The movie Draft Day answers the question, “It is possible to make a movie that’s less entertaining than Cleveland Browns football?” The answer is no. This movie is more enjoyable to watch than most Browns games. It’s a low bar, but the movie clears it.
As you may or may not know, I am a longtime Browns fan who has vowed not to watch another game until this decrepit corpse of a franchise posts a record that is two games over .500. I happen to think the Cleveland Browns since their return in 1999 have been a complete and total fraud, a shoddy facsimile of a football franchise owned and run by a series of incompetent executives who have taken advantage of one of the great fan bases in pro sports and salted the Cleveland sports terrain with awful coaching decisions and terrible draft picks. That the team is now owned by a man being investigated by the FBI for swindling his business customers does not give me hope for the future of the team. If anything, it fits the pattern quite nicely.
I wanted to hate Draft Day. I said as much on Carlos Jaime’s “Come to Your Senses” podcast. As part of the podcast, we watch movie trailers, and we goof on them. The Draft Day trailer was so boring I thought I was watching an actual Browns game. Kevin Costner looked as dynamic as the Browns’ running game, the plot did not appear to have a central conflict and the action revolved around an invisible thing—a decision. Cleveland sports history is littered with bad decisions, from trading Rocky Colavito to Red Right 88, to the Prevent Defense on The Drive to The Decision.
Unlike the Browns, Draft Day was not as awful as I thought it would be. Granted, it’s not a great movie. It will soon be forgotten. Probably the most damning aspect of all: It’s a big wet sloppy kiss to the NFL—all rah-rah with none of the unseemly underside, like, you know, injuries, permanent brain damage, crime and ruined lives. NFL execs have to be very pleased with how this particular slice of football propaganda turned out. Nonetheless, the film held my attention all the way through. Part of this was because of the way it was written as a sports mystery. Part of it also was that I was engaging in Browns fantasy play in my head, hoping and wishing the Browns will make the right decision, because maybe in a world constructed by Hollywood that might actually happen.
Some of the scenes are unintentionally hilarious because of awkward or lazy cinematography. There are segments of dialogue that are preposterous. I heard Bill Simmons talk way back about how every sports movie should have a hardcore fan or insider as a producer, to avoid unrealistic scenes and dialogue. Draft Day could have used one of those. But there were some enjoyable moments in the film, and the acting by Jennifer Garner, Griffin Newman, Chadwick Boseman and Arian Foster was pretty good. And the movie unexpectedly contains Sam Elliott. I’ll take unexpected Sam Elliott in every movie please.
My biggest criticism is that some dick put John Elway and The Drive in the middle of the movie. Oh, thanks, and f#$% you, too.
If you’re a Browns fan, I’d say it’s worth watching, if for no other reason than it will be more entertaining than the Browns’ actual draft day, which is the highlight of every Browns’ fan’s calendar until … the ensuing draft day. And so on and so forth, as it was and as it shall be forever and ever.