The evolution of the NFL Draft doubles as a history of ESPN. What started as a janky, beige vehicle for middle-management types doing their jobs in sport coats at card tables is now its own industry. Draft analyst is a real job that people have. MULTIPLE PEOPLE. If you had shown up at the NFL Draft in 1981 claiming to be an NFL draft analyst, they would have either kicked you out of the Felt Forum or made you light Pete Axthelm’s cigarettes.
That draft era was kind of great because it was barely above public access quality. The Super Bowl wasn’t that far removed from being played in daylight with halftime shows from Up With People. The world was different then.
Now it’s all lasers and overdriven music and Mel Kiper. As it’s become more of a blockbuster production, you are profoundly aware that:
- There’s no sport being played.
- It’s just young men finding out where they’re working in the fall.
- There are former players yelling at each other about the young men getting the new jobs.
- Roger Goodell might have the least amount of personality a human being has ever or will ever possess.
- Although baseball has made their own draft more of an event in recent years, they do not give it the import and high drama of the Vatican naming, like, six Popes at once. On the moon. Directed by Michael Bay.
However, in the absence of any sports except for Korean baseball and a documentary about a team from 25 years ago, it filled a niche on Thursday night. In an environment where run-of-the-mill activity is welcome, the NFL’s annual overblown dog-and-pony show was…nice. The interviews were stilted and awkward. The talking heads yammered. There was a guy in a bathrobe. People were yelling at the Vikings. Then people really started yelling at the Packers. It was normal!
Another change is that, instead of blowing through this all in a weekday, they spread this thing out for three whole days. You can just put this on in the background today and tomorrow and pretend everything is kind of as it was. Then you’ll switch over to FSN to see how the Twins are doing or pick up your phone and you’ll remember, “Oh, yeah. That.” But still, it’s a distraction. They’re hard to come by right now, and I enjoyed it.