The NFL Draft is this weekend, so time for a special offseason edition of Drew Magary's Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo. Enjoy.
I once worked at a large company that forced me to attend a company-wide meeting that was called to pay tribute to a company director who was retiring. If you've ever worked at a large company, you at some point have been forced to attend a company-wide meeting or two, which is the business world's equivalent of assembly. I fucking hated company-wide meetings, especially if it was done in conjunction with the company holiday party. "Hey guys, we want you to eat and drink all you like. But first, sit there for two hours while we bore the fuck out of you."
Anyway, this particular party consisted of speaker after speaker coming up to the podium to talk about how awesome this retiring guy was. Then they played a video tribute to him. Then I think they gave him a parting gift of, like, a Hawaiian vacation for his whole family and shit. It's always fun to sit there while someone you don't know, who makes oceans more money than you (this guy was retiring before fucking 50), is heaped with additional prizes and adulation they don't really need. It's never you on that podium getting the love at work. It's always some other asshole.
And what I find interesting about the NFL Draft is that each draft pick (particularly those who are invited to attend the event in New York) gets the same kind of treatment before they've ever done anything. It's a premature Hall of Fame ceremony of sorts. It's the exact inverse of how the real world works, which never stops blowing my mind.
People who hate the draft always bitch that it's idiotic to focus on the draft when you never know which players will pan out and which won't. But I'd argue that's exactly what makes it so interesting. Because, for roughly half the guys who walk onto that dais come Saturday, the draft will soon come to represent the absolute apex of their professional careers. The draft is either the beginning, or it's the beginning of the end. There's something fascinating whenever ESPN cuts to the draft footage of an old bust like Ryan Leaf holding up his new jersey at the Draft, smiling, totally unaware of the shit blizzard that's about to rain down upon him.
True, every draftee in attendance on Saturday will become rich beyond measure. But many of them will have dreams and ambitions that go beyond money. Many of them likely envision themselves as future football immortals, men who earn not only huge sums of money, but also the never-ending adoration from fans all over for their dominating play on the field. But that won't become a reality for all of them. For some draftees, the NFL will become a joyless vocation (as Stefan Fatsis has ably pointed out), full of unfulfilled expectations, jackoff coaches, and merciless fan criticism. It will fucking suck, just like any other job.
This comforts me. I like knowing Mr. Hot Shit Football Player up on that stage, unlike the retiree I had to see feted, still has the potential to fail miserably, his draft day serving as a bittersweet high point not only in his career, but in his entire goddamn life. That's good stuff.
There's a parallel experience for fans watching the draft as well. Your favorite team drafts a player. You watch Mel Kiper go through the tape and tell you all the awesome shit your new player can do. And then you start to daydream about all the ways Draftee X is going to fuck shit up and help your piece of shit team finally win a Super Bowl. Does it work out that way? Usually not. But that's what makes the NFL so interesting. Because the league only plays 16 games a year (and I hope they don't go beyond that), the NFL, more than any other sport, allows time for fans, players, and coaches to sit and ponder what will be. It allows you to build up a grandiose vision of how things will play out. More than any other sport, the NFL is a league that thrives on the joys of anticipation.
I can't vouch for every fan on this, but I know I personally spend more time THINKING about football than I do watching it (and I watch a great deal of it). That's part of the fun of being a fan. It's why I play fantasy football, why I read books about football, and all that other shit. Because not only is it fun to watch football, but it's fun to see how the real game ends up confounding all the expectations you had in your head for it. And it's fun to see how Draftee X really plays versus how you imagined he would play on the day he was drafted. Unless that draftee's name is Tarvaris Jackson. Fucking T-Jack.
So when people tell you they don't like the NFL Draft because they'd like to watch ACTUAL sports, you can kindly tell them to suck the latte off of Peter King's nutsack. Because the NFL Draft is ACTUAL sports. The idea that a sporting event is irrelevant without game competition fails to account for all the contextual factors that can make a game more interesting to begin with. If you watch a Lions game next year, and you aren't aware of all the time, money, and personal stakes that went into the process of drafting Matt Stafford (if that is who they end up taking), then chances are that game won't be as interesting for you as someone who IS aware of it.
Every game is an answer to a series of questions about a team and its players. The Draft is an event that helps provide a lot of those questions. And if you don't like it, you can still suck it. This is your 2009 NFL Draft Jamboroo.
All offseason events in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer interest on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Jay Cutler To The Bears: The thing that still blows my mind about the whole Cutler incident is that Cutler, while always known to be a boastful douche, was never a real problem for the Broncos until Josh McDaniels came aboard. For three years, Cutler steadily improved under Mike Shanahan. The idea of trading him would have been idiotic. Then McDaniels comes aboard, and all of a sudden the Broncos are like, "This guy is a CANCER!" Really? Because he didn't seem to be one five months ago.
Keep in mind, nothing about Cutler as a football player had inherently changed in that time. Only the circumstances around him had shifted. And now Broncos fans are supposed to buy that somehow Kyle Orton is a better fit for the team than Cutler was? I hate taking the Simmons attitude of "Every GM is every league is a retard and I'm the only person who has any common sense," but that trade will always strike me as one of the most fucking bizarre moves in NFL history.
