A panel of some of the nation’s top sports journalists say football is in trouble.
During a discussion about the biggest issues in sports during the Shirley Povich Symposium at the University of Maryland, longtime broadcaster Bob Costas said there are “cracks in the foundation” of football’s popularity because of its violent nature.
“The reality is this sport destroys people’s brains,” Costas said, referring to the risk of players suffering traumatic brain injuries.
Talk of football’s future highlighted the symposium, hosted annually by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The center is directed by George Solomon, former sports editor at The Post.
USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, “Pardon the Interruption” hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon and moderator Maury Povich joined Costas on stage at the Riggs Alumni Center.
The symposium honors sports columnist Shirley Povich‘s 75-year career at The Washington Post.
Sportswriters of Povich’s time used to “set their schedules by three sports,” Kornheiser said. “They set them by horse racing, by boxing and by baseball. Two of those are done. … Football’s headed there.”
Wilbon, also a former Post columnist, said the NFL also has a problem connecting with fans “beyond our shores.” He said that’s partly because the NFL allows less access to its players than other professional leagues, like the NBA.
“Football wants to distance itself and put a moat around itself, between itself and its fanbase,” Wilbon said. “It doesn’t want to talk to them. Well, Tom Brady’s available on Tuesdays to talk. Well, LeBron [James]’s available every damn day.
“He’s available every day on Instagram, on Twitter, whatever it is, it’s not filtered. And so are a number of NBA personalities.”
Earlier in the evening, panelists discussed how social media and other technology had dramatically changed covering sports since the first Povich Symposium, held in 2003.
Brennan, another former Post columnist, said the news cycle was 12 hours then. Now, it’s 10 minutes.
“Whatever happened in the middle of the night, there wasn’t a darn thing you could do about it,” she said.