Former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn says he thinks the NFL should be a “flag football league,” and he believes “the fans would still pay to see it.”
The 12-year NFL veteran made the comments in a recent interview with USA Today’s Sports’ Joe Schad.
In the interview, Horn talks about watching his sons play football at the high school and college levels. Horn believes that by the time his oldest son has a chance to play in the NFL, the league will look much different than it did when he played.
And that doesn’t bother him at all.
“It might be touch football by then. And you know what? That’s good,” Horn explained. “Because if the people pay millions of dollars – if they pay their hard-earned money to see superstar athletes play tag football, it is what it is. It’s more safe.
“The old guys, the ex-football players can say (the old NFL was better) because they’re retired. If you have children – if you’re retired and you have kids that love the game of football – you really don’t want them coming up and playing like we played.”
Though Horn applauds the league for recent efforts to make the game safer, the inherent danger of the game leads him to believe contact should be removed from the sport entirely.
“I think it should be flag football. I think the fans would still pay to see it,” Horn said. “It’s hard to make it safe now. It’s hard for a guy to go full speed at you and stop in the middle of him going full speed, duck his head and not hit you with the helmet that he has on.”
While it’s certainly understandable, from a parental standpoint, to want your kids to be safe when they play the game that they love, it’s probably not reasonable to expect that a no contact professional flag football league would be as financially lucrative as the NFL is now. Hard hits and physical play are an expectation that every fan has of a game that has been built on contact. Take that away, and a significant amount of interest, and money, would go away with it.
Not to mention the ripple effect such a move would have at the high school and college levels.
With few exceptions, money made from the football program is what funds virtually the entire athletic department. If the NFL were to go to flag football, colleges would soon follow suit, and the loss of money from that move would likely lead to entire athletic departments getting shut down. Women’s sports would probably disappear entirely since those programs, with few exceptions, either make very little money or operate at a loss.
Even now, athletic departments are struggling to fill their massive playing arenas. Can you imagine trying to fill an 80,000 seat stadium to watch flag football?
Football is getting safer and the jury is still out as far as what impact that’s going to have on the sports long-term popularity. However, making a contact sport safer, is a much better problem than ending the sport by trying to take contact out of the game entirely.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn