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They say that baseball is the Great American Pastime, but anybody who pays attention knows that football is the sport that truly gets the country excited. Millions of fans tune in every Sunday to watch their teams compete. Will Smith is no exception, but, as a fan, why did he chose to focus on the dark side of the sport he loves in his upcoming film Concussion? He did it because he felt he needed to help shine a light on the problem of repetitive head trauma in the game.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Smith says that the fact that his own son played football in high school helped him realize that he couldn’t let the opportunity to make Concussion go by. He said:
As a parent, the responsibility to bring this information to light was overwhelming...I almost couldn’t say no.
Smith is apparently such a big football fan that he used to fly home from Asia every weekend while his son, Jaden, was filming The Karate Kid in order to watch his other son play high school ball. He confesses it was not because he's a great father, but rather because he loves football. Having said that, as the father of a boy who played the game, he understands that the information the film provides is knowledge that all parents should have.
Concussion tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who first identified a degenerative brain disease in former football players caused by repeated blows to the head. In the film he attempts to make the NFL, and the public, aware of this condition, only to be threatened and intimidated by those within the pro football organization who are afraid this information will damage the popularity of the game.
Concussions are a real problem in football, one that we are only recently beginning to truly understand, in large part due to Omalu’s research. Football is played by all age groups, including young children, so the idea of repeated trauma being a factor is important to more than just professional players. The longer somebody plays the more they are potentially putting themselves at risk.
The movie has been the subject of controversy almost since the beginning. The NFL is obviously not a fan of the subject matter, and Sony has had to deal with accusations that they’ve softened the film’s message in order to placate the League, though the studio claims that isn’t the case. Writer and director Peter Landsman draws a distinction between football as a sport and the NFL specifically. He is critical of the organization, who he says focus on money first and foremost, as opposed to the activity as a whole.
Concussion hits theaters on Christmas Day.