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January 12, 2016

In reality, the movie 'Concussion' shows just how little we all care about head injuries

Although a whole lot of people pretend to be horrified by the National Football League’s attitude toward players who have suffered concussions, the reality of the situation is that most people really don’t care that much about the situation. There really isn’t much outrage on the part of the general public and there is virtually zero outrage on the part of hardcore fans of football.

If you doubt that, take a look at the box office numbers for the recently released movie “Concussion.”

With all the talk about mothers in America being afraid to let their kids play football because of the lurking dangers of head injuries, there was a great expectation that “Concussion” would be a major headache for the NFL. Instead, the movie finished 10th at the box office after this past weekend, stuck behind such blockbusters as The Forest, Sisters, The Hateful Eight, The Big Short, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Road Chip, and Joy.

Meanwhile, the NFL churned through its first weekend of the playoffs with its usual monster numbers – and the usual array of helmet-to-helmet hits, and a game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh that was worthy of a rock fight.


Take a look around ... "Concussion" is a box office bust, and there is little – if any conversation about the horrors of what the NFL has done to cover up the situation and its failure to make the workplace safe for its employees.

Didn’t look like it from the amount of people watching from their living rooms from coast to coast. This despite the holiday launching of what was supposed to be a movie that would make the public outraged at the NFL’s hiding and handling of the concussion issue.

You can not get much more basic than a movie with the simple title of “Concussion,” a star like Will Smith and the all-American story of a big corporation like the NFL being taken to task by a small-time medical expert. You would think the public would eat up such a concept, and it would cause a huge stir of conversations about the impact of head injuries and what the NFL needs to do to protect its players.

Take a look around ... "Concussion" is a box office bust, and there is little – if any conversation about the horrors of what the NFL has done to cover up the situation and its failure to make the workplace safe for its employees. Rather, there is a whole lot of anticipation about this weekend’s playoff matchups and whether or not Tom Brady and the Patriots will do a whole lot more to tarnish the reputation of NFL commish Roger Goodell than Will Smith’s movie.

Most fans are far more concerned with the Patriots history with Deflategate and the way the league bungled that matter, or, deservedly so, the awful situation with players who engage in spousal or child abuse.


There is no intent here to sound dismissive or callous about the situation, but for many people, there is an understanding that there is an implied danger when playing any contact sport. The fact that the NFL and leagues like the NHL have been slow to recognize the long-term effects is disturbing, but it hardly matters to people who watch the games and, frankly, enjoy the violent nature of those games.

If you went into a theater with the belief that the NFL was the bogeyman here, you likely came out with the same opinion. However, if you went in with the opinion that football is football, and you should know the risks going in, you were also likely to come out with the same opinion.

And – here is the key – if you hardly paid any attention at all – which appears to be the case with most fans – you are likely in the camp that just doesn’t think it’s an issue that should consume much thought.

With all the missteps of the NFL and Goodell over the past few years, it is difficult to paint them in a safe corner on any issue, but, in this case, it is very difficult to see the league as the devil.

It’s not just the NFL, or the NHL or any one of so many other leagues that have been late to the discovery of head injuries as major problems. In general terms, people who got a concussion from anything from a fall to a minor auto accident were treated with far less urgency in the not-so-distant past.

Part of the devil here is that inherent nature of athletes to want to play through injuries, some just to win, and others at the professional level to make sure they will get another payday. The other devil is any players association or union that doesn’t push as hard as it can on all safety issues.

It is almost criminal that all players associations have not already taken a stance against playing on artificial surfaces that can lead to more severe injury. But safety issues never seem as important as maximizing contracts – and in that matter, the unions are no less to blame than the NFL or other pro leagues

The real outrage is still to come, and the NFL is going to find itself on the other side of this concussion issue when a player takes a hard hit to the head, is taken out of the game despite his protests and his team goes on the lose the game. In last year’s Super Bowl, New England’s Julian Edelman was knocked silly on a play, remained in the game, and scored a key touchdown to allow the Patriots to come back and win the game.

With the new rules in place, Edelman almost certainly would have been removed from the game.

So, forget the movies, the real situation is likely to happen right in front of you over the next few weekends as the NFL heads toward the Super Bowl.