The first thing you should know about the NFL draft is that it’s really not about football. It is, in its purest form, a televised shit show. And goodness, is it fun. It’s the glorious kind of shit show.
It’s more Broadway performance than football seminar, only the actors are real people, young men bulging out of ill-fitting suits and a herd of media members ready to give the thumbs up or thumbs down quicker than Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. All while a bunch of overweight dudes in “authentic team apparel” sit around and boo (or chant “J-E-T-S!”) for approximately 856 hours.
Yes, it is ridiculous, and that is why you watch.
Such ridiculousness was definitely on display Thursday night, when the first round of the 2014 draft kicked off from Radio City Music Hall in New York. As you’d imagine, there were no shortage of memorable moments throughout, though some managed to rise above the rest … and remind us once again why we continue to watch this shit show year after year.
Johnny Manziel’s Draft Day: A Homeless Man and 19 Gallons of Water — No player divided ESPN’s endless assortment of draft experts quite like Manziel, the flashy Texas A&M quarterback who some thought would be the top pick. So when the Houston Texans instead took South Carolina monster Jadeveon Clowney at #1 — and as Manziel continued to tumble down the draft board — the Worldwide Leader scrambled its squadron of talking heads to cover the story from every conceivable angle.
But when the Cleveland Browns finally rescued Manziel from the draft’s green room at pick #22, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio went beyond the call of duty, revealing that it was a homeless man who convinced Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam to make the pick. Yes, that is apparently true, and, yes, that is the most Cleveland Browns thing to happen in recent memory.
Of course, before this mysterious homeless man’s scouting tips were revealed, Jonathan Football drank a swimming-pool’s worth of bottled water. Every time the camera zoomed in for another excruciating “I’m losing so much money!” shot for the crowd, Manziel guzzled whatever was in front of him. If NFL draft grades were given out on bladder durability, Johnny Manziel would have gone higher. His bladder deserved better.
On That Note: The Green Room Wait is Like a Public Physical — Imagine, for a moment, that your boss just called you into the office to talk about your performance. As you walk in, you notice 17 cameras, 400 people, your family and one empty chair. You don’t know if you’re going to be promoted or fired — probably fired — but you’re going to find out at the exact moment the rest of the world does.
Oh, Hi, mom.
This is what traveling to the NFL Draft gets you. You wait, you sweat, you drink water and you panic before your name is called. First, it was Manziel who dropped in the 2014 draft. Then it was Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who fell all the way to the final pick in the first round.
It’s kind of like waiting for the doctor to read the results of your bloodwork, only with millions of complete strangers (and Mel Kiper) watching. So why not just stay home? A trip to the big city sounds great … until a nation is reacting to your every facial expression while you’re turning your head and coughing.
Update: Everyone Still Hates Roger Goodell — The Commissioner of the NFL could come out holding a basket of puppies, tossing $100 bills into the crowd as he passed by, and then announce he has discovered the cure for cancer. The fans in Radio City would still boo, only because the batteries they brought to throw in his direction simply would not reach.
In the least surprising development of the 2014 draft, Goodell was booed mercilessly on Thursday night. It wasn’t just a good ol’ fashion sports boo, either. New York patrons dug deep to resurrect the yearly hate. It’s a draft tradition unlike any other, and it’s almost sadistic art at this point.
Meet the Ninth Wonder of the World: Mel Kiper’s Hair — It looks more like a decorative cake than a collaboration of hair follicles at this point, though, in many ways, it’s almost as consistent as Goodell’s boo entourage. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has hair that might actually double as a Mr. Potato Head accessory. It simply does not budge, not even after more than three-and-a-half hours of yelling at Jon Gruden like a puppy that got fresh (Jon’s hair, it should be noted, spent the night vacillating between “Fourth Grader on Picture Day” and “William Zabka, 1984 Edition”).
Kiper’s insight offers up very little in terms of guarantees. His hair, however, remains a 400-page thesis waiting to happen.
The Art of the Bro Hug — It’s a beautiful moment. A young man has just heard his name called, officially making him a millionaire, and all he has to do his make it a few steps on stage and drown his boss in a hug.
Yes, the bro-hug phenomenon continued to gain steam in 2014 draft, and Goodell — as much as the lubricated NYC crowd would disagree — did a wonderful job embracing his future employees in the most exciting moment of their lives. Some hugs were violent. Others didn’t quite get the timing right. Others were of the casual variety. The grab-bag of hugs has become a fixture of the draft, and it was once again a highlight this year.
With 30 players on hand, and five offensive linemen taken in the first round, Goodell burned roughly 21,000 calories with friendly greetings. Not a bad day at the office (minus the incessant booing and attempted battery assaults).