It's not often a 24-year-old retires from anything, much less professional football, which is what makes Chris Borland's announcement such a jolt. But his honesty to leave the game because of the irreversible long-term health impact it carries was refreshing.
Despite the NFL's efforts, players know more about what the game does to their bodies, their brains specifically. The science is indisputable, and it's backed up by incidents like Junior Seau's death and stories of Mike Webster's son having to taser his father so that he can go to sleep. Borland won't be the last player to choose his health over a career in the NFL.
Lots of parents will make a similar decision, I suspect, when it comes to letting their kids play football. You've already seen some high profile NFL players from the past and present tell the media that they would not let their sons play the game, from Troy Aikman to Adrian Peterson.
Adrian Fucking Peterson, a guy who thinks beating a child with a stick is reasonable punishment for horsing around on a motorcycle won't let his son play football.
That's the most telling thing about the future of the sport. Chris Borland's retirement isn't some kind of tipping point. It's a reflection of changing attitudes about the sport, a cultural shift where players opt out and parents at every level keep their children off the field completely.
Football, the NFL specifically, won't always be the most watched show on television every week. Tastes change over time. The high physical cost of playing the game will most likely help drive that, along with rising popularity of other sports, technological disruption of how we experience live television, etc. It's a drip, drip, drip, toward football as a niche sport instead of the only thing on TV each Sunday.
More on Borland:
Players were as shocked by the decision as the rest of us, maybe more so.
The decision caught 49ers GM Trent Baalke off guard too.
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