Winning Isn’t Everything
WE WATCHED A MOVIE TODAY. My wife, the lovely and healing up nicely, Dawn, and I turned on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or one of the other 7,375 online places you can find movies, and we watched, “Concussion.” It is a film that probably should fall into the category of “Docu-Drama,” rather than a straight “drama based – on” movie.
If you haven’t seen it I would urge you to do so. Will Smith is the lead and he has grown up and into a very fine actor. Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks (of all people) are in the supporting cast.
The story is about a doctor living and working in Pittsburgh who uncovers the connection between the physical punishment of pro football and serious brain damage to the players. The screenplay is based on an expose′ article in GQ Magazine.
While the typical “Dramatic License” was taken in the plotline of the film it is still worth watching.
Over the years I have known several NFL players. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, an incubator for pro football players, and I used to work with a guy who played for the New Orleans Saints.
The story dwells on the damage inflicted on players from the constant blows to the head that they take during a game. There is no doubt that such punishment can be dangerous and have long range effects.
Most of the players I’ve known appear to have been fortunate in a sense. The physical problems that they suffered, and continue to live with long after their playing days, have been more orthopedic in nature. I’ve seen men in their fifties in wheelchairs of using canes. Many have had hip and/or joint replacement surgery.
I recall one man, whom I did not know personally, who had played Center for the Oakland Raiders for years. He took a lot of physical trauma and, after he retired from the game and was in his mid fifties, could barely walk. His knees and legs were so painful that he was almost immobilized. Unfortunately, the now common joint replacement surgery was not yet available for him. He had one leg amputated.
A couple of the players I came to know suffered the effects of long term and well documented steroid use.
When I was a child growing up in the middle of Football Eden every kid wanted to grow up to be a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Given my physical disabilities (not many players wearing leg braces) I had to be content being a fan. I couldn’t very well try out for the high school football team when I was excused from even taking “gym class” by doctor’s orders.
My mother would never have allowed it anyway. She wasn’t too keen on me playing touch football in the streets. There was no way she was going to sign the permission slip for anything rougher.
The physical stress put on players in most professional sports cannot help but cause permanent damage to their bodies. I don’t think that Pro Football is the only game with such problems. Baseball players, and those in Basketball, Hockey, Boxing, Tennis, and others, push their bodies to extremes to achieve excellence. They all are ingrained with the old sports cliché:
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
– Henry Sanders UCLA Bruins Football Coach