On the surface this story has all the earmarks of an industry shaking scandal, but I found nothing surprising about it. Make no mistake. I like PBS. I like Frontline. I like almost anyone who's willing to investigate and report on the depraved behavior of large, powerful institutions. What I did not like about the report was the feeling that Frontline expected viewers to be surprised by the NFL's denial and avoidance. One of the main characters interviewed was Dr. Ann McKee, an expert on brain trauma. On May 9, 2009 she was invited to present her findings to a panel with the comical title, "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee." From what I could tell, this committee consists of individuals who owe their financial well being to professional football. Obviously they don't want to be told that football is responsible for causing any problem that would present the possibility of financial liability. When interviewed by Frontline, Dr. McKee acted as if she were surprised by the committee's negative reaction to her report.
Physicians are smart, but they can obviously be as naïve as anyone else. Dr. McKee admitted to being a football fan. In fact, she loves the game. This blinded her to what she needed to know. In order to alleviate her ignorance, Dr. McKee need only focus on two facts: Professional football is not a game, and professional football players are not people. Football, from the local Pop Warner league to the NFL is a multibillion dollar entertainment industry and players are highly valued commodities. Anyone who has ever been employed by a corporation should understand the concept of disposable "Human Resources." The football industry takes this concept to extremes. Scan down to the fourth paragraph of this link if you want to understand what football is really all about.
Readers should understand that most human relationships are utilitarian, not personal. Your best friend's well being is important to you because he or she is your best friend. You have a personal relationship that adds to the quality of your life. A football player's well being is important to the entertainment industry as long as he is generating cash flow or is likely to generate cash flow in the future. He is an investment, nothing more. This is a utilitarian relationship similar to that between smokers and Big Tobacco. Both football players and smokers generate cash flow for their respective industries and if they suffer and die off camera...what of it? Football players who die after retirement are a blip in the headlines, unlikely to deter children from becoming entertainers, and smokers who die in their 50's or 60's have no detrimental effect upon the tendency of children to start smoking.
Compared to most of the world America is a pretty good place to live. For example...I'm unlikely to be arrested for writing this. But there are aspects to life here that are ugly and shameful. For any individual who is angry or desperate enough to be considering an act of terrorism, these "aspects to life" in America present the opportunity to rationalize the idea that killing and maiming people in pursuit of a cause is no worse than what Big Tobacco and the NFL are doing.
Enjoy the game folks...and don't forget to buy a $60 t-shirt on your way out.