Saturday, April 23, 2011

Money Is a Leading Cause of Voluntary Bipolar Disorder

Maybe it's just me, but I doubt it. I've been around for a few March and Aprils now, it is is my firm impression that the amount of pre-NFL draft hooey presented on ESPN's many networks and on the Internet has been close to double what it's been in previous winters and early springs. I omit the NFL Network. What the hell else is it supposed to talk about?

(Class, I am old enough to remember when the draft was on a Tuesday afternoon in January the week after the week after the Super Bowl. Despite losing three months of scouting and evaluation time, teams' records in picking good players didn't change a bit. Smart teams got more good ones than busts, dumb ones the reverse. There's a lesson there for draft "experts." Something about the paralysis of analysis.)

The increase in coverage is what psychologists call compensation. The pro football community, especially that part of the community with a financial interest in it, is weirding out about the draft more than usual because it's all they've got left. Technically speaking, the rest of the National Football League does not exist except in U.S. District Court, where the commissioner is not Roger Goodell, but Judge Susan Richards Nelson. When Nelson told the owners and players to resume mediation in their labor dispute rather than pester her with briefs and motions, they did it. She rules the roost.

As a football fan, this state of affairs has bothered me not at all. It's April!!!! ESPN runs that sad little graphic on Sportscenter saying this is Day Whatever of the Lockout, as if it was the Iranian hostage crisis, at a time when almost nothing happens in football anyway.

Here's a list of what football's missed so far in 2011:
1. Players have been unable to earn their offseason weightlifting bonuses and have been forced to go to gyms where actual people exercise.
2. The Redskins have been prevented from making their annual boneheaded veteran player acquisition.
3. There is no three.

For doubtless excellent legal reasons, the draft is the one NFL activity allowed to go on during the lockout. This explains the frenzy of predraft babble. It would terrify anyone of a financial bent to contemplate how much money ESPN stands to lose if by some catastrophic failure of intelligence (which in pro sports is hardly inconceivable) the 2011 season is shortened or Mammon forbid canceled altogether as a result of labor strife. And think of the bookies!! Oh, the lack of humanity!!!

So those who can't imagine life with the NFL, particularly the bill paying part of life, are clinging to the draft with desperate fingers. It is the one indication they have that pro football is indeed going to conduct business as usual this year.

Or almost as usual. When players are drafted, they are then locked out. This would seem to prevent what is the most significant part of the draft for a player -- the receiving of money for becoming a professional. What's the point of signing a contract when it automatically makes you part of a group your employer is refusing to employ?

This anomaly has not escaped the potential rookies, or at least some of them. Von Miller, the superior linebacker from Texas A&M, was invited to join the players' lawsuit against the league, and happily did so, although honesty forces me to note that Miller's reasons had more to do with ego than finance -- he was flattered to be considered a peer of the other plaintiffs.

Miller's ambivalent status leads me to dream of what would be the most and let's face it only interesting event at the draft's live TV show in its history. Some team selects Miller in the first round (this is considered a cinch). Miller comes to the podium to shake hands with Goodell. League officials hand Miller a jersey with a one on it and a cap.

Miller hands Goodell a subpoena.


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