NFL Blitz is a beloved football video game released for the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. It portrayed National Football League (NFL) games being played in what must be some sort of universe parallel to our own. The players were real, but they looked massive compared to the actual players. The game looked similar, but the rules to the game were slightly different. These hulking monsters had no problem throwing each other around the field and piling on top of players lying on the ground after plays. Sometimes when a play was over and the brutality continued the announcer would yell, “That was totally uncalled for, but it was a ton of fun to watch!” This seems to be the main appeal to NFL Blitz. There are many similarities between our world and the world of NFL Blitz, but the main difference seems to be that there are no consequences for unleashing your testosterone and steroid fueled rage. So what kind of legal system exists in this universe that lets them do this?
First, I should explain the kind of game played in NFL Blitz. It is football, but late hits, and pass interference are allowed, and apparently those two things can be done in whatever fashion the football player chooses. Sometimes the announcer will yell, “Is that legal?” but it most definitely is because there has never been a penalty called in a game of NFL Blitz. Sometimes the announcer says, “That was an illegal hit!” “What the hell is wrong with that guy?” or “Unsportsmanlike conduct!” It’s like he has never actually watched a game played in this league before. Both teams do it every time. It is a massacre. Sometimes the announcer even yells, “He’s going postal!” which means in that universe there was a string of unhappy workers in post offices in the late eighties and early nineties just like in our universe, but I guess their football just morphed into a grotesque fun-house mirror of our football because, and this is only a guess, in the NFL Blitz universe it never actually got better in the workplace.
Moving on to actual legal speculations, there are two different ways a player could face liability for harming another player, with criminal charges or civil charges. It is possible in real life for an athlete to be prosecuted for criminal actions engaged in while playing a sport. In 2004 Todd Bertuzzi grabbed Steve Moore from behind and punched him in the head in the third period of a hockey game. He was charged with assault in British Columbia a little while later. He was also suspended by the league for a while. If he had been imprisoned for his actions then he obviously would have missed more games. No player has missed a game in NFL Blitz. It is possible for you to play a whole season of NFL Blitz football and there won’t be a single game missed by any player. This means that no player is ever arrested for their actions on the field. There are two theories as to why this could happen. One is that there is no such things as battery in the NFL Blitz universe. So no player is actually committing a crime. People are just allowed to go around beating each other up because no one really cares. The other theory is that society is willing to let the sports police themselves. Battery is a thing for day to day people, but the NFL is allowed to decide whether battery happens on the field, and the criminal justice system won’t step in. I have to believe that this is not some nightmare world where you risk bodily harm every time you leave the house, so I’ll have to assume that people are just ok with their athletes getting brutalized instead of believing that battery is not a crime in the NFL Blitz universe.
So can athletes be held liable in civil court instead? I don’t think that will happen either. It is reasonable to believe that players know what they are getting into when they join the league. They can’t be as clueless as the announcer is about how football is played in this universe. That fact is going to work against them if they sued another player for that player’s actions during a game. If Jim Harbaugh sued LeRoy Butler for multiple late hits and a suplex and some sort of power bomb, if Harbaugh sued for being injured in some way he would probably run into trouble because he assumed the risk when he joined the league. This is obviously a fact intensive investigation. It could be different depending on the player. It does seem pretty hard to believe that someone watches football in the NFL Blitz universe and does not see what could happen to them if they played as well. This scenario could also change if the player inflicting the injury acted with malice or intent to injure. If that were the case then the injured player has not assumed the risk. They are being intentionally harmed. There is also the problem of whether there was an actual injury. I talked previously about how no player misses any time in NFL Blitz. They play game after game, make tackle after tackle, and never show any wear and tear. These Übermensch are seemingly invincible. If that is true then there is no injury to sue over.
As we have seen from the recent concussion litigation against the real NFL, there is a possibility for the league to be liable as well. Our NFL was sued because the plaintiff stated that the NFL knew or should have known that football could cause brain damage and did not warn the players or try to make the game safer. It is reasonable to believe that the NFL in Blitz universe sees what is happening on the field and knows or should know that what is happening is life threatening, unless, as stated earlier, these guys don’t actually get hurt.
That is what all of this really comes down to. If players are getting injured a lot in NFL Blitz then players could be liable when they go above and beyond what is legal in the game, and the league could be liable for profiting off of a very violent game and not doing anything to mitigate the damages done. But since no one ever misses any game time, it seems that no one actually gets hurt. There is maybe some intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress. These players very well could have some sort of post traumatic stress disorder every time they lie down, imagining that a hulking beast will come out of nowhere and jump on top of them, but these players do not seem to have any physical damage done to them. What we can all take away is that we probably don’t want to live in a world where NFL Blitz is real. Though it is a really satisfying game to play.