Have you ever wondered what goes on
behind the scenes on the day of the annual NFL draft of the nation’s top
“Draft Day” is a fictional attempt
to do just that. Some of the
“real” players in that annual sports drama make cameo appearances:
sportscasters and NFL Hall-of-Famers.
But this is about living in the shoes of a General Manager for that
one fateful day that not only decides the future of his team, but usually
his career, as well.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny
Weaver, Jr.: the General Manager of
the Cleveland Browns. They own the 7th
pick in the draft, but even before the actual draft begins, the wheeling and
dealing has already started. Sonny
gets a call on the way to work from another GM, wanting to trade Sonny’s 7th
pick and his three first-round draft choices for the next three years so
that Sonny could have the very 1st
pick, largely assumed to be a “can’t miss” college quarterback.
Sonny’s new coach is not pleased at
all. He feels they already have a
quarterback, even though he’s been in the league 8 years and is 30 years
old and hasn’t taken them to the playoffs yet.
The new coach thinks it is a terrible move to “mortgage their
future” just to get one player, no matter how good he is.
And he keeps obnoxiously flashing around his own Super Bowl ring
(from coaching another team) to imply, well, a kind of omniscience.
What interests the non-sports-nut
viewer in this film is all the other dynamics going on in Sonny’s life.
His father’s ashes need to be spread, and his mother is insisting
on doing that right now. His new
girlfriend, Ali (Jennifer Garner) is also one of his employees, and she’s
just found out she’s pregnant. Sonny
at first doesn’t do effusive very well. (After
all, most men don’t.) Then he wants
to apologize to Ali for his apparent lack of enthusiasm, but ironically, the
distractions just keep popping up. There’s
a new dorky intern who means well, but gets everything wrong.
The team’s quarterback is irate, and Sonny has to tell him to mind
his own business. The owner’s irate
for different reasons, and Sonny has to tell him to butt out, also.
The crux of the film is Sonny wistfully saying to Ali that all he
really wants is to be able to put his own team on the field.
Just once. (And now, for the
final chorus of “I Did It My Way.”)
The speed of the plot increases as
Sonny is suddenly confronted with multiple offers, now that he owns the #1
pick, and he’s also frantically trying to find out something about the
inner character and motivation of said #1 pick.
The interesting thing about the NFL draft is that there is no magic
formula to predict success. Some of
the very best players in the history of the game (especially quarterbacks)
were not drafted very high. And vice
versa: some of those drafted the
highest were complete busts. In the
end, you can ask all the advice you want, and do all the research you can,
but you have to go with what your gut instincts tell you.
And that, of course, isn’t just about NFL draft day:
it’s about being your own person no matter who you are or what you
So, even though this film seems aimed
at only the most radical of sports fans, it does have some universal
applicability. Plus, it’s
well-made, and though seemingly complex, relatively easy to follow. Kevin
Costner returns to his tried-and-true formula of being the stoic hero with
great inner fortitude. The unexpected
part is that the old formula works again.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,