The movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith is out. I am not a movie fan by anyone’s definition; I will surely not go to a movie theater to see this one. The film seems to have caused more of a stir prior to its release than it has since it has been “out there”. I do not have any intention of discussing the merits of the movie itself or the folks who made the movie but I do want to make a few general comments on the central topic of the movie and about documentaries in general.
The movie focuses on the doctor whose research dealing with NFL players’ brains discovered the condition known as CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – was prevalent among NFL players. CTE is a degenerative and progressive condition that is correlated to – and probably caused by – concussions and/or repeated violent but non-concussive blows to the head.
This move would be “course material” for a medical school without the dramatic addendum that the NFL purportedly tried to silence and/or intimidate the doctor. That takes the subject matter out of the realm of bland “textbook-material” and puts it squarely in the domain of attractive “screenplay-material”.
I find it inconceivable that the NFL, anyone who played football in the NFL or any fan of the NFL did not realize prior to this doctor’s discovery that the banging of heads in NFL games would be detrimental to the condition of the brains contained within those banged heads. CTE was known before the time when the doctor who is the subject of Concussion tied CTE to playing football particularly at the NFL level. In the past, people did not know this by its scientific name, but the results of CTE were rather commonly known. Boxers were known to be ‘punch-drunk”; this was a phrase in common usage back when I was a kid. This is not something new or recently discovered.
I am not shocked by any assertion that – or any evidence to show that – the NFL did not receive the news of this doctor’s research well since it led to a demonstration that CTE was prevalent among retired NFL players. Large organizations – private sector or public sector ones – react to threatening news in a predictable way; they go into survival mode. Said survival mode usually takes the form of:
Make counter-claims/accusations against the adversary.
I do not need to go to the movies to have that sort of behavior “revealed to me” as if I ought to be surprised by its existence…
I have a particular skepticism about movies that are dramatizations of real events or ones that purport to be documentaries. “Real events” put truthfully onto film – or into a digital format these days – would be really low-grade entertainment. I always wonder how much “reality” got lost in the “spicing up” of those real events. Even worse to me are the movies that claim to be documentaries. The dictionary says that a documentary movie provides a factual record or report. My limited experience with such movies is that they are far more likely to be advocacy pieces than the presentation of all the facts. If a particular one is an advocacy piece disguised as a documentary, I can probably learn as much by reading a few public statements by the maker of the “documentary” as I will learn by paying $12.50 and sitting in a theater with a bunch of people I do not care to be with and watching the movie. Let me give you a real example and a “made-up example”:
The Real One: The documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, starred Al Gore giving his lecture(s) on global warming/climate change and was made by the same person who made then-candidate Barrack Obama’s biographical film that “introduced” Obama at the Democratic National convention in 2008. I know what Al Gore has to say about global warming; I have read his books. Given the other works of this director, I seriously doubt that I will go to the theater and see any attempt to refute or challenge any of Gore’s assertions.
A “Made-Up” One: If a movie hit the theaters next week billed as a documentary exposé of the evils and abuses of the “abortion industry” and Planned Parenthood in specific, I would be monumentally uninterested in seeing it. That monumental lack of interest would be magnified even more if I were to learn that it was produced and directed by Jerry Falwell. [Yes; I know that Rev. Falwell is dead. I specifically picked him for this fictional example to avoid anyone thinking that all of this is aimed at criticizing some living individual. Just follow me a little further here, please.] I do not need to go to a movie theater to find out how Rev. Falwell feels about abortion or what he thinks might be a proper role for Planned Parenthood in US society. If he were the producer/director, I think I know the bottom line(s) before I pay my $12.50 and belly-up to the popcorn stand.
Concussion may be entertaining for some folks; it is absolutely not my genre of choice. What I hope is that not too many folks leave the theater after watching it with the thought that many if any of the revelations in the story should be unexpected. I also hope that only the dimmest of bulbs exiting the theater were shocked to learn that playing professional football, concussions, and brain damage go hand-in-hand.
I mention this today because of a report this morning in the Washington Post saying that the doctor in question here – a man born in Nigeria – now thinks that racism may have been part of the reason that his findings were ignored and challenged. I do not know that to be the case; it would not shock me to learn that this assertion is correct; it would also not shock me to learn that this assertion is overblown. Here is something I can say with certainty:
Not a single syllable of any word above has even a smidgen of racial overtone to it.
Switching gears, there were reports yesterday that the Buffalo Bills’ Head Coach, Rex Ryan, hired his twin brother, Rob Ryan, to be one of the defensive coaches for the Bills. Some people chose to become indignant about this hiring and called it nepotism. These folks might well be surprised to learn that Paris is in France if they think nepotism is rare in the NFL.
News Flash: It happens all the time.
Frankly, I think there is a much more important aspect to this hiring that the suits at NFL Headquarters need to focus on:
The Buffalo Bills must be the team featured on Hard Knocks next summer. Imagine the entertainment value with the Ryan twins together for an entire training camp and think about the bump the whole thing could get from a visit by Buddy Ryan to see how his progeny are implementing his “46-defense”. I tell you; this could be comedy gold…
Finally, here is Greg Cote’s reaction in the Miami Herald to the Dolphins’ hiring of Adam Gaze as their new Head Coach:
“Adam Gase, suddenly league’s youngest head coach at 37, makes it five Dolphins hires in a row (eight including interims) who have never before been an NFL head coach. Miami’s head-coach job posting: ‘EXPERIENCE
REQUIRED PREFERREDTOTALLY UNNECESSARY.’ “
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………