Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman has a trio of Super Bowl rings, a bust in the Hall of Fame, and a spot next to Joe Buck every Sunday during football season.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
But Aikman thinks that the popularity of the sport that made him rich and famous could be on the verge of a decline.
“I believe, and this is my opinion, that at some point football is not going to be the No. 1 sport,” Aikman said recently at an event in L.A., per the Los Angeles Times (via Yahoo! Sports). “You talk about the ebbs and flows of what’s popular and what’s not. At some point, the TV ratings are not going to be there.”
Aikman then acknowledged that current trends don’t point to that outcome. “I can’t justify that because the numbers say otherwise, but I guess time will tell,” Aikman said.
The concern comes from the potential impact of concussions on the supply of future football players, and from the possibly excessive presence of NFL games on TV.
“At one time, watching football was an event,” Aikman said. “Monday Night Football was a big event. Now you get football Sunday, you get it Monday, you get it Thursday and, late in the year, you get it on Saturday.
“People in Los Angeles realized, ‘You know what, life’s OK without the NFL.’ If I’m an owner, I don’t want any fan thinking that.”
Of course, people in L.A. realized that 15 years ago. In the ensuing decade-and-a-half, the NFL has continuously grown to even greater heights of popularity.
Besides, not having a team in town is far different from not having access to football on TV. While there may be challenges to getting folks to choose to attend games in sufficient numbers and, at some point, a decline in the number of young people who play, there is no shortage on the horizon of folks who will watch.
Aikman’s remarks came less than two weeks after more than 166 million tuned in for the Super Bowl. So while it’s fair to say that, at some future point in human history, the NFL will be eclipsed by hovercraft racing or light-saber fencing or full-contact frolf, that day doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon, especially since the NFL seems to be committed to making the changes necessary to adjust and adapt and continue to grow.