Last year, an unsavory — and unexpected — piece of film emerged on the first Monday after the launch of the NFL regular season. This year, an expected (but for the league still unsavory) piece of film has emerged on the last Monday before the week in which the NFL regular season returns.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com has debuted the trailer for Concussion, the film starring Will Smith as Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy. In a corresponding interview with writer/director Peter Landesman, King asked if Landesman is trying to drive people away from football.
“I was very focused on this story,” Landesman said. “I don’t feel responsible or connected to the consequences. Storytellers can’t be. Otherwise you get hamstrung by your own conscience. You just have to tell the truth with the most integrity that you can.”
While Landesman may not be trying to drive people away from football, the studio’s decision to make the first trailer of the film exclusively available to a website that attracts football fans shows that the movie will be marketed directly to those whose minds could change about the sport. The risk, of course, is that football fans will be the least inclined to go see the movie, opting to enjoy football without paying attention to the reality that the truth about head trauma could cause the sport eventually to diminish or to disappear.
Neither is likely; as Landesman accurately puts it, football has now simply joined the long list of things that can be hazardous to one’s health — as if no one already knew that football can be hazardous to one’s health.
“It’s the same with smoking, drinking and doing drugs,” Landesman told King. “I like to think in some ways that life is an occupational hazard. Something we do in our life is going to kill us; maybe now, maybe fifty years from now. You have to choose what those things are. We love to drink and be merry and be happy, we know it’s not good for us, but we do it. It’s about making adult choices.”
The makers of Concussion hope that plenty of people will make the choice on Christmas and immediately thereafter to see Concussion. It remains unclear whether the choice of promoting a movie that doesn’t celebrate football to an audience inclined to celebrate football will help achieve that goal.
It is clear that the NFL won’t be thrilled about the film. In May, the league already was planning a response to Concussion at an ownership meeting. The trailer, which makes use of the NFL shield and team logos, will surely prompt even more planning.
In the end, it could be that the NFL simply adopts the Ballers approach to Concussion: Privately, be upset and, publicly, say as little as possible. By the time the postseason begins on January 16, there’s a chance Concussion already will be gone from most American multiplexes.