The absurdity of the NFL never ceases to amaze me.
Within the last year, we've seen the league suddenly get religion on concussions, then simultaneously attempt to ram through an 18-game schedule.
There were the Super Bowl tickets for seats that were never ready for the game, followed by the league's ham-handed attempts to paper over what essentially amounted to a fraud.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder is suing a Washington D.C.-area newspaper for printing historical facts about his reign of terror. One of his representatives said "Some people ask, are you firing a warning shot at other members of the media, and I'd say yes," and compared the writer to Egyptian ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak.
But nothing about the NFL irks me more than the Draft, a massive three-day non-event that, as Paul Peterson put it last week, has become a 'cottage industry' for a remarkable amount of people.
When I was a kid, the draft started on a Saturday afternoon. It was just as boring and just as dumb, but there weren't a lot of entertainment options during that time of day, so it could suck the viewer in by default.
However, those Saturdays parked on the couch in my youth alongside millions of other bored football fans appears to have been an enabler for the NFL, which two years ago, spread the event out over three days (two in prime time) and aired it on ESPN and NFL Network (good thing the league and Charter Communications have continued their trench warfare over cable programming or this would be even harder to ignore).
This is how I would explain the NFL Draft to a foreigner who has never watched football before: Every 15 minutes, a man in a nice suit reads the name of a college student and tells him his new employer (in a location that he has little or no choice over). In between, other men (and women) in nice suits talk loudly about this student and others. There is no actual football played, with the exception of short clips of the students in college, over which the people in the nice suits also talk loudly. Throughout the process, much of the screen is obscured by an endless array of graphics that would put any cable news network to shame, but when you want to see your team's draft pick, it inevitably comes up when you're in the bathroom.
Would this be interesting in any other context? If we had a draft for our open news/sports writer position, would you watch Mel Kiper and Todd McShay talk about prospective graduates' typing speeds, sentence structure and reporting ability?
"I really like this kid's technique. He uses a tape recorder, but he has plus transcription skills."
"But the transportation is a big question mark. That '88 Buick Skylark he's been driving since his freshman year at Southwest Ontario State doesn't get good gas mileage. I project him having trouble getting to Calumet Colosseum in a snowstorm at the next level."
"Here's some video of him covering a club women's soccer game... "
Tuesday, I drove to Baraga for an actual sporting event for the first time in a while. The sun was shining, there was competition worth watching on every corner of the field and lots of chances to mingle with friends, athletes and parents. No one wore a suit.
Oh, and there's the small matter of the fact that during the draft, the NFL was locking out its players, then unlocking them out by court order for about an hour, then locking them out again. The No. 2 pick in the draft Thursday, Von Miller of Texas A&M, is a plaintiff in the player's "union" suit against the league. He served commissioner Roger Goodell with a hug instead of papers.
Saturday's draftees still had much to celebrate - being chosen to play at the pro level is still a big deal - but they'll have to do it at Pizza Hut on Mom and Dad's dime because they won't be signing a contract any time soon. The temporary millionaires and the permanent billionaires have a lot of squabbling to do.
Last Thursday, I was watching hockey and noticed on the Internet that the proceedings in New York were in the high 20s. That's one of the annoying things about being a Packer fan - you always wait four hours until it's your turn. Anyhow, at about 11:30 p.m., Goodell steps up to the podium to announce that the Packers have selected ... an offensive lineman from Mississippi State.
I stayed up for this?
The NFL is reaching a crossroads. If the league is this annoying when it's not playing football in April, just imagine how bad it's going to be in August if there's still lots of talk and no tackles.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.