Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Monkey don't Stop The Show

By Scott O'Malley

"The world has become a pussy-whipped, Brady Bunch version of itself, run by a bunch of robed sissies." - Simon Phoenix

To my profound disappointment, the NFL Draft has taken one more giant tumble towards domestication. The big, bad NFL…whipped. Once an unloved, red-headed stepchild, the draft has been groomed, showered, and shaved along its (downward?) slope towards respectability and prestige. The writing has been on the wall for the better part of a decade, but with this year’s starting time of twelve noon, the momentum of change has reached critical mass.

The NFL has seen fit to trim the festivities by three hours, finally caving to gripes concerning the draft’s day-long running time. The conceit behind this, I suppose, is that faithful viewers had been perennially suckered into losing one precious Saturday every April. Rubbish. The draft has never made any pretense of expediency, and why should it? Between the months of February and September, no day in the NFL calendar year is more important. That said, if eleven hours of Chris Berman is too much to endure, there’s no shame in spending the day elsewhere.

The draft is not for everybody, to be sure. But for special kinds of masochists, it’s just right. Some of us remember the draft when it was it was a much shoddier spectacle, with plumes of cigar smoke hanging heavy over Formica podiums and corduroy blazers. In that respect, there’s a sense or protectiveness. I have no beef with those who find the draft boring, but I can’t imagine that they’ll find the seven-hour version any more palatable. Much like the incessant whining regarding the length of Major League Baseball games, change can only accommodate those don’t already watch, and alienate those who do. And further, when did it become so necessary for sporting events to end in a timely fashion? Sports are leisurely diversions, better enjoyed with hours at your disposal rather than minutes. While other mediums of entertainment cater to the ADD-afflicted, the governing bodies of sport would be wise not to follow suit.

It would be easy to point the finger at the Four-Letter Network, or to imply some kind of insidious plan atop the NFL, but no. The draft is merely another entity experiencing the growing pains of homogenization. Remember the friend you had in college? He jumped out of windows, broke bottles on his head, picked fights with the wrong people. He was out of control, unkempt and disreputable - then suddenly - married, sober…and boring. Sooner or later, a kind, na├»ve, or enterprising soul will throw a clean sheet over the bums.

I love the draft too much to allow the loss of three hours to diminish my pleasure. It won’t stop the fire alarm from waking me up at eight in the evening, with a Red Baron pizza blazing in the oven as I lay passed out on the floor. At worst, it will only force me to alter routine – hot wings for lunch rather than breakfast I suppose. For now, this first time at least, I will make do. I’ll savor the shopworn analyses from Mel Kiper, the apoplectic reactions of Jet fans, the constant elements that no manner of repackaging or reformatting can change. As the gloss and hype get bigger each year, I’ll embrace those elements that keep the draft grounded – keep it from getting too presentable, too sexy, too watchable. I’ll even indulge Berman’s relentless bombast because, hey, as long as he’s sitting at that desk, Ryan Seacrest isn’t.

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