‘Casualties of the Gridiron’: A Moving and Effective Documentary Web Series

/ Dec 3, 2013


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The ability to watch “Casualties of the Gridiron” relies heavily on whether or not you actually enjoy football. Like visiting a slaughterhouse while eating a hamburger, the GQ documentary series gives viewers a first-hand account of the traumatic life-long repercussions of playing professional football. Former New York Jets quarterback Ray Lucas, in so much physical pain he must take upwards of 80 pain pills a day, explains that suicide seemed like his only alternative at one point in the first episode. “I wanted to end my miserable life,” says Lucas, a father of two.

“Casualties of the Gridiron” is a tough watch for football fans simply because it forces us to confront the physical agony that pro football players subject themselves to for our entertainment. We see the star quarterback on the cover of Sports Illustrated and things seem flawless, yet we are rarely privy to the chronic injuries that plague almost every NFL player. “Casualties of the Gridiron” lifts the veil on this reality and shows us what life is like after the NFL’s insurance goes while the injuries stay.

The documentary series drives this point home by intercutting archived footage of the featured players’ debilitating hits. It’s a brutal filmmaking technique that removes the herculean aura pro players seem to radiate during live games. We watch big hits on post-game shows and maybe they elicit the occasional “oh, that’s gotta hurt,” but are soon forgotten. “Casualties of the Gridiron” forces us to confront what we conveniently forget about once the game is over.

This series is not an easy watch by any stretch. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what type of person would actually get a charge from watching these broken men struggle through life. But what is important to note about “Casualties of the Gridiron” is the awareness that this web series raises. It may not be easy to accept, but this is the price that is paid for our entertainment. So the next time you think about tweeting hate at the rival team’s QB, remember what he’s sacrificing for you.

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