ATLANTA (Tribune News Service) — The architects of the Super Bowl could not have scripted a better first 50 years.
The NFL has seen the game grow into the cultural, entertainment and football event of the year.
However, the essence of the event, the football game, may be in danger as some do not believe that there will be another 50 years of fanfare and prosperity in the face of growing health concerns.
The movie “Concussion” raised concerns and led to notions that the game may not make it, in its present form.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn hopes he’s around to see Super Bowl C, which is the roman numeral for 100.
“At that time, I’ll be 95,” Quinn said. “So, I’ll be jacked if I’m watching it. I’m planning on it. That would be No. 1, a cool thing.”
Quinn hopes that he would be able to recognize the game if it survives.
“I hope that it still embodies so much of the game that I love,” Quinn said. “The physical nature and the competition of it.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon is not so sure that the game will make it to the century mark.
“I just hope that football is still here,” Moon said. “Who knows, in 50 years we might be living in space. There might not be football anymore.”
Let’s stay with the space theme for a second.
Former Cincinnati running back Elbert “Ickey” Woods believes the game will have an intergalactic twinge to it. Maybe, the uniforms will resemble something like the storm troopers from Star Wars?
“They’ll probably have space suits on (laughs),” Wood said. “The game is evolving. They are making it a lot safer so that guys can play a lot longer. Hopefully, football will still be going on 50 years from now. It will be nice to see. Hopefully, I’m around to witness it. It would be a great thing to witness and see the Super Bowl at 100.”
While there was another medical revelation Thursday when CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the family of Fred McNeil and Dr. Bennett Omalu discussed how McNeil may be the first NFL player diagnosed with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) both before and after his death.
He played linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings from 1974-85 and died at the age of 63 on Nov. 3.
A new technology showed radioactive “tracer” or anger red splotches all over his brain.
Omalu is the doctor who is credited with discovering CTE and upon whom the movie “Concussion” is based.
The league has made player safety a priority in recent years by drastically reducing contact in practices and implementing a concussion-protocol program that is overseen by independent doctors.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes the league will clear the long-term safety hurdles.
“No question, we are going to continue to get a much better grasp on the health concerns and the concussion side of it,” Dimitroff said. “I feel very confident about that.”
Technology is expected to continue to drive change in the game over the next 50 years.
“I think technology is going to play a huge part,” Dimitroff said. “Not only on the field and from a bio-mechanical standpoint, but from analytic standpoint and from an interactive standpoint.”
Dimitroff envisions the fans having more of a role and better access to the football decision-making.
“I think in my mind I can see one day going into the helmet and truly reading the minds and projecting that out to the fan base and having some sort idea of what that quarterback is thinking when he makes the decision he makes,” Dimitroff said.
Quinn also has some idea of how technology will drive Super Bowl C.
“Technology will be a factor for sure,” Quinn said. “We probably won’t need down markers or something. We can have technology or something that says, ‘It’s a first down!’ I hope that in the truest sense that competition is still at the forefront of it.”
Will there be drones or robots to serve as officials and extract the human element of error out of the game?
“I think anything is possible 50 years from now,” Quinn said. “If you look at 50 years ago to today and how the changes have happened for the game.”
Former Falcons linebacker Chris Draft hopes that the community aspect of the game is retained.
“It’s not just about the NFL,” said Draft, who played 12 years in the league, including five seasons with the Falcons (2000-04). “It’s not just about the Super Bowl. Football helps so many young kids that need direction. They need focus.
“They need a father figure. From the youth level, to high school to college and to being in the pros. Regardless of where this game is when the Super Bowl hits 100, this game has done so much and hopefully will continue to do some much for young men out there.”
Quinn also hopes the game continues to bind communities in the future.
“Our sport, is such a cool part of our country,” Quinn said. “I would hope that 50 years from now that it still has that kind of impact on our communities and on the people.”
The way the media covers the Super Bowl in 50 years also likely will change.
“Look at Radio Row and there is so much radio,” Draft said. “The hard part is where is technology taking us? Technology could make it to where possibly this room could be empty. People could have some kind of implants in their ear where they could do an interview from wherever they are standing or wherever they are at.
“Maybe, they won’t have to come to radio row.”
Change is a practical certainty.
“The biggest changes will be just with how the game is played,” Draft said. “What does it look like? How much padding? … 50 years is a long time. Hopefully the game is still being played and being played the same way.”
Dimitroff looks at Quinn and has another futuristic thought.
“Maybe the head coach, maybe he’ll have sensors or a bar code on the back of his head,” Dimitroff said. “They will be attached to a computer to help read his mind and relay that to the fan base.”
I.J. Weinstock wrote a book titled “Ultra Bowl.” He addresses futuristic football and in an op-ed article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette postulates that Super Bowl 100 will be played by robots.
“I’ve thought a lot about football,” Weinstock wrote. “And a strong argument can be made that concerns about football safety, combined with advances in technology, will profoundly change the game. If there’s a Super Bowl 100, it likely will be played by robots.
“Robot football would be a logical extension of many current trends in our tech-enabled world. Robots drive our cars, fly our planes, grow our food. What won’t they be (playing football) 50 years from now?”
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