Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Long Hello

By extending the draft from two to three days, the NFL only made the event more mysterious, at least to me. The primary mystery being, people get EXCITED about this?

"Excited" is about the most understated way to put it. The draft makes people furious, gleeful, despondent, gleefully despondent (that would be Michael Felger) and in Jon Gruden's case, it provided 40 consecutive hours of religious ecstasy. That's a lot of fuss over a list of college football players.

The draft is a matter of vital importance to NFL teams and they're entitled to get completely twisted about their choices and the process of making them. Football fans and commentators are inevitably going to have opinions about those choices, too. But given that the opinions of us outsiders are speculations about the teams' speculations on the future, the vehemence of draft debate is odd. No, make that psychotic.

I am sure that the volume of sound emanating from Philadelphia over the Eagles' draft equalled that which resulted from the trade of Donovan McNabb. (My listening posts in my old home town a/k/a family and friends confirm this). That's just nuts. How can anyone be more into an argument about players who might or might not help the team win this fall than by a trade which will make or break the Eagles for the next five seasons? I know all sports fans are creatures of habit, but come on.

By extending the draft, the NFL allowed for more hours of vehemence backed by even less facts upon which to argue. This led to a total breakdown of law and order on the ESPN set, which became the world's highest-paid cable access show Thursday night, perhaps the first time Chris Berman has entertained anyone since 1989. This led many fans and commentators to say things on Thursday they must wish to forget today.

To take a non-random example, there was an uproar when the Patriots drafted Devin McCourty in the first round after several of Bill Belichick's compulsive trades down. For whatever reason, and many were offered, this kid just wouldn't do. The pick became a Rorschach test in which the critic saw whatever his soul told him was the reason the Pats haven't won any Super Bowls lately. It was why they couldn't do a thing against the Ravens in January.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, and it is impossible to imagine anyone except maybe Belichick having their blood pressure rise above 120/80 when discussing New England's draft. It was as nice, normal, and dull a first three rounds as could be -- a football breakfast of white toast with unsalted butter. The Pats picked a cornerback, tight end, defensive end and wide receiver. Those were four positions where they could stand some improvement. They picked players in each round who figured to be picked about where they were. The team did nothing to earn outsized praise, and certainly nothing to earn any condemnation -- yet. On to mini-camp!! Better yet, back to the hockey and basketball playoffs!!!

People love to argue about sports. That fact put bread on my table for many years. The draft, however, always makes me think the "about sports" phrase in the first sentence of this paragraph is superfluous.


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