the diagram above. If it wasn't about "investment," Nick could still show up on the sidelines on crutches or in a flac jacket, or whatever you wear to protect a core injury. I see kids on crutches in street clothes all the time at football games.
The reason Bosa isn't hanging around is 100% due to investment. Which is his prerogative. The problem is, that once he was healthy, even if it wasn't until next March, he could have still rehabbed with his teammates and used the team's practice facilities. By withdrawing from school, there is no other conclusion except for him focusing on being the #1 pick in the 2019 Draft by signing with an agent and rehabbing his injury with a personal trainer.
The danger is that now you're starting to see a pattern. Players are choosing to increase their stock by NOT playing. Nick Bosa has nothing left to he can do to improve his draft stock except for to be healthy. Having the best players in your sport not playing to protect their futures is a slippery slope. Another local player, Denzel Ward from Macedonia (Ohio) High School, chose not to play in Ohio State's 2017 Cotton Bowl game to protect his draft status, despite not having an injury at all. He now plays hard for the Cleveland Browns.
Way, way back in 2011, overrated running back Peyton Hillis was the cover boy for the video game Madden '12.
Peyton Hillis had a breakout year and landed the Madden cover, then wanted to be paid like one of the top running backs in the league. The problem was the Cleveland Browns didn't want to give Hillis a long-term contract. So Hillis began missing games with ailments like "strep throat." Within 3 years, Hillis would wash out of the league. Today he is 32 and you would need Google Maps to find Hillis now, he's been out of the league since 2014.
Football is a violent game. High School Kids not playing to protect college scholarships. College Kids not playing to protect their NFL paydays. And then there's Le'Veon Bell. About an hour and a half from my house is Groveport Madison High School near Columbus. Arguably their most famous alumni is Le'Veon Bell. 3-time Pro-Bowler Le'Veon Bell is insulted that the Pittsburg Steelers are "only" going to pay him $14.5 million this year. He wants a long term contract that's worth more than $70 million over 5 years. So right now he's sitting at home watching Steelers games, same as you and me. But he is healthy and that helps his negotiating leverage. Every game that he plays, Bell risks an injury that would diminish his negotiating leverage.
Because everyone on the Steelers is getting paid, let's describe their reaction to Bell's holdout as...
hmmm, what is the word that are we looking for....
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Football is the most popular sport in America TODAY.
It's popularity is trending DOWN.
Instead of writing another 1,000 words, let me show you a picture and ask you a question.
This is the Dawg Pound from earlier this year. Ignore the tool leading the fan cheer and only look at the fans. Do you see young men or gray beards? I see mostly gray beards.
I don't see any kids and only a smattering of 20-somethings. What I see are a bunch of ol' dudes who were probably at Municipal Stadium on December 17, 1995. What happens to football when your key ticket-buying demographic begins to die?