I finally watched Concussion yesterday, and I must say it is a great sports movie. Some things are missing for Concussion to become one of the legendary sports movies, but if you haven't seen it yet, you must watch it now. Also, the issue that the film tries to deal is very delicate and sensitive to most people who are fans of the NFL. I will divide my article into two pieces - reviewing the movie and talking about the NFL brutality.
Slow Movie and Superb Acting
Concussion is based on a true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a genius who studied the damage that NFL players take during their careers. Omalu found out that during the collisions on the field, most players experience numerous concussions which might lead to severe brain damage and even insanity. I don't want to get into the details, but according to Bennet Omalu, most players who choose to play American football also choose to get their brains smashed and destroyed. Later, the movie switches to the NFL organization, which tries to avoid all the accusations by discrediting Omalu.
Will Smith surely deserved at least an Oscar nomination for his role as Dr. Bennet Omalu. Smith's wife even wanted to boycott the ceremony because she accused the Academy being racist. I think those accusations are far-fetched, but I do agree that Will Smith was robbed. He was brilliant in this film and I would even dare to say that it was one of his best roles ever. Other actors did a great job as well and made this movie easy to watch. However, some things I did not like.
From the directing perspective, Concussion develops too slow and at some point of the movie, you get a little tired. I hate when movies fail to maintain my attention, but maybe it was just me. Also, the ending was way too long and somehow off the topic. I think that if directors managed to tell the story in 90 minutes instead of 120, it would have worked much better.
From what I've read, a bigger part of the movie is non-fiction, and most of the facts about the NFL and Omalu's research are also on point. For movies which are based on a true story, it is essential to get facts straight, otherwise many people might receive false information and spread lies around. If you want to tell me that people do not believe everything that comes after "based on a true story," try to watch Fargo, and see how Coen brothers fooled countless people.
Why do people love NFL if it is so brutal?
I guess my question is also the answer. People love brutal sports. That's the nature of humankind. I will not be that hipster, who goes around lecturing people about the world peace, but I also won't say that letting NFL players die on the field for the sake of entertainment is completely justifiable. I find it odd that we (yes, myself included) are still ok to watch guys literally destroying their brains just because we don't have anything better to do on Sundays. I am not a fan of the NFL myself, but I do like to watch boxing or hockey, sports which are quite brutal as well.
The funniest thing is that people don't want the brutality to stop. We don't watch how Joshua or McGregor fight for their defensive skills; we don't come back from the hockey game happy if no one throws some punches at each other; we only care about racing sports when those huge crashes occur; and we love to see those brutal tackles during the NFL matches. And it all happens in the 21st century.
Before, people praised gladiator fights, which were not that different from some modern sports these days. Of course, the casualties nowadays are way less obvious, but they are there. Mike Webster, Pittsburgh Steelers' legend, died in agony because of injuries he underwent during his career in the NFL. Did anyone care? Not really. Of course, everyone chanted the obligatory "let's pray for Webster" mantra, but that was it. One day passed and people forgot him. His family, however, was never the same.
Right now, it would be about time for me to tell why people love brutality in sports, but I won't. I don't know. We are just like that. We enjoy sitting on our sofas drinking beer and watching how big guys are hitting each other with their heads. That makes us feel good for some odd reason. If by chance, one of those big guys die on the field, we just say "oh well, the show must go on" and wait for the substitution. Are there any solutions?
Can we fix the problem? Or is it even a problem?
I am not going to give you any answers because there are none. It all depends on your attitude and priorities. These things, like most things in life, are not just black or white. There is always the grey area. I would love to throw some thoughts to start a discussion. Please, feel free to call me an idiot if you think I am saying nonesense. But if you do, give me some valid arguments, deal?
- When the NFL hid the fact that playing football damaged athletes' brains, they committed a serious crime against those athletes and their families.
- Now, when athletes know that they are risking their health by signing those juicy contracts, we must agree that everything is morally right. And yet, we don't allow drug addicts to use drugs and destroy their lives. As a society, we should somehow care for every individual and help them avoid doing mistakes.
- The NFL should change some rules to decrease those fatal head collisions to the minimum. At the moment, they are not considering that and allowing players to take direct hits to the head. That is amazingly ignorant.
- The NFL became a second church in the USA and Sundays belong to football. It has been the case for years now, so it would be very naive to expect people to give up watching football because it is harmful to the players. As a sports fanatic (not a fan of American football, though), I can understand why no one in their right mind would want to stop watching football. However, as an empathic human-being, I would agree to find compromises and change the rules to make the lives of the athletes easier.
- Do you even think that it is a problem that a lot of NFL players are facing the risk of getting their brains completely destroyed? Or do you think that they get paid enough to make that risk worthwhile?
- If so, at what level does sports become unethical? I think that American football is very close to crossing the line but does not necessarily cross it. That said, if my kids (if I have any someday) would come to me and ask me to play football, I would say no.
- Would you allow/like your kids to play football professionally, knowing the risks of the sport? If not, do you think it is ok to support the NFL?
- If I were the head of the NFL, I would try to slowly change the rules to make the game as safe as possible. I understand that the NFL is a business (one of the best in the world), so those changes cannot be drastic. And still, I believe that the majority of fans would support making football less dangerous to the players as long as it remains entertaining and competitive. Some of the smartest people are working for the NFL and they could find a way to change things without losing money if they wanted to. I am not sure if they do, though.