Moneyball is my favorite baseball movie. That’s probably because I can’t relate to throwing a perfect game or being stuck in the minors or playing major league baseball with a bunch of angels in the outfield. But thanks to fantasy sports and MLB: The Show and Baseball Twitter and even the rise of sports gambling, I sure as hell think I could be a GM.
Yeah, I’ve read Moneyball. I can use a Baseball Savant page. I’ve run trades through Baseball Trade Values. Sure, I’ve never been drafted or hit for the cycle or picked up the save, but Moneyball makes me feel like I can at least be Billy Beane.
Draft Day is Moneyball‘s scrappy cousin. It’s the football Scrappy-Doo to baseball’s Scooby-Doo.
While Moneyball deals in stats and analytics and calculators, Draft Day deals in vibes and feelings and hunches.
Sports Movies Hall-of-Famer Kevin Costner (winner of three Baseball Movie Most Valuable Player Awards) plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the General Manager of the lowly Cleveland Browns. It may feel like non-fiction as you are watching, but this movie ends with the Browns making good football moves, which clearly cements the film in the historical fiction genre.
It’s the day of the 2014 NFL Draft, and Sonny’s got a lot to prove. His father, the long-time coach of the team, has recently passed away, leaving Sonny in his father’s shadow rather than his footsteps. His kinda-secret girlfriend, the team’s salary cap analyst, is pregnant, which can’t stay kinda-secret for long. And he’s got a lot of work to do today because, oh yeah, he’s the general manager of the team with the 7th overall pick in today’s NFL Draft.
The cast is filled out with likable actors your parents love. Jennifer Garner glows brightly as ever as Ali, the kinda-secret girlfriend. Denis Leary plays the team’s coach, hating his life just as any of us would if we had to coach the Cleveland Browns. Frank Langella plays the team’s owner and is … well … he’s in the movie. The late Chadwick Boseman, another Sports Movie Hall-of-Famer, suits up to play Vontae Mack, a top linebacker prospect from the Ohio State University. Terry Crews, Sean Combs, and a slew of real football personalities, from Roger Goodell to Chris Berman to Rich Eisen, round out the cast.
While Moneyball has the brains to deal with stats and smart baseball moves and changing the sport as we know it, Draft Day asks questions like: Is he tough? Can he play ball? Why did none of his teammates come to his birthday party?
It’ll drive the number-crunching sports fan insane with its non-scouting and tabloid-reading and pancake-eating over trade dealings, which is exactly why your dad loves this movie. The more you want your sports to be WWE rather than Algebra II, the more you’ll like the macho-machinations of Draft Day.
Costner exudes that sports-movie aroma, and he brings it to this outing in spades. You believe him as the boy born with a football in his hands, the guy always trying to win the last game of the season, and the leader of a Draft Day warroom. He looks like the kind of middle-aged white guy who would run the Cleveland Browns, and he acts like it too. That sincerity, despite all of the movie’s many flaws, is what makes Draft Day a winner.
He makes more moves in one day than Derrik playing Madden Franchise: moving draft positions, adding draft picks, valuing and devaluing players … absolutely none of it is rooted in playbooks or scouting or finances or statistics. It’s all just vibes.
Jennifer Garner has like one line about a signing bonus, but you still believe her as a salary cap expert. Denis Leary lights one playbook on fire and suddenly feels like an NFL coach. Chadwick Boseman damn near says, “Show me the money!” And he could’ve said it for all we care, because he pulls it off. We don’t need any of them to win Oscars, we just need them to reach our mild expectations. And considering that the pool of GM-led sports movies starts and ends with Moneyball, a hint of Any Given Sunday, and a taste of Jerry Maguire, there isn’t a ton of competition in this subgenre’s subgenre.
Former Green Bay Packers vice president Andrew Brandt once said that Draft Day is “lacking any true depiction of how an NFL team operates leading up to and during the draft” and that’s exactly why this movie is awesome. Who cares about real life? This is the movies! I want Costner to put people on hold and for the veteran quarterback to trash his office and for the Seattle Seahawks to mortgage their future and for Jennifer Garner to tell me she loves me. Don’t we all want those things?