So much of the discussion around the NFL this week has been about toughness. The Martin-Incognito story gets more bizarre by the day, but hinges around the fact that the culture of the NFL values toughness, both mental and physical, in a way that is drastically different than what most of us experience.
That culture is at the heart of many of the problems in the NFL. Concussions leading to dramatic later problems—exemplified now by a star player in Tony Dorsett and backed with scientific evidence—were exacerbated by a culture that said "you had your bell rung, get back in there" and rewarded those who did.
If you think Tony Dorsett is scary, wait until we have the first active player who shows signs of Tau protein. It's going to happen before you know it.
Malcolm Gladwell compared the modern NFL to human dogfighting, where those that watched would need to come to terms with the idea that they were watching injuries and death. If the inhumanity and cultural dissociation continues behind the scenes, it will make it tougher for the fans to justify it.
The NFL is hardly alone. I watched an HBO fight last week where the loser was left disfigured just after the fight and is now in a coma after suffering a stroke. I long ago came to terms with watching boxing and MMA, largely due to my family's long term associations with the sport. However, boxing is a niche sport now as many elected to walk away from a sport with these kind of physical issues on top of judging and organizational corruption.
If the NFL isn't careful, it may not shrink that much, but right now, Roger Goodell is a cash machine. No one likes a cash machine that says all out. For now, let's look around the League...