***EDITOR'S NOTE: The following piece is authored by a friend of the site, Trev223, who happens to contribute to Philadelphia Phillies SB Nation site The Good Phight. Trev has contributed to BGN multiples times before. Trev is attending the 2015 NFL Draft as a credentialed media member live in Chicago on behalf of BGN. Here's a look at his experience so far.***
Two hours before the draft, I bought a large coffee and drank two beers and lifted up on wings of caffeine and depressants, I caught the el to head over to what I assumed would be the spectacle par excellence of this whole draft experience.
The goal was to get there early, as I had literally no idea where I was going or what I was doing. Well, scratch that - I knew where I was going generally, as the Roosevelt University auditorium space was pretty easy to get to, but I wasn't sure what I'd find when I'd get there. Roped off city blocks? A cordon surrounding the building of NFL staffers and police officers keeping the riff raff away and sending them back to Draft Town? The fully mechanized force of The Shield in living color?
As it happened, it was a bit of all three. But despite some early Draft Day scoops that did not pan out ...
... the process getting inside was painless. I finally got to flash a credential and blow by a long line of people as the guard (in this case one of the many police officers tasked with keeping order for the NFL Draft, as if it were like, I don't know, a visit from a foreign dignitary), so cross that particular elitist impulse off my bucket list. And once in, I was able to kind of wander around and figure it out from there.
And boy, was there a lot to figure out ...
The draft, as one of my colleagues in Row Y of the Lower Balcony - or as I call it, Take Towne - had as big a media contingent as the Super Bowl. And while there's certainly no comparing the amount of fans in attendance, it was fairly clear from both the attendance and the proceedings themselves that the Draft has become the number two draw, next to only the SuperBowl, for the NFL. It's an enormous deal for them.
Less a deal for those paying for tickets, but they did get nice gift bags. I tried to get one for journalistic integrity and definitely not because I wanted one for myself, but as I learned, media does not get them. Reasonable, really - I didn't have to enter a sweepstakes to get my ticket, and I didn't have to pay (if stubhub's price on the six day two tickets available is to be believed) upwards of 1,100 dollars on the resale market for the privilege of seeing the Commissioner read names.
Well to be honest, it was more than that. I'm not so jaded that I didn't see the appeal here, as the massive audiovisual display ...
... and the grandeur of the location makes the experience feel massive and important, and it's totally worth going if you get the chance. It's just that the effect of the Draft wears off quickly.
Let me explain. In Draft Town, I was completely overwhelmed by everything around me the entire time, as you could maybe tell from my writeup. And I was totally overwhelmed here, too - it's a prodigious undertaking, the Draft, and from the player introductions to the "Star Spangled Banner" sung by a veteran to the U-S-A chants ...
... it was, for better or worse, Peak NFL. But it's also this extremely drawn out process for what boils down to 32 exciting five second bursts. And after the Titans took Mariota (RIP #itshappening), the draft just kind of went point by point. There were some odd picks here and there, but mostly what you'd expect, Chargers trades and runs on O-Line help notwithstanding.
And so while at first it was incredibly exciting - yes, I did feel my pulse quicken, as silly as it might sound - after a surprisingly short time, it was fairly pro forma. There were a lot of neat media packages for each team ...
... and a ton of regional and team specific fight songs and music choices (yes, the Bengals were indeed introduced with "Bad Company"), and it was all in all a great time. I'm totally looking forward to Day 2, unironically. But the reason for this, unlike in Draft Town, is not the spectacle of the thing or the grandeur of the league. It's mostly for the company I'll get to keep.
SBNation has some lovely writers in attendance, and Row Y was a joy, with most of the actual insights of the night coming from the folks I can call colleagues for *checks watch* two more days. I'm not sure if they reported it on BGN Radio, but I got the scoop before the draft started that the Titans were looking like they were going to take Mariota. I also got the insight of the night that, actually, even though they were literally the last thing on anyone's mind during the event, the only thing to really feel good about in the draft were the kids on stage who were achieving their dream. Laken Tomlinson completely charmed the audience with his story about coming to the States from Jamaica; Melvin Gordon kept laughing inappropriately; and Dante Fowler has style and confidence that will make him a damn mogul once his playing days are done. That was all really cool to see.
And I know the NFL will do all they can to beat that personality out of these guys and turn them into the super-soldier nice guy ad men that Russell Wilson and Drew Brees and such are. And yeah, I think that's crap, because the veneer of the NFL - the tough all American business-player - is the thing that wears the most thin at this event. If Draft Town was a sort of edifice of a brand, unable to be ignored, then the Draft is the kind of artifice that gets less and less real the longer it goes on. Yes, Roger Goodell has a kind of gravitas, like any CEO or person used to being important and rich might, but outside of a lone "thank you very much" to a chorus of boos, the man was essentially an emotionless robot performing tasks. You could've had a roomba do his job.
And I guess that's why everyone seemed so bored, both in person and, if twitter is any indication, from afar at the end of the draft. The lack of trades helped along the doldrums, but there was a moment where every team had their pick in, but the picks were being staggered simply to allow time for commercial breaks. And I get that, I do; again my politics notwithstanding, it's not like the NFL isn't openly a corporate venture with profit margins at the top of their concern list. But it doesn't make for exciting television. It doesn't make for exciting live entertainment either! It makes for a feeling like waiting in line at the DMV.
Which is weird, because, as I said before, this is a massively popular and profitable event with tons of production value and shimmer and fan appeal.
It's not like I just got into some backroom draft people didn't think would be fun at all - this is a serious event. But at the breaking point of "Wow, that prime time move made the Draft a serious event" and "Listen I do not need to wait literally 320 minutes to have 5 minutes of fun," we find the first round.
Most of that is due to the fact that this is a long day. Day two will be quicker, and day three quicker still. But the main disconnect with the NFL Draft, I think, is that it's perfectly ordinary people doing perfectly ordinary things. I got more of a thrill seeing Melvin Gordon on the street outside than I did seeing the Commish say "Welcome." And that's because most of what's appealing about the NFL is the extraordinary athletes doing extraordinary things that most of us couldn't even imagine doing. This stuff? As the old saw goes - heck I could do that.
Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still very excited for day 2's festivities.
Spotted a McNabb jersey in the wild. Was worried it was a confused, cryogenically frozen boy from 2001 let into this brave new world unawares. Was very concerned; called animal control.
Heard a number of chants, including an "E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!" The Jets fans with their dang ol flag also showed up.
Speaking of Jets fans, they got the biggest boo when picking outside of maybe the Packers and Lions. Oh and Cowboys.
The media packages were much nicer for the popular teams. Dallas and Green Bay got a bunch of old timey footage emphasizing their good history. New England got firefighters. Philly got a lot of clips of Bradley Fletcher getting smoked. So.
The post draft interviews are unbelievably good, and here are my two favorite excerpts:
***Stay tuned for more live coverage from Trev.***