A sobering look at the real cost of the NFL and dreadful player injuries

If you are addicted to the NFL, you need to watch "The United States of Football," a documentary by Sean Pamphilon that examines the dreadful injuries that may result from playing the game. Pamphilon then asks himself and you if you should want your son to play the game.

Fathers (and mothers) are a great audience for this film but not the best audience. This film should be mandatory viewing at every middle school and high school where football is played. Let the kids at least see the dangers they face.

And some of the images are dreadful.

"It's amazing how indifferent we are culturally," said Pamphilon, who became known last year when he had film of Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving his infamous "Kill the head, kill the body" halftime speech. "The key is to get people to focus on the kids because clearly we don't worry about them once they have become the pro gladiators that entertain us."

The film was released a few weeks ago and keeps adding theaters. (Are you listening, Enzian?) It could not be more topical: First ESPN dropped its participation in the PBS series "Frontline's" examination of concussions in the NFL. And we just had the ordered settlement of the massive lawsuit brought by former players against the league.

No way to predict what moment in the film will reach out and grab you. To me, the greatest impact comes from the visual images of once proud warriors who can no longer dress or feed themselves. And the greatest pain is shared by numerous wives who now are caretakers more than partners.

"What do you do with a 300-pound, 45-year-old person who is out of control and only going to get worse," asks Lisa McHale, wife of former Tampa Bay lineman Tom McHale.

Correction: Now widow of Tom McHale.

There is a portion of the film that could be subtitled: "Where in the world is Roger Goodell?" Pamphilon visually documents his failed efforts to get some face-to-face time with the league's commissioner.

Pamphilon worked four years and shot 1,000 hours of film. It is emotional and perhaps too subjective for some, but the pain cannot be ignored.

But feel-good addictions are hard to break, especially if the pain goes to someone else.

"Strangely enough, I'm kind of excited for the season to start," admitted Pamphilon. "I'm from Seattle and our team is pretty good."

A tough admission.

"I'm a hypocrite, to a degree, because I know the outcome and I still find myself irresistibly drawn to the sport," he said. "I quit cigarettes cold turkey after 13 years and haven't had one in seven years. But it's clear to me that I'm going to have to wean myself off of football. Where does a football junkie go for rehab?"

Where indeed?

Back in ancient Rome, did anyone worry about the gladiators' health?

And now the NFL opener

Well, this is awkward after all that about the pain of football. But I did admit my addiction, so let's get to predicting the games, another of my favorite things. We begin today with Thursday's season opener. Starting in the next Seats, we will predict the outcome of five games and remind you that you will find my prediction for every game each week at thebeatofsports.com, the web home of our radio show.

Baltimore at Denver — Broncos favored by 9

You won the Super Bowl in February and you open the next season as a nine-point dog against the team you eliminated to become conference champs? Sounds like Vegas considers the Ravens to be chumps, not champs. And the NFL pours gas on the Bronco fire by posting the face of Raven QB Joe Flacco all over Denver after his improbable winning pass knocked the Broncos out of a Super Bowl ticket. All things considered, perhaps nine points isn't enough.

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