Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Draft Overload

I've spent multiple posts loathing the month of February and loving the month of March for its respective sports relevance. Now deep in month of April, I am again pondering what this month means for us sports fanatics. Granted my sports consumption is disproportionally shaped by what ESPN throws at me, but I feel as if the network and to a degree sports fans in general who ultimately shape this programming, are missing the ball.

For two of the major (ok, one is really minor) sports, the playoffs are either just underway or less than a week from it. The NHL is skating through the first round and the NBA's season wraps up on Wednesday.

Baseball is just under way and despite a few fans already lamenting their season as lost, the fresh spring hope abounds for the majority of teams. The first wave of injuries (Soriano, Ryan, Carpenter) have hit teams and now comes the always interesting answer to how to fill the holes, whether through trades or minor leaguers about to come of age.

Yet for this excitement at both the end and beginning of major seasons, the dominant topic of conversation and subject of ample coverage are the NFL and NBA drafts. I remember way back when the drafts happened, we all read in the newspaper who we got, and we moved on from there. Now, Mel Kiper has his own ESPN 3 dedicated to his every move, and has their draft projector for the NBA that has Greg Oden going to a different team every time you play so as to satisfy each clubs' fans.

As for the NFL, I really only pay attention to projections on who the Cleveland Browns are going to select for obvious reasons. I shouldn't even do that as I get worked up about Brady Quinn reuniting with Charlie Weis and passing on Adrian Peterson. But then I think back to what happens every single year. The projections are right about a tenth of the time. Come draft day, trades are made, GMs not possibly as intelligent as the TV people make divergent decisions than were expected, and all the hype that surrounds a certain player quiets as he falls two whole spots from a team that had to have him. Many of these players will fill holes on their new teams, and some will be superstars that will shape the future of the sport. For most though, the 15 minutes of coverage heaped upon them on draft day will be the last meaningful exposure they ever have. ESPN and the media in general are so giddy, though, about getting in on the ground floor to have coverage on "the next Peyton Manning" that the entire event is overblown to make the day(s) seem like the definitive moment for all teams for the next season.

Over in the NBA, their draft, too, is getting much attention. Some of it on the college side and some of it on the pro side. Thanks in no small part to the epic buzz generated by LeBron James' skip from high school to college, everyone, likewise, wants in early on the next big thing. Nevermind all the disasters, just one good player out of the whole draft is worth this crazy coverage. This year, we happen to have two such phenoms on our hands in the form of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Their declaring for the NBA draft is certainly news worthy and for that I do not criticize. Just combined with all other things draft, it's cumulatively overwhelming. Now we've got teams playing to lose so as to have a better opportunity at these newly eligible draftees. Debate rages over the ethics of playing to lose to have a better chance at winning in the future and while I see valid points on both sides of that conversation, I think I'd rather talk about the playoffs (or baseball) than Ryan Gomes and the hapless Celtics plan to fit Oden in Boston's green and white.

I guess I wish back for those days in my childhood. Days when I had to walk seven miles uphill both ways, through the snow, and over the river to get to school. Days when the draft was a one day event and we waited to see what the new guy could do to help the team and fit in. Days, not months, worth of draft day build up was sufficient for everyone. In the meantime, I will suffer through this tired exercise of who should take who by consuming the rest of my orange juice and heading off to Walgreens.

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