For years, the NFL has tried like hell to keep player head trauma on the back burner. They've spent several decades treating the brain disease that results from repeated blows to the head like some sort of boogeyman, until eventually they were confronted with science, not to mention a growing death toll from suicide, ALS, and other tragic outcomes stemming from concussions. Indeed, the league has begrudgingly had to admit in recent years that brain disease and CTE (short for "chronic traumatic encephalopathy") are both real.
Reminders abound on a seemingly weekly basis, from the controversy surrounding the late Junior Seau's Hall of Fame induction ceremony (in which they wouldn't let his daughter speak) to the ongoing litigation in which hundreds of former players are suing the league for damages resulting from the after effects of repeated concussions.
Where is this all going? Are we possibly heading to a time and place where football's violence (the unspoken draw for the masses) is seriously curtailed or, God forbid, the game is eliminated altogether?
I'd say it's highly unlikely that we are ever living in a world without football, but who the hell knows? As more generations of players get older and we learn more about CTE and its effects, perhaps enough people swear off playing (or letting their kids play) to where the sport struggles to survive. We just don't know.
So we continue to learn more going forward, but perhaps more disturbingly, we learn more about how the league has handled head trauma with its players in the years that have gone by, and if a new movie coming out later this year is any indicator, the dark underbelly of concussions in the NFL appears to be pretty damn sordid.
Concussion is set to be released this coming Christmas, and it stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who is credited with singlehandedly discovering CTE in the brains of deceased NFL players like Mike Webster and Andre Waters. The movie paints the tale of a whistleblower attempting to take on a business entity that is part team sport, part corporate America, and part evil Empire.
Here is the trailer for the movie….
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This looks fairly compelling and almost a little outrageous, until you remember that it's a true story. I will be anxious to see what liberties get taken with the story, as with any "true story" there always seem to be a few truth stretchers here and there. (Luke Wilson playing Roger Goodell is a pretty good start.)
Much the same way that the league strong armed ESPN into pulling out of the "League of Denial" documentary it was working on with PBS, I'm sure the NFL will do everything in its power to denounce whatever this film reveals. If the trailer is any indication, it reveals a side of the NFL that is more like an episode of The Sopranos than an edition of Sunday Night Football.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.