Whether you’re a football fan or not, everyone should see the movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith and Alec Baldwin. It is a gripping story, one that is unfolding every day in on real-life football fields. Concussion is about an epidemic that’s taking the lives of a growing number of football players, and the National Football League’s (NFL) denial of this epidemic is at the heart of the story.
Football is the most popular American sport, a national institution, loved and played by millions. It can be a brutal game, but like boxing, fans can look beyond the blood and see beauty. Like the grace of Ali’s “butterfly” floating in the ring, we can see the gentle arc of Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” flying into history. That is the game we know, and the players and teams we grew to love.
However, there is another side to the game – the NFL is a beastly money-making machine. It’s a $10 billion dollar industry and it’s built to make a killing – at the bank and on the field. Against this monster of a business, the hard facts of science have come calling. In “Concussion,” Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist investigates the concussions suffered by the NFL players who have given their bodies and brains to the game.
The movie starts with the story of Mike Webster, NFL center, Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer, whose brain was so damaged that he was living in a truck, super-gluing his teeth together and tazing himself to kill the pain in his head. He was found dead in that truck at age fifty. His brain was first studied by Dr. Omalu, played by Will Smith. Through studying Mike and other NFL players’ brains, Dr. Omalu discovered the disease now called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repetitive brain trauma from hits to the head. Symptoms may not appear for years or decades but they include depression, aggression, memory loss and dementia. The disease has led a growing number of players to suicide.
The movie describes how the NFL tried to cover up this reality. But as more players killed themselves, the NFL has been forced to address what has become the “concussion crisis.” The facts presented in “Concussion” are damning. But in reality, leaked emails have revealed that the NFL forced the production company Sony to edit the film so that the NFL as a whole wouldn’t appear so complicit. So the real story is even worse!
All players and society need to know the truth – that players lives are being sacrificed for money by the billionaire bosses at the NFL.