Forty years from now, we won’t remember a specific concussion that transformed the way we watched football. I remember joking about Troy Aikman’s Concussion Face in columns as recently as the early 2000s (and only because I didn’t know any better). I remember my feelings slowly shifting after that unforgettably violent Steelers-Ravens playoff game in 2009, a night plagued by multiple knockouts and a 30-second span when we thought Willis McGahee was dead. Not hurt — DEAD. I remember Jamaal Charles getting rocked in the 2013 Colts-Chiefs wild-card game, then being examined on the sideline and realizing, “Holy shit, it’s the playoffs and he’s still not coming back.” I remember Julian Edelman getting belted late in Super Bowl XLIX, right after his season-saving third-down catch over the middle, and talking myself into Edelman NOT being concussed … but only because of the stakes.
These dicey moments have changed how we watch football, that’s for sure. Twenty years ago, I would have written a joke about the Luke Kuechly Concussion Face and moved on to the next riff. Now I’m a little haunted by it. We have too much information about head injuries. I feel like an accomplice. Everyone wondered why the NFL’s ratings slipped for those first nine weeks, but Malcolm, maybe it starts there?
Is there a better combination of brains than Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell to discuss sports and pop culture in a slightly wordy, nerdy way that feels relatable while also academic? Maybe when Bill teams up with Chuck Klosterman? Imagine if the three of them just sat around watching TV all day? It could be its own channel.