Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
April 24, 2014
First appeared in print in The Rhino Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Draft Day, Morning O's
I gave up cold cereal long ago. At the same time I gave up breakfast entirely.
I know. "Most important meal of the day," yadda yadda.
Everybody's metabolism is different. Everybody's response to sugar highs and
sugar lows is also different. When I eat breakfast, I am ravenously hungry at
lunchtime, and insatiable at supper. When I skip breakfast, I'm not hungry at
all at lunchtime.
In fact, I don't get hungry until around three or four in the afternoon. ("Tea
time!" cries my nonexistent British reader.) I can live with a little hunger until
we reach an hour -- usually about five or five-thirty -- when my patient wife
believes reasonable people can eat a reasonable meal.
That's all to the good. Being hungry for supper at 5:30 means you can
usually get a table at the most sought-after restaurants. On a Friday night,
we may be completely out of luck without a reservation -- at seven p.m.
But at 5:30, even the most crowded restaurants will usually seat us, as long as
we promise to finish up and leave by 6:45. Thus we are able to dine at the
trendiest places in LA and NYC, without scheduling a reservation months in
(By the way, we never eat somewhere because it's "trendy." That usually
means nothing more than the occasional presence of people we recognize
from television or movies.
(My food does not taste any better because Tom Hanks and his family are
seated near the door [PF Chang's in Santa Monica a few years ago], so people
can see that this is the kind of place where Tom Hanks comes to eat.
(Besides, his table ordered the lettuce wraps, which I find uninteresting, and
not one soul had the Dan Dan Noodles. Celebrities are perfectly capable of
making food mistakes.)
However, it sometimes happens that excellent new restaurants are also trendy,
and therefore hard to get a table at. But at 5:30 p.m., even on a Friday night,
it's usually a cinch to get in.
So eating on an old-people's schedule has its benefits.
But back to breakfast, and my lack of it. I swore off cold cereal because I loved
it way, way too much. I would eat a whole box at each meal, mostly because
the milk and the cereal never came out even in the bowl. I'd run out of cereal
and replenish it so as not to waste milk, or run out of milk and replenish it
Oh, whom am I fooling, really? I kept eating because the cold cereal kept
tasting good. My favorite, in the olden days: Crispix, Kellogg's answer to the
Chex cereals. They stopped making it a while ago, I assume because I was no
longer consuming five boxes a week. I hear that it's back in production again,
even without me. Bravely done.
I am not going back to breakfast-eating and certainly not to bowls of cold cereal
in milk. But when I'm watching television of an evening, it's tempting to snack.
Popcorn -- notably Skinny Pop -- has been the snack of choice, but good
as Skinny Pop is, after a while you can grow just a teensy bit weary of it.
So as I walked through Whole Foods the other day, I happened to notice a box
with a picture of a perky serving of O-shaped cereal in a bowl. Only unlike
Cheerios the O's were of several different colors. And the brand name was
Whole Foods' own store brand: 365.
It crossed my mind that a plastic cup of 365 brand Multi-Grain Morning O's
might be just the thing to occasionally replace the bowls of Skinny Pop while
we watch Suits or The Mentalist or I, all by myself, watch Game of Thrones.
Thus it happened that I, the confirmed old non-eater of cold cereal, paid for a
box of O-shaped breakfast food.
Verdict: Oh mama.
The 365 Morning O's are better than Cheerios. Crisp and sweet, they are
very rewarding when snacked upon dry. I must leave it to others to evaluate
their bowl-of-milk worthiness.
Ingredients? The first four are corn, barley, wheat, and oat flour. Then
comes cane sugar. Then rice flour, then brown sugar, then more rice flour,
then oat hull fiber, wheat starch, and finally sunflower and/or canola oil.
There's definitely enough sugar to make these O's taste sweet. Not as sweet as
Trix, but sweeter than Cheerios. This is not a complaint; it's only an
Decades ago, during the first rush of oat-fiber madness, the makers of Cheerios
reformulated them to include way more fiber than they used to have. This was
back when I still ate the occasional bowl of cereal. The sextupling of oat fiber
in Cheerios had the predictable effect.
When that was my breakfast, for the rest of the day I dared not stray far from
the small room with many water fixtures. You see, I already was "regular," and
therefore this massive injection of oat bran made me "frequent."
Since Cheerios remained a favorite snack for parents to feed their toddlers at
church, I wondered if the fiber content had any noticeable effect on the tykes;
since we did not us Cheerios as a snack food for babies, we could not make
It is worth pointing out that 365 brand Multi-Grain Morning O's are as
alimentarily effective as Cheerios. The makers are very proud of their 15g of
whole grains per serving, and tout the O's as a "good source of fiber."
