Hard Risks: Concussions in Sports, From the Boxing Ring to the Gridiron | Retro Report on PBS


♪♪ -Every autumn Sunday, football’s bone-shattering hits unhinge NFL players
across the country. -Over the past several years, the National Football League
has been shaken by the controversy over the
long-term impact of concussions. -In a surprise announcement, star 49ers linebacker
Chris Borland says he’s retiring from the NFL,
after just one season. -Around training camp,
there was an incident, just a mild concussion, and it kinda changed
the way I viewed the risks of the game,
the mounting evidence, and these anecdotes of guys
who went through hell. By the end of the year, I had a good idea
of what I was gonna do. For 99.9% of people in America,
football’s just entertainment. [ Rock plays ] -♪ Well, it’s Monday night ♪ And we’re ready to strike! -But the guys
on the field are real. They’re humans, and so I think
it’s important to remember that. -Since Borland’s abrupt
retirement in 2015, other players
have followed suit. [ Suspenseful music plays ]
But this isn’t the first time that the inherent
violence of a sport has raised questions
about its future. Thirty-five years ago,
it was boxing. -In the old days, you might turn on a television
on a weekend afternoon and three networks
have a boxing match on. In ’82, particularly,
there was an NFL strike and, figuring NFL fans are
gonna wanna see action sports, we replaced it with boxing. -Mancini is enjoying
being a world champion. -In 1982,
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the pride of Youngstown, Ohio, had won his first world
lightweight championship. -You know, I worked
so hard to get it. I’m not about to give it up now. -Ray Mancini was a very,
very popular champion. His whole persona was of being
this just nice kid from Ohio. The ratings for Mancini
fights were great, our highest ratings
of any fighter we were doing. -In November of that year,
in Las Vegas stadium, before a live CBS audience, Mancini was set
to defend his title against a little-known Korean challenger. [echoing]
-Fighting from Seoul, Korea, weighing 134.25 pounds, here is Duk-Koo Kim. -We had never heard
of Duk-Koo Kim before that, but, we would look
at film, videotape, whatever we could get,
of him fighting, and we knew he was
a  ver tough guy. We didn’t want a guy
who was gonna run. We wanted somebody who would
stand there and exchange, and that was Kim’s style. [ Cheering ]
[ Bell dings ] -And there’s the bell
and we are underway — -Kim built a coffin
and he put it next to his bed and he told his people,
“Either Mancini’s comin’ home in that,
or I’m goin’ home in that.” Put on the lampshade,
“Kill or be killed.” To him, it was
a live-or-die situation. -It was a brutal fight. In fact, Kim was
the aggressor, more than Ray, for most of the fight,
but there was never a point where you thought one guy
was beating the other guy to the point where a referee
should’ve stepped in. -Duk-Koo Kim. You may not
have heard of him before. You will remember him today,
win or lose. -I was hittin’ him with shots but he was still movin’,
makin’ me miss, too. He still had the wherewithal to move his body,
slip, bob and weave. You can’t stop a fight
when the guy has the wherewithal to do that. [ Bell dings ]
-Number one in the world and there is
21-year-old champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. [ Cheering ] -It was a great punch.
I hit him with a right shot. He went down.
We just jumped. It was glorious
because it was a great win! Nobody knows about — you know,
what was going into. Nobody knew. I planned on a long fight. Everybody didn’t know
about that. I saw films. The guy was
very, very impressive, tough, rough,
hungry, determined. Those are the worst kind. -The next morning, I called
and said, “What’s goin’ on?” and he was still in the
hospital and in bad shape, and then it was pretty much we all knew what was
gonna happen, you know. He wasn’t coming outta this. -I was stunned. I was like
in a dream world, you know? From the highest of the highs
to hit the lowest of the lows. -A professional boxer
lies near death tonight. He is Duk-Koo Kim, a 23-year-old
South Korean lightweight. -The boxer’s mother pleading
with him to, “Please wake up,” and “Open eyes,” before she
was led from the room, weeping. -When you fight fighters
from another country, they’re fightin’ for more
than themselves. They’re fightin’
for their whole country. ♪♪ They carry the dreams and hopes
of their countrymen on their backs. [scoff]
That’s a load, to fight. [ Camera shutter clicks ]
That’s a hard load to fight. -Kim’s death was far
from boxing’s first black eye. In the early ’60s, fighters Benny Paret
and Davey Moore died in back-to-back years after major fights broadcast
across the country. [ Cheering ]
-Paret slides to the canvas. [ Whistling ]
Look at him there. -At that point,
there was a sense of, “Well, is boxing
even really a sport?” In the mid-’70s, you have
the sense of impropriety that has been an aspect
of boxing’s DNA for many decades and then, in ’82, you had
Ray Mancini and Duk-Koo Kim. -And then, two weeks later,
I’m watchin’ and there’s this fight with Randall “Tex” Cobb
and Larry Holmes. [ Cheering ] -This is just terrible. -I wonder if that
referee understands that he is constructing an advertisement
for the abolition of the very sport
that he’s a part of. -Cobb was a punching bag. I mean, his head was just
bobbin’ back and forth, on and on and on. -From the point of view
of boxing, which is under fire, and deservedly so, this fight could not have come at a worse time. -And I just said to myself,
“This is crazy! How can I, as a physician,
possibly admire this, enhance it, support it,
and not work against it?” -Boxing attracts
big television audiences. It has drawn the attention
of writers from Virgil to Hemingway
to Norman Mailer, but, today, the
American Medical Association came out swinging
against the sport. -The AMA journal says that
