Draft Day Movie: C’mon Man…

OR_Draft-Day-2014-movie-Wallpaper-1920x1440

I was among the first to see the Draft Day movie on Friday afternoon. Mostly because I couldn’t wait. But also because I wanted to review it for all of you. Yes, you are welcome. It’s just one of the services I provide.

There were only about a dozen people in the theater for one of the first showings of Draft Day. Granted, it was a beautiful day in Indianapolis and the last thing most people probably wanted to do was go sit in a dark movie theater. But, I wanted to see football. And my husband obliged.

Draft Day has been touted as, “the best sports movie since Jerry Maguire.” So naturally, I went in thinking Jerry Maguire. I didn’t get Jerry Maguire. I didn’t get Waterworld. But, I definitely didn’t get Jerry Maguire. So, The Blind Side still holds the lead as best sports movie since Jerry Maguire in my humble opinion. And Draft Day doesn’t even come close.

Draft Day has some interesting behind-the-scenes looks at the NFL draft. Some of them are realistic, some of them – not so much. But where the film really misses is with the characters (or lack thereof). After a fairly quick one hour and forty-nine minutes, I can honestly tell you there was only one character I cared about – even a little bit. He was Vontae Mack (played by Chadwick Boseman), a linebacker draft prospect channeling Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire. He was only in a few scenes and mostly while talking on the phone.

Kevin Costner, who plays Kevin Costner (just like he does in every other movie), goes by the name of Sonny Weaver Jr. this time, General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. You know who should have played Weaver? Thomas Dimitroff, the actual GM of the Atlanta Falcons. He not only looks like a movie star, but has a personality and is likable. Also, he would have had a lot more chemistry with Jennifer Garner.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff

Garner plays Costner’s (I mean, Weaver’s) coworker and love interest. A likeable actress in a role with almost no depth. As the salary cap manager for the Browns, all we know about “Ali” is that she’s sleeping with the GM, is pregnant with his child, and chooses the morning of the draft to tell him. Which had me thinking (in my best Cris Carter voice), “C’mon, man!”

Then, there’s Weaver’s mother Barb (played by Ellen Burstyn). Who insists on spreading the ashes of her late husband (Sonny Weaver Sr.), the former coach of the Browns (who Sonny Jr. fired – we find out later for health reasons), on the practice field the day of (you guessed it) the draft. Again…C’mon man!

Also making an appearance is Rosanna Arquette. As Barb Weaver’s sidekick and Sonny’s ex wife. With absolutely no explanation whatsoever. C’mon man!

Tom Welling stars as Brian Drew, the current Browns quarterback rehabbing from a knee injury. This guy is everything you want in a quarterback – handsome, likeable, with a beautiful family. And played by a great actor – with a very small part. What a missed opportunity. C’mon, man!

And here come the spoilers. If you plan to see Draft Day and you don’t want to know the plot, stop reading now. But come back later, because I know you’ll agree with me.

***********************************************************************

Last Warning: Spoilers!

Josh Pence, who plays Bo Callahan, is everything you don’t want in a quarterback. A cross between Johnny Manziel and Geno Smith, he suffers a first pick snub for being a liar…only to be drafted six positions later. C’mon, man!

And perhaps the biggest farce of all, after magically turning one first round pick into two (plus a punt returner), Sonny Weaver takes, wait for it…a running back. At number six?! C’MON, MAN!!!

And then, it’s over. We are lead to believe that Sonny Weaver Jr. changed the course of the most tragic team in NFL history.

But the best line of the whole movie came when it was over. As the credits are rolling, my husband leans over and says, “And they went 3-13.”

C’mon man!

XO

Disclaimer: I don’t know if Vontae Mack was a bang or a bust or if Ali got the right guy, but my husband Michael was the pick of a lifetime for me. And today is his birthday. So…happy birthday, baby. I love you!

I did not love Draft Day. But I did love the football scenes, which were few. And far between.

College Player Unions: A Slippery Slope

Syracuse University
(Photo: SU)

One of my gifts is knowing what I don’t know. I know. Not exactly resume material. But still…as a writer, it’s one of my greatest assets. Aside from my wit – ha!

There is much I don’t know about being a student athlete. I struggled juggling sorority life and academics during my days at Syracuse. And that wasn’t nearly as demanding.

