As the city of Dallas celebrated a second-straight Super Bowl berth, quarterback Troy Aikman sat in a local hospital room with the lights dimmed, unable to process complete thoughts after a severe concussion had knocked him from the NFC championship game. The chilling moment is recounted by his longtime agent, Leigh Steinberg, in the forthcoming Frontline special League of Denial, which premieres next Tuesday night at 9 pm ET on PBS.
In this exclusive clip provided to BuzzFeed, Steinberg recalls the 1994 NFC Championship Game in Dallas, when Aikman took a knee to the head, left the game, and was transported to a Dallas-area hospital for more observation. Backup QB Bernie Kosar replaced him and guided the Cowboys to a decisive win over the San Francisco 49ers, thereby earning a trip to Super Bowl XXVIII. But as Dallas celebrated, Aikman’s brain was like a skipping record, unable to grasp the good news that Steinberg was trying to convey.
The film’s premiere next Tuesday coincides with the publication of the book League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth, which was penned by ESPN investigate reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada. (The former appears briefly in this clip.) ESPN notably cut all ties with the film six weeks ago, alleging that it was dissatisfied with the level of “editorial control,” though it already had been collaborating with Frontline for 15 months theretofore. However, an excerpt from the book does appear in the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine. (Another excerpt also appears in this week’s Sports Illustrated.)
BuzzFeed will have a full review of League of Denial early next week, but for now, here’s the clip describing those moments with Aikman in the hospital almost 20 years ago.