I'll drink a draft instead of watch one, thanks
That's really what it's all about. I don't know what it's like in other cities that have good football teams, but in Detroit, the NFL Draft is akin to the Super Bowl for Lions fans. It's a day of hope. Possibility. Promise.
But in the weeks and days before the 2006 NFL Draft, flipping through the various draft previews on magazine stands, and scrolling through assorted mock drafts on the internet, I noticed something very strange happening. Feelings inside my chest and brain that I hadn't experienced before. After some introspection and self-evaluation, I've figured out exactly what this is.
Apathy. I'm very close to not giving a $#!+ about this year's draft. And I never thought I'd say that.
When blogs like Trade Down! popped up, I was intrigued and checked it out regularly. Who were the top prospects at each position? Who were the sleepers? Who would be a good fit for the Lions? It was water for a thirsty man, especially after suffering through another miserable season.
But now, it's too much. You really can have too much of a good thing. And what are we really talking about here. As Alex Williams wrote in last Sunday's New York Times, it's "sports without the sports."
As could be expected, one of the chief culprits of beating a topic until it's pulped, flat, and lifeless is ESPN. For the love of Mel Kiper, how many "NFL Draft Specials" do they need to show? It's been the majority of ESPN's prime-time programming this week. Major League Baseball? Nope. NBA playoff games? Nah. Three to six to nine guys deliberating over who's the best quarterback between Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Jay Cutler, who might trade up or trade down, while making jokes about the Detroit Lions taking another wide receiver for two-hour chunks at a time? Okay, sure.
How many times do I need to read that the Texans will pick Reggie Bush, A.J. Hawk will go to the Packers, and the Lions will opt for Michael Huff? Jokes about the Lions taking another wide receiver are about as fresh as Brokeback Mountain cracks. (No offense to you, Complete Sports. Your joke was actually pretty funny. But oh my God, if the Lions took Chad Jackson over Santonio Holmes...) Don't get me wrong; there are some good mock drafts out there (such as those already mentioned). And I know putting some thought and knowledge into those, not to mention just typing out all of those names, takes a lot of work.
This isn't me as William Shatner talking to Star Trek fans from that Saturday Night Live skit. If I'm coming across that way, I certainly don't mean to. Because I understand it. For people who love the NFL Draft and follow it closely, I've been there with you. I've let those beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoons go by while I sat in a room dimly lit by a TV screen, with a draft preview magazine, a bag of Ruffles, and onion dip nearby.
I'm not Michael Wilbon. I don't hate the NFL Draft.
And I'm not washing my hands of it. I've looked over the available players too, and if Huff is there for Detroit at the ninth selection, I'll be a pretty happy guy. You want your first-round pick to make an impact, and I think Huff would definitely do that for the Lions. (In a perfect world, I'd want D'Brickashaw Ferguson or Hawk, but hey, that one extra win over the Saints at the end of last season meant something for the pride of the franchise. And that's worth not having the second pick in the draft. Excuse me while I repeatedly hit myself in the head with a football wrapped in a Lions jersey.)
But I'm not giving myself over to it tomorrow. Not when it's supposed to be a sunny, 70-degree day. As I said, I've already given up enough of those. As Brian and I discussed a couple of weeks ago while talking about the Lions and the draft, watching the whole thing play out takes so much time - especially when your team picks ninth. By the time it's done, you're wondering what happened to all of the hours you thought you had.
Surely, this is yet another example of the Lions beating me down, snatching away my love of something and taking a big steamy, drippy $#!+ all over it. Maybe I feel like a sucker, having defended Matt Millen for doing what I thought was a good job with a draft. But after looking back at Millen's drafts, it's no mystery as to why the Lions have been stuck in NFL Hell. Two, maybe three, of his six first-round picks have worked out. Sure, mistakes happen and players are overrated, but you can't miss on those players. Those are the guys that need to be the rocks on your roster, the difference makers.
You know what it really comes down to? Fear. I'm afraid to see what Millen will do. And I'm terrified that my nightmare scenario (which SportsCenter's mock draft played out yesterday) will occur: the Lions will have no choice but to take a quarterback because those are the best players available and the guys they really wanted will be gone. I can't watch that.
Tell me once it's over, and I'll take a look. Until then, however, it'll be too painful.