I can smell it. The stage, the podium, the soon-to-be-NFLers already wearing $50,000 watches as they sit in the green room and mug for the camera, or whisper to momma, or huddle with an agent. We’re done with combine results, All-Star games, pro-days, wild rises and falls on meaningless mock drafts…The NFL Draft is upon us.
That hard to describe pre-draft feeling is palpable: the grinding anticipation, deep-seeded yet subdued, banging deep in your stomach like a drum that gets louder as April 22 nears, simmering anxiety marching to it’s daily beat, growing, intensifying, matched step for step only by the childlike enthusiasm that boils up, threatening to spill over on that beautiful Saturday morning where the tension ultimately releases, exploding into pure exhilaration with the words “The St. Louis Rams are now on the clock.”
But there’s something wrong. There’s something very wrong. Instead of Saturday morning, pajama clad in the privacy of your home; or nestled, beer and sandwich and in hand, in the refuge of a small group of like-minded, football loving draft-aware compadres…the NFL has decided to “improve” the draft by chopping it into three pieces, eradicating a tradition fans have grown fond of.
Round 1 starts at 7:30 on a Thursday night. Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night, and the rest of the draft to be followed up on Saturday. That, my friends, is moronic.
So let’s get this straight. In it’s effort to capitalize on the draft’s recent surge in popularity, the NFL has drastically reconfigured the draft so that it can squeeze maximum dollars from ESPN and advertisers on their own NFL Network,and the result is the absolute destruction of the draft as a social event for fans to cheer, enjoy and rally around together.
Thursday night parties won’t work for a lot of people, and is it even worth it just for 1 round? Friday makes sense for a social gathering, but round 1 has already stolen the show. Don’t even get me started on Saturday’s 4-7, when 9 out of 10 casual fans will have tuned out (but maybe not G101ers).
Look, I understand it’s not the end of the world, but the Phil Mushnick in me finds this set up repugnant. The NFL, knowing full well that we’re all going to tune regardless, has decided once again to make the kinds of decisions that leave us watching four-hour football games loaded with commercials, promos and players standing around doing calisthenics to stay loose during commercial breaks.
This whole thing could have been avoided had they just did rounds 1-3 on Friday. Start it around happy hour, it’s over before midnight (it’s Friday, anyway) and you’ve got a seemingly inconsequential compromise between the NFL’s thirst for Prime Time dollars and the logical protection of the fan’s best interest. But we both know who wins and loses that battle every time, hence the squeezing two days of Prime Time out of the deal.
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