Except for this one time…my friend Gina and I hung out at a fraternity house until everyone was asleep, swiped their composite picture off the wall, carried it down Comstock Avenue, and propped it up on the fireplace in our sorority house to greet the sisters of AZD. Our house boys (from the same fraternity) arrived the next morning freaking out about it – while it was staring them in the face from our living room. After much giggling, they eventually figured it out and returned it to its proper place.

Why did I tell that story again?

Oh, ya…

Not exactly the perils of training, travel, and competition. Along with demanding academic standards, depending of course, on which school you attend (not pointing fingers).

I’m sure going to college on a sports scholarship is a lot like going to college with a job (full or part-time). Which, a lot of people do. Because they have no other choice.

Student athletes have a lot on their plates. But they receive a lot in return. An education that is paid for (in whole or in part). The chance to shine on a national stage. And the unique opportunity to be drafted to play the game they love and make millions doing it.

In turn, athletes create opportunity for their schools in attendance, naming rights, and jersey sales. All of which generate money. Lots of money.

It’s a win – win.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fair.

In an effort to represent themselves and their unique issues, football players at Northwestern University formed the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and won the right to do so through a regional National Labor Relations Board. I have no problem with players organizing to lobby the NCAA on behalf of college athletes. If anything, I applaud their leadership.

Nutrition is just as important as training, so if athletes say a healthy meal plan needs to be part of their scholarship package, I have a hard time arguing with that. Kind of seems like a basic need to me. Expenses like books, transportation and such are also frequently touted.

There is a fine line on some of that stuff. But there’s also a not-so-fine line: payment to players outside of school-related expenses. This is a whole different ballgame. To me, amateur athletics have a unique and sacred place in sports. One I would hate to lose altogether.

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. And how the players organize and lobby on behalf of themselves is part of it. But one thing is sure: It’s a slippery slope. One that could permanently alter the landscape of college athletics. And one that needs to be navigated very carefully.

Colleges are academic institutions. They are not training grounds for professional sports. They are not minor league ball clubs. Even if athletics do generate a majority of  the income at some schools.

Students should appreciate college for all that it is. And all that it’s worth. Which is, a  lot. No matter who pays for it. And what you end up with, an education (and some stories to go along with it), will last you far longer than your chosen career, whether you work in an office, a studio, or a stadium.

XO

Disclosure: I do not condone theft. Especially theft of items that value more than $1,000, which constitutes a felony in the State of New York. Besides, the last time I checked (which was a long time ago), Zeta Psi had their composite pictures screwed to the wall. And upon further investigation, I found that the Zeta Psi fraternity is no longer active on the Syracuse University campus. But no one can ever take away my story. Or my education.

NFL Free Agency: Free for All. But Not Free — at All.

image_3_t580

A new NFL season is upon us.

With NFL free agency signings slowing down a bit, I thought it would be a good time to step back and review what we’ve learned so far about the 2014 season.

John Elway and Bill Belichick are already engaged in a season-long chess match. So far, the Denver Broncos have claimed Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware, leading us to believe that “offense wins games — defense wins championships,” may be their mantra this year.

Meanwhile, the Patriots gathered Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell. And according to their former cornerback, Aqib Talib (who claims he does not have a hip problem), the Patriots report fake injuries. Which surprises no one.

Michael Vick will stay in green and white, but he won’t be wearing number 7. Vick may challenge Jets quarterback Geno Smith for the starting job — but says he won’t challenge him for his number. Also, the Jets aren’t happy unless they have a full-fledged quarterback controversy on their hands. And ESPN camped out at training camp.

Mark Sanchez will also stay in green and white, as he heads from the Jets to the Eagles, where he will compete  for the job of backup quarterback to Nick Foles with Matt Barkley. Apparently, the job requirements for backup quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles include good hands (for clipboard holding), playing for USC, and being really, really, ridiculously good looking.

Speaking of ridiculously good looking…in releasing wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, and Domenik Hixon, the Carolina Panthers must think quarterback Cam Newton really is Superman and that he can throw the ball and catch the ball — himself. No one will be more impressed than Gisele Bundchen if Newton is indeed able to pull this off.

The NFC North is playing musical chairs (or musical ends), with Julius Peppers going to the Packers, Jared Allen to the Bears, and the Vikings still deciding which Packer they will sign this season.

