The world needed a distraction. Sickness/fear/isolation was the anvil dangling over all of our collective heads, hanging by a worn thread. Sports were all suspended indefinitely – no hockey, no basketball, no baseball. After streaming the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies for the fifth time, the world needed something to watch. Enter the NFL Draft, the ultimate reality show.
Think about it. Kids who started with nothing but a dream of something better went out on a football field in school and found that they were good at it. They rose through the ranks of high school sports and were recruited by colleges and universities – given the opportunity to get an education that many could never dream of being able to afford. Many of those kids kept playing at a high level and earned an opportunity to show off their skills at the NFL Scouting Combine – although a few skipped the combine because of health issues or because they wanted to invite scouts to their schools’ Pro Day. Unfortunately, Pro Days were canceled because of the illness spreading across the nation. Teams’ scouts and general managers were told to stay home, which dashed the hopes of many of the players who didn’t participate or had a bad showing at the Combine.
The Draft put cameras in the homes of team representatives and the top rated players considered for this draft. This allowed the people starved for something to watch the ability to see how the NFL sausage was made – at least for the NFL Draft. We got to see a piece of the home life of GM’s, Head Coaches. Owners, and the families of many of the top players. Some of these peeks revealed the family life of people we don’t associate with families. Seeing a Head Coach or a GM interacting with their children (or grandchildren) while working revealed a cool part of their lives that is often ignored.
The Commissioner, Roger Goodell, allowed the world into his man cave, where we got to see a more human look at the big guy. He encouraged fans to boo him, which has taken on a life of its own over the years. But Goodell used it to help feed the people who are unable to afford to buy food during this period when jobs are paused to help avoid spreading a disease that could eliminate a large portion of our elderly or at-risk people. After 3 days, the NFL had raised over $100 Million through their NFL.com/relief link that they promoted throughout the entire event.
My only gripe about the coverage of the draft was giving control of it to ESPN. The ESPN announcers know each other and they do have a fan base, but the rest of the world – the ones who can’t afford ESPN on their cable service – has no clue who these yahoos are. Or, they may remember them from 20 years ago, and did not grow up with them. 20 years has not been kind to a lot of these guys. After a while on Saturday, it was getting difficult to follow what was happening with the top 2/3 of the screen talking about one player while the bottom of the screen was trying to keep up with the actual timeline of the picks. Sometimes, the guys talking were skipping over some of the picks to catch up, and they spent some time reintroducing people to the old timers. Mort almost lost it when they played his 30 year highlights tape and Mel Kyper was unrecognizable in the tape of his history…
Maybe I am just getting old, or I am just used to the NFL Network team’s draft coverage in the past, but it just did not sit well with me. It seemed like the personalities didn’t fit well together. Maybe next year, the people will mesh better, and they will still allow us into the homes of the GM’s and Head Coaches again, because that was my favorite part of the draft. Well, that isn’t quite true. My favorite part of the draft was seeing the joy in the faces of the players who went from nothing to a career that will set their families up for the rest of their lives if they don’t do anything stupid.