Now I get it. Now it all makes sense. Draft Day explains it all. The excitement of Draft Day and the intrigue behind the scenes of one of the biggest days in football; the day the college kids get drafted to play for the NFL big boys. Best of all is that Ali, played in her usual feminine, strong-without-cutting-off-his-balls style by our favorite Girl Next Door, Jennifer Garner, is not sacrificed in any way by being made into a sex object, needing a man to get something done, or dumbing herself down to make him look better. She is everything you want to be—attractive but not in a way that demeans her. Smart, but not in a way that looks anything but effortless. In love, but not in a desperate way that makes her behave like a crazy person. Oh yes, finally a girl gets to be the way we all want to be in a macho guy film. The times they are a-changing.
And Costner? He’s okay. God, he’s attractive in that “I’m too sexy for myself” kind of way. Elusive. Engaged. Intense. Fair. But he’s really not a great actor, and throughout the film—especially in the beginning—he mistimes his lines. His pants are too tight. He delivers some of his lines in a way that says he’s delivering the lines, and you know he’s acting. At the same time, I love him in the role. Same guy as Message in a Bottle. Same guy as Waterworld, Dances with Wolves, and especially For Love of the Game, (one of my personal favorites) in which he even delivers one of the same lines from this film: “What do you want?”
So, Draft Day is all about the NFL and it is an entertaining two hours. It is. But I was disquieted when I left and couldn’t figure out why.
I went to the University of Nebraska in the early seventies, when Johnny Rogers won the Heisman. I had two football players in my speech class who never once gave a speech all semester … and who told me that they’d gotten B’s in the class when I ran into them the next semester. These players were abusive to women on campus, and no one cared. No one cared when Johnny Rogers robbed a gas station – with a gun. Forty-three years later, in November of 2013, he received a pardon from the state of Nebraska for that crime. He said, ” I feel like the weight for that particular incident is off my shoulders.” I couldn’t help but wonder that a pardon takes the weight off his shoulders, makes it like he didn’t do it … when actually, he did do it. And he was arrested in 1987 for attacking a cable man who was disconnecting his cable. In other words, he was and is a loser. We all know the drill with football players. The Johnny Rogers story is played out across America on most college ball teams, and it’s the reason I left football behind after leaving Nebraska. There is no reason to belabor the point, because it is what it is, but it also affects the way I viewed this film.
I wanted to start rooting for the Cleveland Browns after watching Draft Day. You will too. The troubled players in the film were really good guys. We can see that. We are rooting for their second chances. We excuse their breaking the rules because the tug-at-your-heartstrings way they’re presented invites us to do just that—give them our hearts. And like lambs being led to the slaughter, we do. Just like in real life football. I left the movie thinking I might start watching football again. Then I got a grip on myself after looking up Johnny Rogers in order to write this review and remembered that if an alien came down from outer space and watched what we call entertainment on the football fields across America, said alien would think that not much had changed since the days when Romans sacrificed gladiators while the crowds roared. The Hunger Games? Not out of the realm of possibility.
Football is only popular in America. The rest of the world finds it too violent. Guns too. So, while I loved the two hours I was on the edge of my seat watching this film, I wished I hadn’t found it so compelling.