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ESPN Caves to NFL, Frontline Airing "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis" Anyway

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 29, 2013 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | August 29, 2013 |

I love NFL football. I grew up in the eighties watching the 49ers, and what I grew to love was not just the action and the violence, but the superhuman nature of those players, these demi-god beasts of raw muscle and speed and size and agility that simply dwarfed the comprehension of a skinny little kid who liked to read. And the game topped itself by being a masterwork of strategy and nuance. The combination of power and strategy is exhilarating, like playing speed chess with titans for pieces.

I have loved many sports, though most have faded away by now in my regard, but football is the only one that I’ve ever watched as a game for its own sake. Sunday is for football. I don’t care that I’ve been out of my team’s market for five years, and have a one percent chance of watching them. I’d watch the Lions play the Cardinals in all three Sunday slots if that’s all there was to air.

And so the gradual revelations about just how terrible a toll the game takes has been painful. And I find myself considering moral questions as to the future of this game that is more blood sport than we were led to believe. Can one in good conscience watch the destruction of men if they are well paid for it? If a thousand times their number subject themselves to a lesser obliteration for free just for the chance?

“League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” will air on PBS October 8th during Frontline, a two hour documentary special. ESPN originally jointly produced the documentary with Frontline, but pulled out over the summer once the trailer was shown in public. ESPN insists that there was no pressure from the NFL, and that their decision was based on the “sensationalism” of the trailer which I’ve posted below. Uh huh. Right.

Watch “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.