“boxing is an obscenity that should not be sanctioned
by any civilized society.” -The purpose
of the boxing match is for one person to injure his or her opponent. Now, when one knocks
somebody out, one damages the brain,
one tears brain cells. -I don’t think fight fans said,
“Okay, that’s it. I’m never gonna watch
another fight,” just as they didn’t say, “Okay, I’m never gonna smoke
another cigarette,” when they put a warning
on the pack, but sponsors started
to pull back and say, “You know, you’re asking us
for a lotta money, you networks, to pay for your
exorbitant rights fees on football and basketball
and baseball, and, with all the bad publicity
boxing’s getting, you know what? We’d just as soon not do it.” -Before the Kim fight, I was being offered
all kinda endorsement deals. After that, everything
went away, man. It just vanished.
I understand that, now. I understand, now, but,
at the time, I was a kid. I was heartbroken. I didn’t know why, you know? It just all went away. -For decades,
stories of young boxers from blue-collar backgrounds
fighting their way to fortune had captivated the public,
both in real life… -I do it because I’ll leave. I’ll leave the ghettos. -…and on the big screen. [ Triumphant tune swells ]
-♪ Tiger -The American
Medical Association — -But, before long,
the medical community began to make inroads in their
fight against the sport. -The American Academy
of Pediatrics came out with a formal position
that children shouldn’t box. I took a position that,
for any parent who put their child
into a boxing situation, that should be considered
child abuse. -And, on television,
beer companies were soon one of the only marquee advertisers
still associated with boxing. -WBC heavyweight
championship fight is being brought to you
by Budweiser. “For all you do,
this Bud’s for you.” -Sponsors withdraw, so network
TV doesn’t want to broadcast it, so people don’t
see as much boxing, so, they don’t know
as much about it, so, sporting media doesn’t
write about it as much because they say
people don’t watch boxing. They’re not interested in it. And, because media
isn’t reporting on it, people are learning
about it even less and it becomes
this feedback thing and, before you know it,
suddenly, it’s a niche sport. -The legendary
Julio César Chávez returns to the ring Saturday, October 12th, on Pay-Per-View! -There’s something fundamental
and primal about boxing, but, as society shifts,
there are legitimate questions of, “Well, do we still
want to do this?” It’s that drip, drip, drip, that constant sense that
that is what boxing is about. If that becomes the prevailing
feeling about football, then, the discussion changes. -Look, at this point, we know
how dangerous football is. Anyone who continues
to believe that professional football players
aren’t potentially shortening their life-span
by playing this game is sort of living
on another planet. -More players are suing the NFL, claiming the league failed to properly protect them from concussions and brain
injuries during their careers. -Faced with medical evidence about the health risks
posed by the game, the NFL has started
making payments to retired players who
have suffered brain trauma, payments that could total
as much as $1 billion. -If there’s a way
to do it better — -The league has also
promoted its efforts at making the game safer… -Changes were made
to the kickoff this year, important changes. -…all aimed at addressing
the criticism of a sport with more money and power
than any in American history. -You know make about $10 billion
a year in gross revenue. You said that, by 2027, you would like to see
$25 billion. -We don’t wanna
become complacent. -The NFL has a big issue
in the concussion, the head-injury situation,
huge issue, but there is an entity called
the National Football League. There’s a controlling entity;
there’s a managing entity. Football has the NFL
to solve its problems or to at least attempt
to solve its problems. It has a PR machine
to tell the public that, “We’re working on this.” Boxing was controlled
by promoters and the networks back in the day, so there was
no such thing as boxing. It had no ability
to defend itself because there’s no organization
and that might’ve been one of the biggest problems
they had. -The future of football
is playing out on local fields
around the country, where flag football
is gaining popularity after news stories
about concussions in high school players. -There is certainly
a double standard. I mean, if you support football,
in the sense that you watch it and then turn around and don’t
allow your child to play it, the question is kind of like,
by watching it, are you necessarily
condoning it? It’s so ingrained in our culture that it does take
a kind of real act of protest and resistance
to turn away from it. -Over three decades have passed
since the Kim-Mancini fight stoked medical concerns
about boxing. Then, in one week,
in July 2019… -Max, I’m gonna stop it.
-For what? -Max, you’re getting
hit too much. -…two boxers died
from injuries suffered in the ring. But, compared
to the swiftness with which boxing was relegated to the sidelines
of American life, football still holds its appeal. -If somebody would’ve died
during an NFL game being broadcast live, the massive
social media response, would that cause a greater, perhaps long-term, response? Or would it mean that everyone
went through the cycle of grief and outrage
in a couple of days, until Kim Kardashian
did something else? I don’t know. -I’m very curious to see
what happens in society over the next decade or two.

3 thoughts on “Hard Risks: Concussions in Sports, From the Boxing Ring to the Gridiron | Retro Report on PBS

  1. Again, I've seen this before. Are we really just reuploading old episodes? Only the lowliest of clickbait channels do that. I don't think this once great channel cares to lose the few subscribers it has.

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