There were almost 100,000 people in Ohio Stadium yesterday and there wasn’t even an actual football game being played. There wasn’t even a Rolling Stones concert either. On the turf of the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio Saturday the Ohio State Buckeyes played the… Ohio State Buckeyes.
That’s an awful lot of people for a game that means little other than “who solidified himself as a starter at said position.” To be sure, the defending national champions have holes to fill and Spring Football is where coaches start to recognize just who is capable of being the “next man up.”
At two other Big Ten schools, Nebraska and Penn State, the Spring Game crowds were around 77,000 and 68,000 respectively. At Michigan, where prodigal son Jim Harbaugh has returned, the Wolverines had 60,000 in attendance.
Top schools in the Southeastern Conference like Auburn and Alabama saw Spring Game attendance marks around 60-65,000 as well. For them, that’s not really anything too surprising.
What’s hard to make sense of is that football is supposedly a dying sport. From concussion lawsuits, players behaving badly off the field and an overall condemnation of the game from more and more parents, you’d think the game was in rapid decline.
Tell that to the tens of thousands that attended Spring Games this season already.
The game of football isn’t struggling nearly as much as many think it is but there are worse times ahead. Participation in many states across the country is declining as more and more parents fear for the future of their children. Far be it from me to tell parents how to raise their children but I want parents to be educated and I don’t want them to done so with a biased approach.
Both soccer and hockey are facing concussion problems yet we hear little about those statistics and the reason for that is simple. Any time you are the top dog everyone wants to knock you off of your perch. That’s where football finds itself today.
The National Football League has problems. It has a former player off to jail for life with a murder conviction and it has players being arrested from everything from marijuana possession to domestic violence. Yet, it finds itself as the premier professional sport in North America. No sport is watched more by more people and of different genders and ethnicity than any other right now.
With the growth of fantasy football as well, the NFL is doing fantastic business so how can it or college football possibly fail?
If you follow football closely, then you may have noticed a new trend defensively that is making the game a little bit safer. What many call “Hawk tackling” because of the Seattle Seahawks’ use of it, the method of tackling aims to take the head out of the process. The style actually takes its’ roots from rugby where as you know, there isn’t any equipment used by the players.
There are still big hits and great tackles, but the form is much safer in terms of potential head injury. Will it make such a difference that the game is ultimately without problems? Of course not, but at the very least all levels of football are addressing the concerns of safety whether traditionalists like it or not.
Football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as we can tell from the attendance at Spring Games, but it still has plenty of issues to address.