Let me state up front that I am a football fan. I an not a fan of corruption, greed, and sociopathic behavior. The release of ‘Concussion” starring Will Smith as the doctor that discovered CTE in football players will give viewers an up-close look at both.
You can view the official trialer for the movie here.
Regular viewers of FRONTLINE will remember this story and the real Dr. Bennett Omalu in the hard hitting look at this issue from the October, 2013 episode “League of Denial.”
The National Football League, a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut, presides over America’s indisputable national pastime. But the NFL is under assault: thousands of former players have claimed the league tried to cover up how football inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players. What did the NFL know, and when did it know it? In a special two-hour investigation, FRONTLINE reveals the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries.
Putting this report and today’s movie in context with some excellent interviews with players and their parents is Katie Couric in her segment, Why The NFL Doeesn’t Want You To See “Concussioin,” that is on Yahoo right now. Warning they actually show brains being sliced apart.
In the new movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith, the NFL is put under a microscope. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who linked football to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
“We see this in individuals who have had repetitive head injuries, usually over a long period of time,” says Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE program at Boston University and chief of neuropathology for the VA Boston Healthcare System.
“Individuals with CTE usually experience cognitive problems — memory lapses or behavioral symptoms like depression and irritability,” she says.
The film highlights the case of NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and died of a heart attack at age 50. Upon examination of his brain, Omalu discovered he suffered from the degenerative brain condition.
Dave Zirin shares his perspective in Why the Movie “Concussion” Spells Trouble For The NFL – and Moral Angst For The Rest of Us.
The film is already provoking discussion beyond the sports jockosphere. Now, as a tie-in with the film, we have NFL veterans—boyhood heroes of mine—like former New York Giant Leonard Marshall talking to Yahoo Sports about his post-playing, concussed life and saying,“I just noticed that my behavior was starting to change. My patience, or lack of patience, was starting to diminish. I would forget things, forget financial responsibilities, take things for granted, have a short fuse with my daughter, a short fuse with my ex.”
As such, the film goes beyond the artistic success of its actors, script, and pacing to pose a moral question to critics and sports networks. It is about the pull of corporate pressure vs. the public’s right to know. Despite the efforts by the NFL and absurd sports-radio hosts trying to turn whether to play football into a “red state/blue state issue,” even rock-ribbed right-wing Republicans like Mike Ditka are saying that he wishes kids would “take up golf” instead. Science is real, and the media now have to weigh not only the quality of the film but their responsibility to not bury a film that could save lives. If it didn’t sound like a gross 1980s straight-to-Cinemax release, Concussion could be retitled Informed Consent.
We have the right to know the costs of imbibing this game. See this film, and learn who has stymied our access to this truth. You will learn something from seeing this film, but Concussion is a triumph precisely because it doesn’t beat you over the head. Instead, it goes right to your other nerve centers, as you reel from thrills to disgust to tears to anger. For many of us, some of that anger will be directed at ourselves.