Concussions in the NFL and Short-Sighted Thinking
Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized

Concussions in the NFL and Short-Sighted Thinking

For the first time on TickTocking, I’d like to talk about sports for a minute.  American readers will know that over the last 10 days, the NFL has gone on a crusade about illegal hits to the head.  In fact, there has been more and more controversy surrounding concussions in football for a couple years now, including this great piece by Malcolm Gladwell that caused quite a stir.
The question is, why are these hits so much more vicious now?  The first argument is that players are stronger and faster than ever before.  This is obviously true, but I don’t think it gets to the root cause.  Others argue that it is the culture created by highlight shows and youtube – big hits get more airplay.  Also true, but missing the bigger point.  Really I’m a bit surprised that I have not seen a more thorough analysis of the clear driving force: MONEY.

Players now are getting astronomical salaries.  Before the mid-80’s, only the very best players would make enough money to be able to retire after football – and even then it was not a high flying lifestyle.  Now players can sign single contracts that will make them and their families set for generations.  Anyone with a basic foundation of economics can recognize how that skews incentives.  Why are the players stronger and faster?  Because they will dedicate every second of their time and every bit of their health to exacting the fullest potential from their bodies.  The defensive player is willing to launch himself and risk injury, and the offensive player is going to try to get back in the game asap even with a concussion because it’s worth it for that sort of money.  Before the money was so big, players had to have concern for their longterm health.  Now, sacrificing health in the short run can be a smart decision.

Why am I bringing this up here?  I think you can see this to an extent in the watch industry as well.  We have just gone through an era of spectacular price increases and quantity increases at the same time.  Some people were making money hand over fist.  Any time the money gets that great, you risk incentivizing short-sighted thinking – companies not trying to build a brand, build trust, create great products, just trying to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can.

The NFL has a tough problem.  How do you stop people from taking risks with their own bodies?  Luckily in the watch industry, we can fix our own problem – make sure consumers are well informed and hopefully they will choose to support the many wonderful companies making truly amazing things.