Tag Archives: football

Film Review: Draft Day

Dir. Ivan Reitman
Score: 4.8

If you have the misfortune of being a Cleveland Browns fan (and I say this lovingly as a long-suffering Eagles guy), you have a pretty central question to ask yourself before watching this film about a fictional Browns GM wheeling and dealing on one of the biggest NFL days of the year: Do you take pride in seeing your team’s colors and (partially fabricated) history on display for the world to see as an acknowledgement of your pain, or do you recoil at being the subject of a film whose principle theme concerns the gullibility and misery of being in Cleveland and rooting for the hapless Browns?

The question matters, because the GM, Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner), remains inscrutable to the point where we’re not even sure if we’re meant to be rooting for him or not. On the morning of the draft, he agrees with the GM of the Seahawks (Patrick St. Espirit) for an earth-shattering trade: Three consecutive first-round picks for the top pick in 2014 (in this fictional NFL world, the Seahawks, apparently, didn’t just win the Super Bowl), and consensus franchise player, QB Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).

Only things get raggedy from there. For one thing, his coach (Dennis Leary), hates the move and does what he can to short-circuit it, for another his secret girlfriend, Ali, (Jennifer Garner), the team’s cap manager, keeps pressing him about their relationship, which is about to take a drastic change, to say nothing of his staff (Timothy Simmons, David Ramsey and Wade Williams) who like the move but hate the cost, and the team owner (Frank Langella) who wants only to make a big splash on draft day and to hang the consequences.

We follow Sonny through the day’s tortures and pressures only to see him completely reverse course more than once. The question the film never seems terribly inclined to answer is just what we’re meant to make of a GM who makes a bold move in the morning, regrets it by midday and then does whatever he can to circumvent it that night. The film, clearly sanctioned by the NFL, and featuring numerous talking heads from ESPN and the NFL Network, hopscotches around the league, taking us into the jock-opulent d├ęcor of GM offices as far flung as Seattle, Kansas City, Buffalo and Jacksonville in order to provide crucial authenticity, but in the end, the story cooked up by screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph doesn’t very much add up.

Still, there’s a kind of sizzling energy in the air. Director Ivan Reitman, a steady hand at comedy, has a way with managing the chaos and false bravado of the war room, with the myriad of back stories, tensions, and emotional history all locked into a tiny compartment together. We briefly follow the fortune of three draftees and their families and agents, which gives the film a bit more space in which to stretch. It’s just a shame they choose to do so little with it.

You have to wonder what a better writer might have done with this material — I could imagine David Mamet taking to these intricate negotiations like a shark to a bucket of entrails — but what we’re left with feels just about half-baked. Between bouts of expository dialogue and wonky football-speak, very little of which comes out sounding authentic, like the would-be dweebs in Twister trying to talk scientifically about storm fronts and the Saffir-Simpson scale without a clue in the world what they’re actually saying, the character work itself is fairly primitive and largely uninspiring, despite the film’s dramatic swells of music that very much try to suggest otherwise.

The truth is, by the end, we still have no idea if Sonny has been brilliantly playing cat-and-mouse the entire day, or has somehow been made to be the luckiest GM on the planet by complete accident. As a Browns fan, you also have to wonder if the only way the team will ever escape its inexorable morass is by being liberally sprinkled with Hollywood fairy dust.

Behind The Scenes: NFL Broadcast Boot Camp

It’s not every day that you get to see world-class athletes out of their natural element, but that’s exactly what two.one.five magazine had a chance to witness at last month’s NFL Broadcast Boot Camp.

The historic NFL Films complex in Mount Laurel, NJ served as the headquarters for the Broadcast Boot Camp – an initiative sponsored by the NFL to introduce both current and former players to the sports broadcast industry. Those accepted into the program go through a rigorous, three-day workshop that ultimately results in a demo reel that participants can use to shop themselves to prospective employers.

With the average NFL career lasting less than four years, it’s never too early for players to decide what they plan to do once they’re no longer on a 53-man roster. But for those who thought that they could walk right into a broadcasting gig with little or no experience, the Broadcast Boot Camp served as a wake-up call of sorts.

“Just because you can make a mean bowl of chili doesn’t mean that you can run a Mexican restaurant,” said Gerry Matalon, Senior Coordinating Producer at ESPN.

The Broadcast Boot Camp isn’t a walk in the park by any means, but the intensive schedule is a small price to pay for the chance to learn from instructors such as James Brown (CBS), Brian Baldinger (NFL Network), and former Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Dick Vermeil.

“Pay attention to people on the air,” said ESPN’s John Saunders, who served as one of the instructors in the Boot Camp’s Set Taping class. “Pay attention to what makes them good.”

In one session, the players sat with producers to learn how audio clips are spliced with B-roll footage to create compelling highlight packages. Less than an hour later, they were tasked with breaking down game film alongside two of the game’s most respected analysts: ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell of NFL Films.

As current and former players, Boot Camp attendees have a distinct advantage over most people who choose a career in the sports broadcast industry. They were repeatedly advised to play up their NFL connections whenever possible, whether preparing for an in-studio show or merely trying to land a radio gig in their hometown.

“Personalize things,” suggested Jaworski, who had a stellar 16-year career in the NFL, most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles. “You’re a player: People want to hear what it’s like from your perspective.”

As with any skill, the importance of “getting your reps in” is vital to a successful career in broadcasting. Throughout the course of the Boot Camp, there were numerous references to the “10,000 Hour Rule” referenced in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers“, and participants were implored to get their experience wherever and whenever possible.

“Everyone wants to be on national TV,” said Howard Deneroff, Executive Producer of Dial Global Sports. “There’s no opportunity too small to work your way to that.”

Television wasn’t the only focus of the Broadcast Boot Camp: Not only did attendees learn the do’s and don’ts of radio, but each was given the opportunity to co-host a live segment on SiriusXM. Chip Kelly’s arrival in Philadelphia was the topic du jour, and there was no shortage of debate as to whether or not Kelly’s Oregon offense would translate well to the professional level.

In all, 24 current and former players participated in this year’s workshop: Among the attendees were former Eagles’ running back Ricky Watters and former St. Louis Rams’ wide receiver Torry Holt.

Each of the participants had varying degrees of broadcasting experience, but the skills they learned over the course of the Broadcast Boot Camp will give them a head start on the rest of their peers. Of the 128 players who have participated in the program since 2007, 48 of them have earned jobs in the broadcast industry.

While three days learning the in-and-outs of sports media clearly isn’t enough time to absorb every aspect of the business, it gave participants a taste of exactly how much work is involved preparing for life on the other side of the microphone.

“This has been an amazing experience,” said Green Bay Packers’ linebacker A.J. Hawk. “I am inspired to pursue a career in this field after learning more than I thought I would.

(Additional reporting on this story was done by Brandyn Muller Campbell.)