I used to hate it when some “old person” would tell me how much better things were when they were young. Movies were better back then. So was music. And, of course, there was no comparison when it came to sports. I would just roll my eyes and swear to myself that I would never become one of those geezers when I grew up. Well, I’m all grown up now, and you know what, I’m going to say something today that I swore I’d never say – the NFL draft was better when I was young.
Instead of a prime time event broken up over three days, the draft used to begin on a Tuesday morning and it didn’t end until every single pick was made (or until one of the GMs keeled over from exhaustion – whichever came first). It was survival of the fittest, and it was great.
Instead of squeezing in an occasional pick between a million promos and commercials, ESPN used to actually cover the draft. Imagine that. Back then, you didn’t have to worry about missing your favorite team’s selection because yet another Subway ad was being forced down your throat.
Instead of plastering my television with so many graphics that I don’t know whether I’m watching the NFL draft on ESPN or “Hardball” on MSNBC, how about letting me know what’s happening by actually telling me what’s happening. Do I really need a constant reminder on Saturday of which player the Packers took on Thursday? And do I need a continuous graphic telling me which poor slobs from the Best Available Players board are still undrafted?
Instead of Chris Berman trying to impress the viewing audience by mentioning ad nauseam his numerous sycophant-like relationships around the NFL, the man now more a caricature than a broadcaster used to actually talk serious football with his colleagues. No ridiculous nicknames. No fawning over the Andy Reids and Bill Polians of the NFL. Just nuts and bolts draft conversation. Boy, I miss that.
Instead of Mel Kiper tempering his comments in an effort to maintain his relationships around the league, the man with the coiffed hair actually used to criticize picks, and more importantly, he criticized the people who made them. His frankness often led to uncomfortable moments. Who can ever forget then-Indianapolis Colts president Bill Tobin eviscerating Kiper in 1994? It was classic TV. Nowadays, Mel spends most of his time sparring with fellow draft “expert” Todd McShay. It’s hardly the same.
Instead of pretty much glossing over rounds two through seven in lieu of giving its 48 correspondents a chance to earn their salaries by conducting numerous mind-numbing interviews, wouldn’t it be nice to hear a cogent analysis of each pick? How many times do we need to hear a head coach or a general manager tell us how surprised they were that a certain player fell or just how good of a kid they’ve added to their roster?
Instead of listening to semi-literate former NFL stars give their opinions on players they’ve probably never actually seen play, how about hiring more people who actually know what they’re talking about? Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman used to sit at the adult table when the draft first started, and he was great. He never played in the league and he certainly wasn’t pretty to look at, but he spoke articulately and he actually knew his stuff.
OK, I know some of you are thinking that I’m just some guy in his 40s who doesn’t have NFL Network. Well I am and I don’t, but that’s beside the point. Television has turned the NFL draft from a die hard football fan’s dream into just another prime time show. The difference is that prime time shows are often filled with interesting characters whose primary job it to enhance and advance the story. ESPN’s characters are seldom interesting and they more often than not either distract from the story or even obscure it.
I’m going to end this
column rant now. It’s time for me to remove my bifocals, have a glass of warm milk and take a nap. After all, the draft is tonight and I can’t wait.
(I originally wrote this column in April 2010. My cable company added NFL Network between then and now, so I won’t have to watch ESPN’s coverage. This post is for all the fans who aren’t so lucky.)