As you know, concussions, CTE and brain trauma are central discussion topics in the NFL, and all of sports, continually growing more pressing with hockey fights gone awry, Bernie Kosar’s brain being mush and horrible tragedies like Junior Seau’s suicide.
This all prompted a highly-anticipated PBS Frontline documentary, “League of Denial,” which will air tomorrow night at 9pm ET. This is the same documentary that the NFL refused to cooperate with, and pressured ESPN to back out of.
Buzzfeed’s Erik Malinowski, got an early glimpse of the documentary, and wrote a review that’s definitely worth your time.
The gist: It makes the NFL look bad, and it will make you sad with new knowledge.
Powerful anecdotes put the consequences of brain trauma in human terms. One of the most chilling is told by super-agent Leigh Steinberg, who describes meeting his client, Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, in a Dallas-area hospital after the 1994 NFC Championship. Aikman had been knocked from the game with a knee to the head, and Steinberg informed him in the dark — the lights in the hospital were too bright for Aikman’s concussed brain — that he had been concussed but that his team had won the game and that he was heading to his second straight Super Bowl. Five minutes later, Aikman asked him why he was in the hospital and what had happened in the game, and then asked the same thing again five minutes after that, his frontal cortex little more than a skipping vinyl record.
It’s not gonna be a fun watch.
But that’s not League of Denial’s main concern. It’s mostly about education, not outrage. The more we know about head trauma and concussions, the more we can try to understand why it is that CTE has been found in the brains of 18-year-old high school kids and 21-year-old college players, or why ex-linebacker Junior Seau would drive his Cadillac SUV off a cliff, only to survive and then later shoot himself dead in his own home.
The closer we get to those answers, the more responsible sports fans we might hope to become. And if nothing else, League of Denial leaves us feeling like we know more than we ever have before — but have much more work to do.
So, you should still watch it. We especially hope Pete Prisco checks it out.