I have no idea Will Smith was starring in a movie about concussions in the NFL imaginatively entitled Concussion. Then I saw the trailer below pop up and was instantly intrigued. He plays a doctor who “discovers” the effects of concussions in football and crusades to expose the truth but meets resistance from a shadowy cabal of powerful money people. Watergate meets Wikileaks meets the most popular sport in America.
It’s a boring subject that I think a lot of people care about in that they’d rather people not die or be harmed from playing a sport but which they also shrug at. Hey, these guys make millions and who doesn’t know getting hit in the head a lot is bad for you?
And there’s a degree of truth to that. “Punch drunk” has been a term to describe aged boxers for decades, so it’s not as if “brain=important” is news. But the emerging researching into Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is giving us all a better picture of just how severe and how much damage is being done. All for a game.
And then there are the suicides, the erratic behavior, the abuse, depression, and so on. All due to concussions? I doubt it. Little in life is binary (outside of the computer you’re using). Some guys can’t handle not being worshipped 24/7 for the first time since they were probably 12. Some guys probably had issues in the first place: high level athletes aren’t just physically abnormal but often times the insane mental drive is beyond that of most of us too. Add in PEDs, pain killers, recreational drugs, and alcohol abuse and it’s all a recipe for bad things.
But concussions are real. They are shortening lives. They may not be preventable – if you want to play/watch a sport where people hit each other you have to simply expect a certain level of damage to the participants. But if they aren’t preventable, perhaps treatable, or reduce-able (not a word). Forget for athletes – maybe we don’t care because they do have millions of dollars and live fantasy lives – but for regular people. The research into CTE may help cure Alzheimers, or help treat firemen, cops, or soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress. Who knows. But learning how to fix the brain certainly seems like a good thing.
So Concussion is coming out and it appears the film makers found the sexy angle to make people somewhat interested in what is usually dense medical literature: whistleblower, scandal, PEDs, coverups, etc… It’s the spoonful of sugar to help us take our medicine.
And, hey, Will Smith in something interesting! I haven’t had that thought in years.
So now there is news coming out, mostly because of those Sony EMail leaks, that Sony altered the film to not anger the NFL. Sony has no financial dealings with the NFL. Some of this is probably standard and being blown out of proportion. A lawyer looked at the final product and said, “That’s simply too close to libel and we could get sued” and no one likes getting sued. But some of it could be due to the power of the NFL.
What’s sad is that there’s nothing to suggest that the NFL even contacted Sony. The NFL is so big, makes so many people money, that people act to not anger it preemptively. That’s power.
And maybe it’ll still all be worth watching. Maybe nothing changed mattered and the message still gets out. The NFL doesn’t necessarily have to be the bogeyman for the story to work. But if the NFL is the bad guy then we should know it is the bad guy.
If only the NFL would try to do something about Grown Ups 3. No one wants that one.