The Day After Football: What would happen if football vanished?
What if football vanished? What if, for whatever reason, today was the last day of football? What would happen?
The sport of football seems vulnerable.
From the spectre of the long-tern consequences of concussions, to threats of boycotts because of player protests to simply declining interest. It's not impossible for football to just kind of fade away. It has happened before to boxing and horse racing.
It was hard to imagine for football fans one Friday night in Kenosha.
"I'd go crazy. I don't know what I would do. It'd be hard." said Derrick Seay of Racine.
"If you don't have that…" thought Corbin Howell of Racine. "Nights like this, Friday night, then you have Saturday college and Sunday NFL and Monday NFL and Thursday NFL…that's a pretty big hole to fill."
How would we fill that hole? Not only the three hours on a Sunday but also the hole in the economy, the hole in our culture and in our social calendars.
NFL teams are a major part of a city's identity but not so much its economy.
"The scholarly research on this is pretty conclusive that adding or subtracting an NFL team from a city really doesn't have that large of an impact on the local economy." said Nolan Kopkin, an assistant professor in UW-Milwaukee's africology department with a background in sports economics.
That research is based, long-term, on Los Angeles losing the Rams and Raiders and more recently on St. Louis and San Diego losing the Rams and Chargers.
Kopkin concedes that it would hurt a place like Green Bay a lot more to lose what the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates is $14 million per game or $300 million annually counting the regular season, training camp, the preseason, playoffs and anything else that might bring someone to Lambeau.
"There's no question that the impact on very small cities like Green Bay, there's going to be much larger consequences on the local economy." Kopkin said.
But overall, Kopkin says the research shows The Day After Football wouldn't change much economically.
It's a different story culturally.
"Insane asylum. Lock me up." said Derrick Seay, the football fan in Kenosha. "Football season comes around and it's everything to look forward to."
Football, at all levels, may seem like the king of sports right now but interest and participation in the younger generations are way down.
"If you look at core participation of 6-12 year olds, the percentage of people who are playing football is down almost 30%." said Kopkin.
Those same studies are also an indicator of what might take football's place.
"You see pretty large growth in rugby and lacrosse and also ice hockey. Avenues that I didn't really expect." Kopkin said.
But the biggest growth of all is eSports, or video games. And especially watching people play video games.
"About 22% of millennial age males actually watch eSports now." Kopkin said. "I mean it really is a very growing industry and eSporting events have actually filled up some of the largest arenas in this country."
Decades ago, there was big time college football in Milwaukee. UW-Milwaukee dropped football in 1974. Marquette dissolved its team in 1960. It used to play at Quad Park at 38th and St. Paul.
"It certainly had its successes." said Marquette associate AD, Paul McInerny. "The 1936 team went to the Cotton Bowl. There were only 2 bowls at the time. The Cotton bowl and the Rose Bowl. They were considered one of the top 4 teams in the country."
But an ill-conceived move from Quad Park to County Stadium decimated attendance and the Medical College was losing a lot of money. Marquette had to do something.
"So, the decision was made December 9th, 1960 after the last season that it was going to be shut down at that point. It was a sudden announcement. I don't think many people were prepared for it." McInerny said.
McInerny says there was a lot of disappointment at first. Some students protested but by the time second semester started that same school year, everyone was pretty much over it.
"There were people still upset but the students were accepting of it." said McInerny.
Could we, in 2017, accept a world without football? Sure.
"Maybe take a few more vacations." said Phil Cleveland of Kenosha when asked what he would do if football vanished. "Maybe go for a ride in the fall and see the pretty colors up North. Maybe just spend time with family."
Here are some of the studies and articles UW-Milwaukee's Nolan Kopkin references in this story:
Youth Sports Participation:
State of Pro Sports:
Gambling and Fantasy Football: