Kevin Costner kissing Jennifer Garner is gross, but it’s not the worst thing about Draft Day. Nor is the disturbing subplot of his flabby neck: Will he undo the top button on his dress shirt to release that pinched wattle? (It looks so painful.) The worst thing about Draft Day is its Cleveland Browns backdrop. The explanation is stupidity or sadism or both. I bet both.
I wore a Browns hat to the theater to see Draft Day. I am not objective. My family’s from Cleveland, and feisty relatives have inceptioned me since youth to root for this team. It’s how sports works for honest fans—our teams become our teams through personal (usually familial) connections. Like being born with diabetes, I got the Browns. They lose most of their games every year. Playoffs? Never.
Draft Day begins 13 hours before the NFL draft, an annual event when teams take turns picking the best college football players. Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Browns. The movie details his wheeling and dealing up to and during the draft. He also—that morning—learned his girlfriend (Garner, who works for the team as a budget specialist) is pregnant. And his dad, whom he fired as coach of the Browns the year previous, just died.
Ugh. The girlfriend and father issues are typical bad movie menu items. Whatever. The real problem is its emphasis on the first round as imperative. If Weaver Jr. nails his pick, it’s said, he’ll “save football in Cleveland.” To which I spit a Sour Patch Kid at the screen in hopes it sticks, and scoff loud enough to be shushed by fellow ticket-buying members of key demographics. Browns first-rounders have been good when they’ve been unsexy selections—offensive linemen and a cornerback. It’s otherwise been bust after epic bust year after awful year. The premise of this movie is garbage.
Not that it’s a real movie.
The NFL is a mighty brand peddling one of America’s favorite products: sports on TV. Football gives it best. Fans say thank you by paying extra on our cable bills for all the games, or going to bars and buying food and beer. I gave them money for the ugly Browns hats I wear, and my grandma gives them money for the Browns sweatshirts she sends me each Christmas.
The crafty millionaires and billionaires running this slick corporation want our eyes on days there aren’t games, to satiate powerful advertisers (mostly light beer and pharmaceuticals). Thus the draft has grown into a blockbuster television event, its first round (of seven) airing in a sweet Thursday-night slot. Draft Day is an ultimate commercial for the event: a “romantic” “comedy” and a Kevin Costner sports flick.
Costner and his pinched neck should not be kissing Garner; he looks like her dad. And I don’t think general managers talk this way. “The kid’s got a great first step, I’ll give him that.” “He’s pro-ready. End of story.” Drafting pros in every sport has become an intricate science of statistical data mining, psychology, and physiology. Analytics. Film study. Scouting. In Draft Day, Costner makes decisions based on weird conversations. “None of the kid’s teammates attended his birthday party, Sonny.” If this is really how Browns GMs work, it explains a lot and I’m glad they get fired so often.
High cruelty is filmmakers choosing the Browns for this dumbed-down two-hour ad for the first round of the NFL draft. Cleveland football is the ultimate proof that these deals we’re watching Costner swing are guaranteed to go horribly. Draft Day would have been bad if it featured any team. By spotlighting the Browns, it bends the knee to evil.
(I’ve ranted here about the Browns’ drafts before. Click here for a Flip Side freakout from the year fat asshole walrus Mike Holmgren picked Brandon Weeden over Russell Wilson.)