Concussion should garner significant attention for its message, and Will Smith delivers a performance that, in my opinion, qualifies for an Academy Award nomination. Smith plays the role of Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. As noted in these soundbites the movie is about much more than football, and Dr. Omalu has a well-earned chip on his shoulder owing to his determination and persistence.
The story centers around the cumulative damage of head trauma in football due to serial concussions. The NFL tried to distance itself from the fact that its retired players were committing suicide from the brain deterioration that Dr. Omalu dubbed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
There is little doubt that pro football is big business, and that Omalu’s findings represent an inconvenient truth with very high stakes. The NFL decided to take a pass on helping to fund a major study on the matter, sustaining at least a black eye on public relations. But what the NFL didn’t do in response the NY Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. launching himself like a torpedo at Carolina’s Josh Norman’s helmet made a mockery of what NFL Commissioner Goodell has had to say on the subject. Watch Beckham’s vicious helmet-to-helmet attack at the 1:20 mark of the video:
It doesn’t matter than Beckham was provoked by Norman. What matters is that if the NFL is serious about cutting down on CTE, it must clearly ban blatant assaults on the brain as executed by Beckham. So did the punishment fit the crime? Beckham was not ejected from the game, which he clearly should have been. Then his “punishment” was a one game suspension, and he had the (foot) balls to appeal! As to not make a mockery of the situation, but preserving the farce, the NFL “upheld” the one game suspension.
I can’t watch boxing because head trauma/CTE isn’t an unintended byproduct of the “sport”. It is its essence. I still enjoy watching football, but I’m not sure for how much longer (and I’m not just saying that because my hometown Eagles played themselves out of a playoff berth tonight). I say that because the NFL is being so disingenuous about something that has now become a life and death matter. Parents have to understand the risks associated with the game, as do players. But as the movie Concussion notes, we’re really at a stage that parallels where the tobacco industry was when credible reports of cigarette smoke damage were first circulating. Hopefully the brilliance of this movie will put pressure on the NFL to act appropriately.