It’s NFL Draft weekend. In other words, it’s a televised gabfest spread over two days.
The NFL Draft, for all you lucky guys who have never seen one, is the annual “swayamvara” session when NFL teams choose college football players to join their team. Each team gets to select one player in each round. There are seven rounds of this, and the first two rounds alone took close to 6 hours (and that, believe it or not, is on the shorter side!)
I am not sure why they televise this live. I am even less sure why people watch it. But half the country does, and if you have a spouse who belongs to that half…..you turn to your blog for solace, of course. So here is a sample of the stuff I have been trying not to watch on television this weekend:
Each draft pick consists of three Steps. Only one of those steps is the actual pick, and it is also the shortest.
Step 1: The “experts” sit and analyze what this team needs and which player they should pick. You would think they analyze in-depth each team’s weaknesses and need for players. No doubt, you think, complex algorithms and linear equations are involved. Conditional probability comes into play – whom should Kansas pick if Chicago grabs the QuarterBack?
But actually, beyond the first round, the teams’ choices are not very predictable. So what do the “experts” do? They do need to talk, after all. So they throw up random names, they interview every coach and player they can get, but mostly they fantasize. Will this shy kid be the next superstar, the next Messiah who will lead his team to a Super Bowl win?
And then, they reminisce – about games and players they have watched, played or met. “When I watched the Miami Dolphins in 1970”, they begin, making you look longingly at the remote (which of course, your spouse grips tighter).
Step 2: The team announces their pick. This is the shortest part of the Draft Game, even though this is what it is supposed to be all about.
Step 3: The “experts” take over again to chatter. They gloat if they are correct, and move on to tell us salient details about the pick – like his height, weight and age. Strength of arm, width of thigh and ability to run, push and grab are all analyzed.
How fast can he run a 40 yard dash? How many yards can he throw a ball? How many pounds can he bench press? How many yards can he jump? These are all important questions that the viewers apparently need to know in exact detail.
Next, the player’s character is minutely examined – did he beat his girlfriend, or did he use marijuana? How many times did he drink and drive?
Will he get injured, they wonder next. Past medical history of injuries and hospital stays is brought up. I have not heard the vaccination details for each player yet, but I am sure it’s just because the experts ran out of time..
What positions will the new picks play in? Should they play the same position as in college? Should the teams place them in new positions based on their strengths? The experts weigh in on this too. I guess they use those height, weight and 40 yard runs to decide, but sometimes they use innovative techniques.
“Where should Reggie Corner play?” the experts try to decide.
“Of course he is a Corner”, the other opines, “he was a Corner from day one, from the time his Mama picked him up.” It is decided then, Reggie Corner should remain a corner(back).
And so it goes, 32 times in each round, seven rounds in the Draft…
Each regional newspaper follows this up with even more exhaustive coverage. Mothers, grandmothers and former classmates are interviewed. Jerseys with the new players’ numbers are sold. The new pick himself is interviewed on television, and every word he says is dissected.
Newspapers publish front-page articles on topics such as “Why did the Colts pick a Center?” or “Why do the Patriots need a Quarterback?” Hundreds of readers weigh in with their comments, and animated discussions happen in the blogosphere (and inside American homes).
As if all this were not enough drama, the teams add some more spice by horse-trading. They swap positions in the draft, they trade players in complex deals, and they come up with elaborate Draft strategies that add a lot of suspense and intrigue.
All this is what happens just during the live coverage of the Draft. Over the next few days, we will have the post-Draft analysis where the experts will talk about which teams were the winners, who got the picks they wanted, how much the new picks are getting paid..
This will go on for a few weeks. Then, the networks will think of something else…
The fottball season begins only in September. How else do you keep football fans entertained until then?