“Dark Story-NFL Black Eye”
It was somber, stunning, sad, contemptuous, disingenuous.
It was everything I thought it would be, since I knew the subject matter, and had already pre-formed opinions.
Those who sat in the movie theatre with me, came away shocked and disappointed, at the depths of the issue, and the things that were said against doctors, who discovered the disease..
Amongst those sitting there with me were a select group of former San Diego Chargers, you might recognize.
We were watching the highly acclaimed Will Smith movie “Concussion”, the movie a New York Times critics says ‘shoots a bullet right between the eyes of the NFL.
Dr. Bennett Omalu of Nigeria, won’t get a Nobel Peace Prize for saving lives, but maybe he should for his research on what was killing NFL players, “CTE”, that caused brain damage.
The footage of legendary Steelers center Mike Webster was most revealing as to the deterioration of the man called ‘Iron Mike’. There was actual footage of the fiery flame crash, when another Steelers lineman, tackle Just Strelczyk drove his SUV head on into a fuel tanker truck, driving on the wrong lanes of the New York Thruway. And then there was the death of a 3rd Steelers lineman Terry Long, who drank antifreeze.
All died from brain damage, from concussions, plagued by CTE.
That was followed by the suicides of Dave Duerson of the Bears, the Eagles Andre Waters, and the death of Junior Seau, all triggered by what Dr. Omalu discovered.
Paul Tagliabue, the former Commissioner, comes off in the movie as non-caring, distant, political . Roger Goodell, his replacement, comes off as a fraud, in expressing his concerns about concussions, while developing the negotiating tactic ‘delay-deny-hope you die’.
Team doctors appear complicit with the NFL office about keeping the story buried, and keeping the profits coming in. The revelations of the bogus committees set up by the commissioner and the empty white papers authored by team doctors, further serve as an unofficial indictment of the people on Park Avenue..
The NFL reached an out of court settlement for 965M to be paid to players who have Alzheimers, Dementia, ALS, those who died with CTE on the brain, and those who committed suicide. Not one penny has been paid yet,over the last two years, as the case remains tied up in appeals.
At issue, the health of current players, who may retire and develop cognitive issues, and die of CTE. The Philip Rivers of the world would not be covered under the lawsuit plan.
When the movie was over, a full theatre clapped, for what Omalu accomplished. Many exited feeling the NFL betrayed the players, who made the league good, and no amount of money can bring back the health of those afflicted, playing the game, so owners could profit. And most everyone asked if the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions, and did nothing about it.
I always believed the NFL settled out of court, because some team doctors from that era of the 80s and 90s, woke up one morning with conscience. And I believe there was a paper trail of memos that spelled cover-ups and triggered the settlement.
I sat around the ex-Chargers contingent, and wondered if they had ticking time bombs inside their bodies. That the retired guys who played for the Bolts, might wake up next month, next year, in the next decade, with all the complications that took the life of the Steelers players and others.
For Von Parker, Gary Plummer, Dennis McKnight and others in that theatre, it drove home the continuing question, when the NFL knew, what they knew, and why did they not do anything about it, till more than 2100 players filed a class action lawsuit.
Oh, NFL fans around the nation will watch all the games this coming weekend, because they like the excitement. But if this nation watches that movie, they might never feel the same way about the league, the commissioner, the owners ever again..
We had the book League of Denial, followed up by the PBS-documentary, and now this 2-hour movie, as intense and honest as it can be.
“Concussion”, the movie, might not kill the NFL, but the NFL takes a hit. But it’s not like the hits players of the past took, that killed them from mounting brain damage from the concussions they suffered.
You hope Junior Seau did not die in vain The movie goers believe the NFL was guilty however of his death. “Concussion tells the story, hitting the nail on the head, or shooting the bullet between the eyes of the NFL..”