You watch the draft? Really?

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Mitch Albom
Thursday, April 22, 2010

I guess this is as good a time as any to say this: The NFL draft is out of control.

Not in a small way. In a bonzo, gonzo, head-exploding, what-is-wrong-with-you-people way.

It begins tonight, on a Thursday, the first round only, broadcast nationwide.

It continues Friday night, with Rounds 2 and 3. And it concludes Saturday with the remaining four rounds. That’s three days for NFL teams to select seven guys, at least half of whom they likely will cut.

The venue is Radio City Music Hall in New York City, a place where Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald once entertained thousands. Now fans will jam in to watch college players’ names being called.

It is shameless enough that TV execs have milked this cow to exhaustion. It is sad enough that tout services wring every ridiculous detail out of these young men, as if they were livestock. It’s pathetic enough that the money handed out to the top picks, who haven’t played a down in the NFL, will exceed the salaries of all but a few of the players who have been killing themselves for years.

Forget all that. Forget the pomp. Forget the money. Think about the time.

Your time. It’s worth more than this.

Where’s Waldo? No, where’s the defensive tackle?

Because once again fans in Detroit are acting as if this draft will turn around the Lions’ franchise. They’ve learned the names of every prospect, studied all the details, and now act as if they absolutely, without a doubt, know the difference between what a 307-pound offensive tackle and a 295-pound defensive tackle will do for the team.

They know the Nebraska D-lineman, Ndamukong Suh, as if he lived in their house. Never mind that on most plays, the average fan can’t even find a defensive tackle. Doesn’t matter. People are sure Suh can change the fortunes of the Lions. For this they spend hours and hours—days when you add it up—doing mock drafts.

Let me throw a few names at you. Bryant Westbrook. Terry Fair. Chris Claiborne. They were all first-round picks for the Lions. And once they got here, all fans did was complain about them. Their names alone now probably make you cringe.

If I told you to go out and spend days reading about them, studying, looking at their film, you would tell me to stuff it. Why waste time on such mediocre players?

And yet fans do it willingly, endlessly, with college kids who haven’t played an NFL down!

Here’s a few more names—all No. 1 picks for Detroit. Andre Ware. A bust. Stockar McDougle. An overweight bust. Jeff Backus. All people do is get mad at him. Joey Harrington. Why wasn’t he a better player? Charles Rogers. Out of the league. Mike Williams. Got fat and washed away. Ernie Sims. Gee. Didn’t the Lions just trade him?

And I’m not even going to second-, third- or, heaven forbid, fourth-round picks.

Don’t you want your time back now?

The best way to judge a football staff

What is the fascination with players who haven’t done a thing? Players who most fans never knew until their names came up as “likely selection.” Why not wait until they get here, watch them a few seasons, then see if they’re worth your attention?

I’ll tell you another thing that this draft infatuation is doing. It’s being unfair to the hard work teams really do. Selecting 21-year-old kids is a crapshoot at best. How you coach them, how you scheme them, how you work them through the years, how you bring them together physically and philosophically—that’s what coaches and general managers should be judged on.

This ridiculous focus on the draft gets fans and media all lathered up over nothing. A few months from now, most of these players will disappear to the back ends of the rosters. A few years from now, you won’t remember who they were.

I know it’s fun to spend other people’s money—which is kind of what all drafts are about—but three days, countless TV hours and a universe’s worth of Internet traffic is simply insane.

Save your time. Watch a hockey game. Read a book. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell once told the media, “We have not found a saturation point for pro football.”

Wanna bet?

Last updated: 1:22 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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