Denver running back Knowshon Moreno is taking his talents (and his tears) to Miami.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert is still in the NFL, now backing up Colin Kaepernick at the San Francisco 49ers. And making twice as much money — for now.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to ride his bench. And his unicorn.

If you’re a veteran player, prepare to sign a short contract, with one year deals becoming incredibly popular this offseason. There’s a reason they call the NFL “Not For Long.”

And not for long just got, well — less long.

Stay tuned.

XO

Team USA: Hearts of Gold

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

A Sochi stray
(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Say what you will about Americans. We may be spoiled, lazy, and unintelligent (generally speaking, of course), but you can always count on an American to stand up for the little guy. In this case, the little furry guy.

The Olympics are ripe with stories of passion, glory, and perseverance. But, there is no Olympic story that warms my heart more than the athletes from Team USA bringing home stray dogs from Sochi.

Stray dogs are common in the Olympic Village area and made headlines when the games opened. In an effort to avoid any nuisance and more likely, any embarrassment…the Russians sent out crews to capture the dogs and well, you know…

Enter Team USA.

First, we saw pictures of American freestyle skier, Gus Kenworthy, taking in a mother dog and her four puppies.

Photo: Twitter/@guskenworthy:
“puppy love is real to puppies.”

Then, American cross country skier, Holly Brooks, tweeted out this picture of snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis and her adopted pooch.

Photo: Twitter/@brooksha1:
“This Sochi Stray scored a one way ticket to the USA with @LindsJacobellis. #luckydog #justintime”

 And now, we hear several members of  the USA Hockey team have dogs living at the hotel with them and plan to bring them home.

Photo: Twitter/@A4A_org:
“Meet Sochi Jack and Sochi Junior with @dbackes42 and @shattdeuces during the @Sochi2014 with @USOlympic”

One of the dogs has even become the unofficial team mascot. From the streets of Sochi to Olympic housing…talk about a wags to riches story.

These athletes have to jump through many hoops to bring foreign dogs home and many are extending their stay in Sochi to do so. But, that’s nothing compared to what they went through to get there. Or, the unconditional love they’ll receive in return.

No matter how they perform on the slopes, at the rink, or in any of the Olympic events…these athletes have already won gold.

Team USA showed the world their hearts of gold…and won ours in the process.

And that, more than anything…makes me a proud American.

USA! USA! USA!

XO

Out of the Closet…and Into the NFL

Michael Sam, defensive lineman for the Missouri Tigers

Michael Sam, defensive end for the Missouri Tigers and potential NFL draft pick
(Photo: Brandon Wade | AP)

Ready or not…here he comes!

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam hasn’t even been drafted, but already he’s changing the National Football League as we know it.

A projected third or fourth-round draft pick, Sam is an All-American defensive lineman and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But, that’s not why he’s making headlines in the NFL draft talk.

You see, Michael Sam is gay. He’s not the first gay athlete to come out publicly. But if he’s drafted in May, he’ll be the first to do so where no one else has…the NFL locker room.

We knew this day would come. It was just a matter of when. In coming out, Sam and his Mizzou teammates set an example for his future team and all teams.

“Sam had in fact told his team at the University of Missouri that he was gay last summer. It was prompted by a simple team-building exercise with a question from a coach: ‘Tell us something we don’t know about you.’ Some of the team had already known. Some were shocked by the news. All of them embraced him. None of them told the media.”
 -Cyd Zeigler, Outsports

In today’s world, there is no player who doesn’t know someone (or isn’t related to someone) who is gay. Still, reaction from players and executives around the league is mixed.

Some say it’s long overdue and that if Sam does his job and performs on the field, his off-the-field life won’t matter to his teammates.

Others insist the media attention and potential locker room issues will cause his draft stock to fall.

Sports Illustrated asked NFL executives and coaches to share their thoughts on Michael Sam (anonymously). Most predicted his path to the NFL would be an uphill battle, even daunting.

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
-NFL player personnel assistant to SI

But, here’s the thing. For anything to become acceptable in ten years or twenty years, someone has to take the first step. Today.

And Michael Sam just bravely took it. For himself. For past players. For current players. And for future players.

Whether he gets drafted into the NFL or whether he even plays a game, Michael Sam has already made a legacy for himself.

And it’s a legacy that transcends the locker room, the field, and the game.

Michael Sam changed the face of the NFL.

Before stepping foot on the field.

XO