AIR - Okay, I Really Liked It. I Admit It.
Apologies in advance to the many cinephiles in my orbit, but this film about the insidiously stupid world of Big Shoe, Big Agents, Big Money, Big Athletes, Big Stupidness, Big Obsequiousness.
Let me address the ludicrousness of the time compression, and how the movie does NOT represent how this deal happened.
The inertia of big companies is neglected. The frustration of trying to get something done at Nike had/has to be like having your head stuck in a vice and tightened over a period of several years. Now, that won't make for good theater, so that tiny detail is tossed.
What is left is the desperation and drama of a successful venture, Nike, looking to salvage a department (Basketball sneakers) which is losing money.
And that trope does work.
Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) is the head of this cratering division, and he needs a win. Nike, while a leader in the long-distance runner shoe market, can't seem to get that signature basketball athlete to schill for the shoe. Part of the issue is the NBA, despite the Showtime Lakers, The Reborn Celtics, and the Sixers of Dr. J, can't get their playoff games out of tape delay. As such, the NBA is still outside looking in on the premium shoe market. The tepidness of the popularity of the league and the lack of star appeal by Nike combine to drive the company towards Nowheresville, Oregon, which is right next to its headquarters in Beaverton.
A paradigm shift in that feeling occurs when Michael Jordan, young star out of North Carolina, declares for the draft. He is picked third by the Chicago Bulls. Ahead of him? Akeem Olajuwon (Houston) and Sam Bowie (Portland). Both big men were already promised to rival shoe manufacturers, Adidas and Converse.
Sonny is convinced if Nike pursues ONLY Michael Jordan they can sign him. A series of visits to his parents; shouting matches with MJ's agent David Falk (Great performance by Chris Messina); and a stupid, contrived meeting with George Raveling (The cloying Marlon Wayans, back again), all point towards "No way Michael Jordan signs with Nike."
But, of course, Michael's mother intervenes, since as we all know, Viola Davis won't take a part that doesn't qualify her for sainthood, and she negotiates the biggest revenue sharing deal in the history of endorsements, because that's what canonized individuals do for their children.
Despite the skewed history, revisionist in all aspects, the story is a compelling one, and Ben Afleck as Phil Knight is outstanding. The CEO of Nike comes off as the twit he is. If not for Bill Bowerman and Sonny Vaccaro, the scion of the biggest name in sports footwear is living in a trailer park in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Show a little humility, Phil.