Michael Vick Getting His Own Reality Show: I think Vick's reality show should consist of him having to live with one of the families that adopted a Bad Newz dog and saved it from being destroyed by the government. "Hey dog, sorry I tried to, like, have you raped and killed for sport and shit. Friends?"
Gruden Getting Shitcanned: Nothing beats an unexpected coach firing. It makes me feel like a big man.
The Story About Travis Henry Going Broke: I loved this quote best of all:
My counselor asks me, ‘How can you do the same thing over and over?'" he said, unable to provide an answer.
You know damn well that if a girl walked up to Travis Henry right now and said, "Hey, wanna go have unprotected sex?" he'd be balls deep in that chick within five seconds. Available pussy makes you forget things quite easily.
Matt Cassel Traded: The real shame of this trade is that it pushes Brodie Croyle even further down the Chiefs' depth chart. And the less there is of Brodie, the less there is of his wife's breasts.
Oof. Not to mention the striking brunette hair that helps frame said breasts. It's like seeing a majestic stage curtain opening.
Madden Retiring: One thing that used to annoy me about Madden was back when he had his All-Madden team, and he'd have 83 players on it every year. I swear there was one year when he had the entire Cowboy and 49er rosters on the All-Madden team. Or he'd pick a guy for the team just because he did something particularly footballish. "Look! Dat guy rubbed mud on his pants! BOOM! ALL MADDEN!"
Fuck, he even put Tony Mandarich on the All-Madden team once, and Mandarich wasn't even in the NFL yet. That was the real problem with Madden: he'd always get enamored of certain guys and stay enamored of them forever. There wasn't much rhyme or reason to it. I also hated the fact that he refused to address Brett Favre by anything other than his full name.
Collinsworth Replacing Madden: I don't mind Collinsworth. But he begins nearly every sentence with this phrase, "I tell you what, this ____ team…" Like so: "I tell you what, this Indianapolis Colts team… They're gonna miss Marvin Harrison!" Once you notice him doing it, it's impossible to stop noticing it.
Adam Schefter Going To ESPN: Schefter, together with Jay Glazer, breaks roughly 95% of the league's important news. I can't tell if he'll make ESPN better, or if ESPN will make him worse. I can see some ESPN guy walking up to Schefter and going, "Hey, nice scoop on Matt Stafford there. You mind if we give that one to Michael Smith? Thanks, champ!"
Gay Rule Changes: I understand not wanting players to get hurt. But this is getting fucking out of hand. You can't sack a quarterback from the ground anymore? You know what? Just put a red jersey on him and be done with it. And let's also soak the red jersey in jellyfish venom, so any defender that touches the quarterback goes into toxic shock for doing so.
So fucking dumb. Yeah, you don't want every player to be injured. But injuries are part of what make the storyline of a season interesting. I don't remember the Super Bowl suffering from Tom Brady's absence last season.
The other rule change that sucks is the elimination of wedge blocking on kickoffs. Not only will this reduce the number of long kickoff returns (and long kickoff returns fucking rule), but other outlets have already noted that it will also make recovering onside kicks more difficult. That's retarded. I want recovering onside kicks to be MORE likely, not less. Shit, I'd like all punts to also be considered live balls after 10 yards. Why the fuck would you go out of your way to make the game less interesting? All to protect a few special teamers? Fuck that. Those guys play special teams specifically because WE DON'T NEED THEM. Meanwhile, the PAT still exists for no good reason.
That One Mel Kiper Draft Promo: Reader Burt Destruction (not his real name, I would gather) writes in: "I was watching a commercial for the NFL draft this weekend and in the spot Mel Kiper is moving stats and pictures of draftees around with his hands like he was Tom Cruise in Minority Report. I don't know why I found it so funny but I think it has to do with how awkward he looks doing it and that someone thought this was a good idea. Please check it out if you get a chance." I too saw this ad. It's like they want you to believe Kiper creates these players in a fucking lab. Not that he hasn't tried.
Donte' Stallworth Killing A Guy: I think Stallworth's problem was compounded by the fact that, not only was he drunk, but he hit the dude while driving a damn Bentley. Even if he had been stone sober during the collision, and obeyed every traffic law, no one ever takes the side of a Bentley driver in an accident. If you drive a Bentley, you are an asshole.
ESPN Hiring Matt Millen: Gee, I wonder who might have pushed for that to happen:
Matt Millen is great on TV. Not good, he's great. The booth that he walks into will become the best booth. Even if he walks over my body and sits in my seat, it's going to become the best. He's just great at it, and in six months or less people will forget.
Oh, you really think we're going to forget how badly Millen sucked as a GM, Tony? Really? You think he's that fucking dazzling of a commentator that our memories of that spewing volcano explosion of retardery will be wiped clean from the collective consciousness? FUCK YOU. "Hey Jaws, how about having Matt Millen in the studio? IS THAT NOT A HUGE COUP FOR OUR NETWORK? Would you have ever guessed, IN A MILLION YEARS, that we would have such an incredible talent in our midst?"
This is so fucking annoying. Don't tell me he's so awesome, Tony. I remember Millen as a commentator, and I've never fucking liked that prick. This is why people get so fucking pissed at the media. Someone goes and hires a gasbag like Millen just because he's buddy-buddy with a bunch of other assholes in the room. I'm glad this site would never stoop to bringing in poorly informed contributors strictly out of cronyism.