This, too, is neither praise nor criticism; it is only an observation. However, for
those who may not wish to alter the number of Depends they go through
in a day, it is also fair warning.
These Multi-Grain Morning O's are an excellent snack food. Way better for me
than, say, chocolate bars or cheese slices, my other favorite non-popcorn
And if I were ever to go back to eating breakfasts, I would replace my old
Crispix with Multi-Grain Morning O's and not feel myself cruelly treated by
As an added bonus, Whole Planet Foundation, which is tagged as the maker of
365 Multi-Grain Morning O's, is very package-proud of being involved in
Apparently they discriminate, providing these loans only to women -- God
forbid a poor man should need a loan to be able to finance a business that
would help him feed his family -- but in this imperfect world I can live with
that bit of sexism without calling for a boycott.
The point is that eating 365 brand Multi-Grain Morning O's is not only a
delicious favor to your taste buds and a fine supercharger to your alimentary
system, but also a means of providing microloans to many an
"impoverished woman entrepreneur."
Delicious, healthy, and righteous; a fine combination.
I was a football fan, once upon a time. I found Jim McMahon intriguing
when he quarterbacked for Brigham Young University and, when he went to
the Chicago Bears, I became a Bears fan.
It helped that I lived in South Bend, Indiana, at the time, though I moved to
Greensboro years before the Bears' victory in Super Bowl XX in 1986. By then
I was more impressed with Walter Payton than McMahon, so I was
disappointed when McMahon called his own number to rush for two
touchdowns, leaving Payton without any rushing touchdowns in his one Super
When McMahon faded from football, I faded from football fandom. I faded so
far, in fact, that I only realized that the Houston Oilers had moved to Tennessee
when it was mentioned in the 2000 Tom Hanks film Cast Away.
I noticed I was no longer a football fan when I found myself falling asleep
during Sunday afternoon football broadcasts. That had never happened when I
was watching Ditka's and McMahon's Bears.
However, I have not forgotten what it felt like to care about, not just the score,
but the actual playing of the game. There were those few years when I really
cared about football.
This had been more of a hurdle than you might realize, because I played
sousaphone in a high school marching band -- which meant that I went to
every game played by the Mesa High School Jackrabbits in Arizona in the
Watching the Jackrabbits play in those days was not conducive to instilling a
deep love of the sport. Ours was not an awful team, but it was not a great one,
The band, on the other hand, was a state champion. Our coolest shtick was
marching to form the first-half score on the field during halftime. Now I look at
the fabulous drumline bands shown in various movies and TV shows and I
realize that compared to them we were nothing.
But in Mesa, Arizona, in the mid-1960s, our band was almost cool.
Anyway, marching band left me with a deep weariness about football that
only Jim McMahon was able to overcome.
Recently, because of various symptoms of dementia (forgetting why he walked
into a room, for instance -- something that happens to me all the time),
McMahon has joined in a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming that the NFL
did not sufficiently warn players of the dangers of repeated concussions.
I'm sorry for McMahon's (and other players') brain damage, and I hope helmets
and game rules are redesigned to protect the players better.
However, I also remember very clearly that McMahon was notorious for joining
in the helmet-butting tradition of his Bears teammates. The articles I read
stressed that team doctors warned them that bumping their helmets together
could cause longterm brain damage, but McMahon was one of those who
ignored the warnings and continued his participation in this slightly violent
form of greeting each other on the field.
My point is this: Even when the players were warned of brain damage back
in the 1980s, they did not take the warnings seriously and refrain from
perilous activity. So the most valuable thing about McMahon's lawsuit is not
that the players might be given money to compensate for negligence by the NFL
leadership, since they were plenty negligent themselves, but that the publicity
surrounding the suit might alert other players to the fragility of brains that
they may wish to have full use of in their fifties and sixties.
All of this is such a long way around to get to my review of Draft Day. I just
have to say that I'm not a sucker for football movies. There are football
movies that I've loved (North Dallas Forty, The Replacements), but not because of
my deep abiding love of the game.
I don't get instantly sentimental and gooey-eyed about any sport. I can, in fact,
watch Field of Dreams without shedding a tear. To me, baseball is associated
with only two things: continuous humiliation as a child softball player, and
unspeakable boredom as a spectator.
Fortunately, Draft Day is not so much a football movie as a movie about
leadership -- Moneyball without all the math. And while it helps to know
something about the game, the story makes perfect sense without such
knowledge, because it isn't about playing football, it's about the poker game
of management jockeying to put together playoff-worthy teams.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver, Jr., who came to manage the Cleveland
Browns a couple of years before -- when his father was still the longtime coach
of the team.
