I have an eight-year-old son. He plays tackle football. And I'll admit that Will Smith's movie Concussion, where he played a forensic pathologist studying the effects of football on the human brain, gave me serious pause. But I'm the minority, and Smith recently admitted in an interview that he can't figure out why. The mega movie star said:
I thought Concussion would have a bigger impact. I knew it would be hard because people love the game, but the science is so overwhelming, and it's something that we really need to take a look at. I thought that people would get behind the mission of that. I was surprised that people were absolutely like, 'Nope, I'm not stopping watching football, so I don't want to know.'
Concussion, directed by Peter Landesman, covered the controversial work of Bennet Omalu, who noticed the effect that high-impact football had on the human brain when he first studied the corpse of former Pittsburgh Steelers all-star Mike Webster. Not that Omalu's findings were controversial. To anyone who paid attention, they were sobering. It's more that Concussion argued that Omalu was strong armed by the National Football League and its supporters to keep quiet about his findings, which led to professional and personal problems for Omalu, the more that he spoke up.
So, how did the movie do? Reviews were generally favorable. Concussion has a respectable 61% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, though its box office take of $48.6 million has to be considered a disappointment. Still, Will Smith's comments to Vanity Fair reflect the overall belief that Concussion didn't reach its widest possible audience.
And yet, the message of the movie may still have been received by football fans. The NFL ratings have been down across the board this season, with Yahoo Sports claiming that the Monday Night Football contest that went up against the first presidential debate was down 22% from the last time MNF went up against a similar political event. And it's not just that night. Ratings, so far this season, have been on a steady decline. Some critique the on-field product. Could it also just be that our taste for a violent sport that leaves the players in physical disarray is diminishing.
I credit Will Smith for making Concussion, and for keeping the spotlight shining on it, months after it reached theaters. People can still catch Concussion on cable, or rent and stream it on their preferred platforms. If you, as a football fan, can stomach it.