Another NFL Draft will be over Saturday, and it will have played out just like everyone thought it would – with media across the nation fixating on Geno Smith blowing off the second day of the draft because he didn’t get picked on the first day of the draft, and why Manti Te’o is the new Tim Tebow.
You know, the Fixation Without Participation Guy.
In short, it was a hot, unappetizing mess – a tribute to offensive tackles across the land and to the very real truth that the SEC is not 14 institutes of higher learning, but NFL Montessori School.
The NFL makes the draft its own season, as close to a par with the 256 actual regular season games, and it definitely wants the show to be 32 heartwarming story lines, a couple of heartbreaking story lines punctuated by young men in suits being ignored, and some good old-fashioned pandering to the issues of the day here and there.
But it cannot always be sexy, and this draft was not even moderately alluring. Linemen and one quarterback few experts seem to like; secondary players but no running backs. The games are dominated by offense, but this is a sign that the league is about to take a huge new shift back toward the defensive side of the ball. It is the yin and yang of football, at least until you get to the latest concussion data.
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In short, the draft will need some tweaking if it is to survive as its own stand-alone entertainment. And maybe the best place to start is that horrifying bro-hug every draftee gives Roger Goodell on stage. Remember, fellas, once you get to camp and talk to a few veterans, you’ll find out why most players loathe the guy (see lockout, 2011), and you’ll want to buy back that hug at any cost.
Besides, he’s not your dad. You never met him until that moment. He’s a perfect stranger, in fact, someone you are likely never to meet again. A handshake is plenty. Hell, a disinterested wave from across the stage is enough. They’re making you wear a ballcap with a suit, for God’s sake. How much degradation do you need on your first day of work?
Second, both the NFL Network and ESPN must set inviolable limits on the number of times one can mention any player’s name. Rich Eisen is credited rightly as being as good a show-wrangler as there is, but watching him try to thrust Te’o’s name into every draft pick was like watching Peter Stormare pushing Steve Buscemi’s leg into the wood chipper at the end of Fargo. We got everything but the blood-showered snow, with Mike Mayock’s desktop papers in the pivotal role of the snow.
We can probably blame some hyperactive producer for this, ranting like some parrot on psilocybin, “Te’o! Say the name! Te’o! Need more Te’o! Ask Mayock about Te’o again! Maybe he’ll come at you with a pencil! TE’OOOOOO!!!!” Still, Eisen was the one who had to say it, and it speaks to the sad state of the business that he couldn’t just walk off the set at one point and head out to the truck and strangle the producer with own his headset.
Now that would have been worthwhile television.
Te’o may have turned his professional arc into a punch line with a bad 40 time, but his very name is rapidly reaching dangerous levels of Tebow-city, and some Internet tomfoolery and an elaborate cover-up gone bad is not a crime for which this is an equivalent punishment. Surely we have learned the danger of rampant Tebow-ism in the media, haven’t we?
Well, haven’t we?
No. We haven’t. We’re going to find out that Te’o is merely the next Tebow, because the current Tebow has had the tread worn off him by constant hysterical repetition by people who probably could use a well-chilled beer stein slapped across the forehead long ago.
Third, the stock shots of Jets and Eagles fans in the audience acting enraged and cursing audibly on air are pretty well played out by now, aren’t they? On a night in which all the old formulas are trotted out like Catholic liturgical rituals, that one is just done. They're all the same guy anyway.
Maybe someone from Los Angeles can be flown in to sit and look sad because of 18 years without a team. Or a Raider fan without makeup or spikes sticking out of his neck frantically asking people, “Who is this guy we just drafted? What the hell does he do?” Pick a city. Any city.
Fourth, one shot of some team’s draft room (which thankfully is no longer called “the war room” by anyone except adults who play with Legos) where two scouts are trying to kill each other would be nice. Or an owner would snap on camera and fire an assistant general manager just for recommending someone other than the person the owner wants to draft. This would most likely happen in Dallas, where the slogan is “Third rounder, schmird rounder. I just like sayin’ 'is name.”
And if none of these innovations work, how about just putting a bunch of cards with draftees’ names into a huge glass room with an air jet and having the 32 general managers enclosed inside trying to grab as many cards as possible while preventing their fellow GMs from escaping the room with their own fistfuls of cards? It would provide the most realistic atmosphere one can create for this bacchanalia of dog-and-pony, as it would force every on-air pundit to say, “I have no idea what’s going on it there, which serendipitously enough is how I’ve felt since we started prepping for the draft 11 months ago.”
And someone will end up with the Manti Te’o card against his wishes, thereby giving the psilocybin parrot what he wants, too. Now what’s more fair, and more fun, than that?