Will ‘Concussion’ impact the NFL and its fans? ‘Bob, Groz and Tom’ discuss
When Will Smith takes a role, millions of people pay money to watch. Whether his newest blockbuster can make an impact against the giant NFL machine is a different question.
The story of NFL players and traumatic brain injury is not new. But with the release of the trailer for “Concussion” – starring Smith and Alec Baldwin, with Luke Wilson rumored to be playing embattled commissioner Roger Goodell – the hosts of “Bob, Groz and Tom” feel the controversy might hit the public in a different light. (You can listen to their conversation here)
“Sometimes when this stuff is put in movie form, that’s how people get convinced,” Tom Wassell said on Monday. “It changes minds … It just needs to get you thinking, it needs to sort of open people’s eyes.”
“Concussion” tells the real-life David vs. Goliath story of forensic neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Smith) who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – a progressive brain disease found in athletes with a history of brain trauma – and the NFL’s denial of his findings.
The NFL agreed to a settlement earlier this year that could end up paying $1 billion to former players suffering from severe neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.
Dave Grosby said the overall story of concussions goes beyond blows to the head, but “Concussion,” like the PBS “Frontline” documentary “League of Denial,” will show how the NFL repeatedly refused to acknowledge the health risks of blows to the head, and how the league kept information from its players.
“I think the NFL is a villain in this because of how they acted previously,” Groz said.
Head injuries are one of the hot-button controversies hitting the NFL over the past few years, along with several domestic-violence incidents and the Deflategate case. Although Groz said the movie should help inform the broader public, he’s not sure it will make a difference.
“A public television ‘Frontline’ show is not the same thing as a Hollywood movie, not even close,” Groz said. “But everyone is fully aware of the concussion story and it has had very little impact, if any, on the NFL. Almost none. So if it’s going to outrage people, we’ll see.”
None of the hosts believed the movie will inspire people to stop watching football altogether, but Bob Stelton thinks it is the NFL leadership that needs their minds changed.
“This is not gonna happen,” Groz said. “The powers that be have been through this in real life; this happened a few years ago.”
Stelton isn’t sure how the NFL is supposed to move forward.
“As it stands right now, what else can they do?” he asked. “These are inherent dangers that are attached to this sport. Now people are educated. They know this is the risk you’re taking. That’s why the Chris Borlands of the world are making their decisions. But this isn’t a secret anymore. So I’m not sure what the next step for the NFL is.”
Groz acknowledged that there’s nothing much the NFL can do to decrease head injuries in the sport, but does believe it will impact youth football. He added that “there are no big stories that hurt the NFL” and that it “will only create more interest.” Before watching “Concussion,” Groz recommended watching “League of Denial.”
“You need to watch the ‘Frontline’ thing and draw your own conclusions from it,” he said. “But you need to watch it, you need to watch it to decide if the NFL has been railroaded or if the NFL is railroading this guy.”