When Not Muddled in Superfluous Details, the Lights Shine Bright on a Serious Epidemic in The United States of Football


The United States of Football is essentially the opposite of Friday Night Lights. A feel-bad documentary about the concussion epidemic in the NFL—somehow only recently become an issue—more than one of its interviewees died between the time they were filmed and the project’s completion. Director Sean Pamphilon, best known as the man who leaked audio of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal last year, veers between the informative (a hard look at a culture that promotes dangerous playing styles from a very early age) and the superfluous (an inordinate amount of attention paid to offensive-tackle-turned-activist Kyle Turley’s band) throughout, and doesn’t always strike a workable balance. Probably the most interesting thing he does is spotlight the players’ wives who have been pivotal in bringing attention to the issue and forcing the NFL’s into finally taking some semblance of action over the last few years. Pamphilon seems to fancy himself the sporting world’s answer to Michael Moore, spending a good portion of the movie trying to track down NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the same vein as Moore did in Roger & Me, but has little of the polarizing documentarian’s flair as a filmmaker. He won’t wow you with his skill behind the camera, but you’ll likely still find yourself nodding your head in frustrated agreement.