Some of the big stories for Week 6 could all be swept aside by the storm that hit football Tuesday night. The NFL has been braced like beach-side dwellers for the incoming storm of League of Denial. The excerpts are out, the books are in media hands, but it's the two hours on PBS that could be a tipping point for the NFL.
The Venn diagram of NFL fans and PBS watchers doesn't have the biggest overlap, and removing the promotional machine of ESPN will take some away from the audience. We're not looking at Downton Abbey kind of numbers, but the thought leaders may amplify the impact. There were reviews at every sports site imaginable and news sites like Breitbart, Variety and The Verge.
Roger Goodell sent out a nice letter and the concussion settlement helps quiet some of the ex-player outcry that would have come, but we'll have to see how the documentary's compelling story affects fans. Will they follow the path it guides toward Gladwell's dogfighting analogy? Will more youth players be guided away from tackle football? The impact is going to be difficult to find in the short term, much in the way that it's still difficult to find the true impact of Game of Shadows.
I have read the book, and while I found it a good read and a compelling story, it wasn't aimed at someone like me who's followed this story since 2007. It's aimed at those who have only casually noted the concussion issue and have only seen the occasional story or the soundbite mentions on highlight shows. For that viewer, I think it will be very jarring.
It's as jarring as looking at that picture above. You might not realize it at first glance, but that's Steve Gleason in 2006. Imagine where you were just a handful of years ago. Players today have to look at themselves in the mirror, knowing they might be in Gleason's place just a few years from now.
The reaction now will be the interesting part. I expect the league to be very quiet and hope the storm passes. If the game misses this opportunity to drive change, it may not get another chance. There are lots of questions still to ask and even more to be answered, but the uncomfortable conversations have started. I just don't know how long they'll last, and that will be the true impact of League of Denial.
For now, let's look around the league...