Football fans are no doubt thrilled that the new season is under way. They'll be less thrilled to read Austin Murphy's doomsday scenario in Sports Illustrated, written from a not-too-distant future in which the NFL ceases to exist. A sample from the piece datelined with the year 2036: "Long believed to be invincible, that cash-minting colossus collapsed in the late 2020s under the weight of litigation, insurance woes and the dramatic decline in youths taking up the sport," he writes. "The cancellation of hundreds of high school programs—the result of exorbitant insurance after a succession of lawsuits—starved colleges of players. No longer nourished by its once reliable feeder system, the league’s days were numbered."
Farfetched? It may seem less so after Murphy returns to the year 2016 and interviews critics who think the league is destroying itself by not taking brain injuries seriously enough. In fact, he writes that the single biggest threat to the NFL may come from "concerned mothers." One surprising part of the story comes from his interviews with four sports economists who generally agree that predictions of economic catastrophe if the league goes down are overstated. As one puts it, "the NFL cartel is a self-contained, risk-free economic island ... disconnected from the cultural fabric and the economic grid." Click for the full story, in which rugby and something called the Virtual Football League try to fill the NFL void in Murphy's futuristic world. (Read more NFL stories.)