Then he fired his own father. That certainly gave him a reputation for
toughness -- if not outright meanness -- but halfway through Draft Day we
find out a deeper reason for his decision to force his aging father's retirement
from the game he loved.
This draft day is Sonny Weaver's first chance to put together a team that is
truly his own. He is surrounded by critics and distractions. The foremost
critic is Coach Penn, played powerfully by Denis Leary. Penn came to the
Browns from Dallas, and he loves to flaunt his Super Bowl ring -- but Weaver
doesn't take it seriously, since he sees Penn as a caretaker who stepped in to
finish that Dallas Super Bowl season, replacing a head coach laid low by ill
Draft Day is all about getting the right players for the Browns. All the
commentators' choice for number one draft pick is a Heisman-winning
quarterback who is as touted as Herschel Walker once was. So when Weaver
makes a deal with the Seahawks to get the number one pick this draft day
(trading away three future first-round picks), Coach Penn is apoplectic.
The Browns don't need a quarterback, Penn insists. They need a running
back. So Weaver has traded away three years of the team's future drafts
in order to get a quarterback that the Browns don't need. It's a disastrous
The team's owner, played by Frank Langella, is thrilled at the first-round pick,
however -- that kind of publicity storm is just what he, with his short-range
vision, wants for his team.
But Weaver's plans are much deeper than anybody thinks. In a way, Draft
Day works like a first-rate war movie, with the hero's winning strategy only
coming clear as we approach the end.
The distractions for Weaver are painful ones indeed. His girlfriend, Ali, played
by a luminous Jennifer Garner, is also a co-worker -- she's the team executive
responsible for making sure the Browns comply with the salary cap.
Getting the first pick in the first round is a disaster for her -- the salary you
have to pay for a quarterback in that position is high enough that they might
well have to drop other valuable players in order to stay within the salary limit.
But that's not what makes her a distraction. In the first scene, we find out
that she and Weaver are lovers ... and she's pregnant.
Even more distracting, though, is the slightly unbelievable plot twist that
Weaver's mother picks this day of all days to comply with her late
husband's will, and bring his ashes to scatter on the practice field that was
named after him.
Naming a field after a coach is a big deal. But to demand, with no prior notice,
that on draft day her team-manager son drop everything to take part in a spur-of-the-moment ceremony seemed absurdly unreasonable to me. The fact that
she brings his ex-wife (Rosanna Arquette) along rubs salt in the wound.
But the writing in this film (by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph) is deft
and smart. Everything comes together to reveal everybody's true character,
and this becomes a movie that is truly about Good People Doing Good.
That's my favorite kind of story (I'm pretty bored with Good vs. Evil plots, and
with stories driven by evil villains).
And casting Kevin Costner was a master stroke. Costner doesn't have the gift
of the powerful speech. His talent as an actor consists of the ability to
make dogged determination both believable and endearing.
He gets a hint of a whine in his voice as he tries to explain himself -- but it
never becomes obnoxious. Instead, we see him as a good man who gives up on
trying to win over his critics, and instead asks them to give him a few minutes
and see what he's doing before they condemn him -- or fire him.
Personally, my experience in life is that Field of Dreams is a complete crock: If
you build it, they will not come. And the dead stay dead.
But Draft Day is not a fantasy. Sometimes, in the real world, doing the
right thing turns out to be the smart thing. You would have done it anyway,
but it's such a relief when people call you a genius for doing nothing more than
following a gut instinct.
Sometimes, your gut instinct is not only all you've got, it's also good
My wife and I both loved this movie. Jennifer Garner said on Jimmy Fallon last
week that Draft Day is halfway toward being a chick flick.
More than halfway, in my opinion. But I love good chick flicks. They're about
relationships, and that's what Draft Day is -- a relationship movie. But the
romantic relationship between Costner's and Garner's characters is only one of
the key relationships. There's the mother-son thing. And the manager-coach
thing. And the owner-manager relationship.
But, most important, there are the manager-player relationships. Four of
them, actually. All four are emotionally compelling and brilliantly resolved in
this movie. What makes Costner's character a good manager is not so much
his negotiating brilliance -- his success there is half luck -- but his ability to
get a sense of who a player is and what he'll amount to on the team.
Here's where the deep casting of this movie really pays off. Chadwick
Boseman as a player named Vontae Mack steals more than one scene, and
Josh Pence as Bo Callahan, the consensus number-one-pick, is superb.
There are even throwaway characters that we end up loving: Griffin Newman
as Rick the Intern is a delight, and the team employees who watch as Weaver
seems to throw away all their work and research on the players up for the draft
do a superb job.
This movie is way better than I expected. Indeed, it's better than it needed to
be. It joins the rarefied ranks of movies about the world of sports that are
worth seeing more than once.