Overview: This third edition of the STATE OF PLAY documentary series from HBO Sports starts with a 30-minute documentary that explores how the National Football League, America’s most popular sports organization, is confronting the enormous challenge of making the game safer, chronicling the physical toll of the game on its players, a subject that has taken center stage over the past two years. How does the sport survive amidst a proliferation of long-term injuries and lawsuits?
The film begins with Berg revisiting a heartbreaking moment in Texas High School football history: the 2003 game between Westlake High School and Madison High of San Antonio in which Madison defensive back David Edwards suffered a paralyzing injury. Berg, who attended the playoff game while doing research, retraces the tragedy with players and coaches who were on the field that damp autumn day in Austin. Edwards passed away at the age of 20 in 2008. The STATE OF PLAY cameras visit both the NFL and NFLPA offices and conduct interviews with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and the league VP of Officiating Dean Blandino. After the film, Berg goes one-on-one with Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones.
CULTURE SHOCK features unprecedented access to the halls of the NFL and its Players Association, gathering viewpoints of football’s business leaders and fans. The executive producers of STATE OF PLAY: CULTURE SHOCK are Peter Berg and Sarah Aubre. This latest edition debuted Tuesday, DECEMBER 02 at 10:00pm.
Expectations: The topic broached by Peter Berg in this report should make any fan of football sit up and take notice. We are aware of changes in the NFL already with new enforced rules to promote safety of players. It is going to be interesting to see what participants of America’s sport across the board have to say about it all. Is it enough? Are players and owners alike on board with the evolution of the game? I am looking forward to what we learn here. Here is a clip.
Gut Reaction: Since the return of STATE OF PLAY this edition proves the most interesting. It takes us to the heart of the NFL and discusses a big issue that is changing the game. It is important to show, however, what is at stake. To make that point is the brief story of the brief life of David Edwards. It was a tragic story, but wouldn’t the story of an NFL player been more appropriate than that of a 16 year old that, no matter how good a player, didn’t have the experience to play the sport better? Well, the point was made strongly regardless.
Some clear logic was stated here. The NFL is a business and an expensive one. No business wants to burn through personnel; it makes more business sense to keep them safe. However, America’s version of football has always been a physical sport and somebody in this film in fact says (I forget who) that it is not a game for wimps. The biggest moment in the 45-minute piece, for me, was the segment from the Officiating Center as the staff on the floor scrutinizes every play of every game. They are looking for offenders and they are finding them and fining them. But, interestingly, Peter Berg asks if they should be fired after so many dangerous fouls. No one admitted that that should happen, but there is no clear answer why they should not. I also like and agree with the notion that better made helmets give a false sense of safety in the game, especially those with big face grills on.
Though it was a good examination on a good topic I was not bowled over by Jerry Jones time at the table in the last few minutes of the program. I don’t know, to me he talked the talk but didn’t sell me. Did he to any of you? Just like the tobacco industry football is a big business, it may be dangerous to some, but enjoyed by many. It’s rough and tough style is not going anywhere, but at least most players play to be safe…most of the time.
In Conclusion: So, they are trying to make the game safer, but it will never be safe all the time; that is the nature of the game. The rule changes are here to stay and players just need to adhere. I think people will still follow the NFL action week to week. That is unless, as noted in a player’s comment in the film, they are playing flag football within the next five years.
This STATE OF PLAY was a hot topic, but there were not many hot solutions or answers. As a result it kind of left this writer feeling quite neutral. Are there any thoughts on the matter out there? Feel free to comment.
You can catch the program still on HBOGo and on HBO on 12.04 at 2.45pm; 12.05 at 5:15pm; 12.06 at 9:15am; 12.07 at 2:00pm and 12.08 at 2:30pm.