Draft Day

This is little more than a brazen attempt of the NFL and ESPN to worship themselves. If you’re fascinated by Chris Berman’s team on the actual draft day, then watch it on TV and avoid it in the theater.

Draft DayWhile the film is not without occasional interest, Director Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day amounts to little more than the NFL paying homage to itself. From the personal appearance of Commissioner Goodell to every TV personality appearing on ESPN Sports, the movie should have been accompanied by the advertisement, “Pay good money and bask in the glow of our presence.”;

As was the case with the recently released and forgotten Three Days to Kill, Kevin Costner appears in a film soon destined for the cinematic landfill. Here he plays the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns hours before the annual draft day extravaganza. The movie actually begins 12 hours before the clock starts to run for the first pick, and Costner is wrestling with his team’s selection choice and the collapse of his personal life.

Costner is actually pretty enjoyable, but he is given precious little to do. On top of that, his love interest concerns an employee played by Jennifer Garner, and it is incredibly hard to accept. Given the fact that she is an attorney who has discovered she is pregnant and you quickly have to overcome the impulse to run toward the movie exit.

Costner wants to bring credibility to the woeful Browns, a team passionately loved in Cleveland and previously coached by his recently deceased father. In the process, you see him on numerous phone calls with other general managers in the league in the attempt to negotiate draft day positioning, and it is incredibly hard to like any of these guys.

The film also focuses on a few of the draft selections, all of them appearing to be little more than stereotypical caricatures of college athletes. The film would have you believe that general managers are only beginning meaningful research of first round picks hours before the draft, and this ridiculous notion is taken to uncomfortable extremes.

As noted, Costner’s personal life is a mess. His widowed mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, is a troubled soul. Just think of her wanting to spread her deceased husband’s ashes on the Browns’ playing field moments before the draft and you will feel the mind-numbing chaos enveloping this film.

Look, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary are wasted in their roles as Costner’s pregnant employee/girlfriend and the team’s Head Coach. Leary is angry throughout the film, and Garner has to be incredibly embarrassed comparing this performance to her memorable portrayal as McConoughey’s treating physician in last year’s buoyant Dallas Buyers Club.

While I recognize some of the cinematic strengths of this film, in the end it left me disgusted. Like the leaders of ancient Rome, the NFL wants everyone in the stands to ignore the fate of the gladiators seen in the coliseum. While none are eaten in today’s game by lions on the field, many are disabled in middle age by the brain injuries suffered in combat.

In addition, the NFL also wants the fans to ignore the backgrounds of today’s football gladiators. Many of them have fathered children by multiple women, not to mention the arrests for violent crimes. The Philadelphia Eagles just cut an all-pro punt returner because of his association with gangs, but the Washington Redskins immediately signed him and asked their fans to loudly cheer.

Furthermore, last year’s Heismann Trophy winner, Florida State’s quarterback Jameis Winston, was accused of rape in a case swept under the rug by the Tallahassee authorities. If you doubt that, read the front page article by Walt Bogdanich appearing in the April 16th edition of the New York Times. Guilty or not, Mr. Winston got a free pass, and his likely selection in the first round by the NFL only adds to the morbid air permeating professional football.

Sadly, it is my firm opinion that the only thing that has made football popular is the way it is televised into everyone’s home. Given instant replay, the game appears to be quick and exciting when it actually involves less than 30 minutes of action in a telecast lasting 3 hours.

Thank God there is no embarrassment coming from the owners’ boxes. Anyone want to go on a road trip with the Colts owner driving?