This is coming from a man who was born and raised in Texas, who breathes blue and silver and bleeds burnt orange. It would have been only slightly less surprising if he had announced he’d switched his NFL allegiance to the Local Team with the Problematic Name.
After seeing “Concussion,” now in theaters, I hope more people say the same thing. It’s based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), who proved — PROVED — that playing football, particularly at the speed and power required by the NFL, can cause severe, sometimes fatal, brain injury.
I’ve been hoping “Concussion” would be the NFL’s “Blackfish,” the 2013 documentary that exposed the inherent cruelty displayed daily at Sea World theme parks. Seeing “Blackfish” makes it nearly impossible to even imagine setting foot in Sea World again. I don’t think “Concussion” will have the same impact — partially because it’s not as strong a film as “Blackfish,” but mainly because the hypermasculine culture of football practically celebrates pain as the price of both victory and manhood.
Add in the billions of dollars the NFL would very much like to keep bringing in, and the movie’s warnings will fall not on deaf ears, but on ears so plugged and brains so crammed with dollar bills that there’s no way for common sense to get in. It is beyond stupid — in this case, it’s quasi-criminal — to stop listening to experts simply because we don’t like what they are saying, or because following their recommendations means we have to drive less or lose weight or not let our little and not-so-little boys play a sport where injury is not an if, but a when, and some of those injuries will mean we will lose men in tragic and entirely avoidable ways.
So my son will stick to swimming and baseball; his father and I gave him life and we want him to have a long and healthy one. Some will say that not allowing our son to don pads and crash his 40-pound body into other 40-pound bodies will make him weak, that a strong man can only grow under the illumination of Friday night lights. I’m not worried about my son growing up weak, because he sees strength every day — he only has to look at his dad.
More columns from Kristen Page-Kirby