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[Podcast]

The Wood Chipper

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The inner workings of the N.F.L. Scouting Combine and the uncertain future of the game

September is here, bringing with it a new school year, the first day of fall, and the start of football season in America. After weeks of preseason games and predictions, the thirty-two teams of the N.F.L. begin five months of competition culminating in the Super Bowl, the televised broadcast of which drew an estimated 98.2 million viewers in 2019. Winning a Super Bowl is a dream for N.F.L. hopefuls across the nation. But, for individual athletes, what does it take to get there? In the September issue of Harper’s Magazine, Rich Cohen takes readers back to before preseason and the draft to the N.F.L. Scouting Combine. Cohen discusses the combine’s history, its current procedures, its blind spots, and what the results mean for N.F.L. teams and their players.

In this episode, Cohen, the author of Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football and a contributor to Rules of the Game, speaks with Harper’s web editor Violet Lucca about the combine and subsequent draft, about football’s inherent violence, and about seeing the game as a scale model of the best—and worst—of American capitalism and the country’s identity as a whole. 

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