by Irvin Muchnick
My campaign to keep Bennet Omalu on course as the brave public health advocate he is, rather than as a Hollywood mascot for Will Smiths Oscar ambitions, took a strange turn with this email yesterday afternoon from Peter Landesman, the writer and director of the new Concussion movie:
Reading your stuff on the movie.
I never heard of MomsTeam until 4 minutes ago, when I read I announced something about it in your column.
What is it? What is it supposedly doing? And what do I supposedly have to do with it? (I dont believe my producers know anything either, btw.)
I replied to Landesman with the following capture from the @ConcussionMovies Twitter timeline, noted that there were plenty of others where this came from, and asked him if this Twitter account is a fake:
Our partnership with the #MomsTeam Institute is fresh out the oven. Stay tuned to be part of our recipe.
Landesman has not responded to my email or a follow-up. I will send this post to both Landesman and Brooke de Lench of the MomsTeam Institute, which is raising money on Twitter, under the films imprimatur (and with sanctioning retweets), via silly dance video snippets under the hashtag #ForThePlayers Challenge. Ill suggest that Landesman and de Lench introduce themselves to each other and explain to the rest of us what the hell is going on.
With regard to Omalu himself, Im pleased to see him doing a round of media interviews calmly rebutting the position of his old research colleague Jullan Bailes that football is safer than ever and that parents need not worry their pretty little heads over their sons pretty little heads.
But its not good enough. Omalus story — his career, his work, his life — is being exploited for mass entertainment, which turns out to be more timid than it seems at first blush. The debate between Omalu and Bailes is not one that should resolve with the familiar major media narrative, The truth is somewhere in the middle.
The National Football League and its de facto affiliates, down to Pop Warner Football (for which Bailes, with his public comments, is committing malpractice as medical director), are trying to turn their public relations necessity of improved vigilance into an all-encompassing social virtue. They cannot be allowed to get away with this. Bailes contention that there have been no as in zero deaths in youth football is a colossal lie, covering other colossal lies.
Will Landesman and the Concussion producers disavow Bailes statements? Will Will Smith (who portrays Omalu)? Will Alec Baldwin (whose enterprise was to make Bailes larger than life, and who has been known to steal a scene or two)? Or will they fall back on the defense that they cant — because, you know, this is art — all the while reaping the commercial benefits of pretending to be anti-establishment?
Today, Dustin Finks Concussion Blog reprints an excellent 2011 interview of Omalu by Matt Chaney. See Before Concussion Omalu Was Still Omalu, http://theconcussionblog.com/2015/12/11/before-concussion-omalu-was-still-omalu/.
At the bottom of the post, MomsTeams Brooke de Lench inputted a cryptic comment in which she manages to take all four sides of a binary debate, as only a thriving nonprofit can:
Dr Omalu is an honorable man who was thrown under the bus and all but written out of history. I highly recommend you read Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas to find out more. The movie leaves it on the cutting room floor on purpose.