This weekend, I was one of the few hundred media types privileged enough to obtain credentials for NFL Draft 2000. Originally I intended to fulfill my duties - acquiring the necessary materials to pen an ode to Thomas Jones on the occasion of his selection - and then hang around at least through the close of the first round and soak up some savory NFL atmosphere.
Instead, after sitting in on Jones' press conference and interviewing his father, I split to check out some of the Big Apple.
Undoubtedly at this moment, various sports fanatics like myself are screaming for my head at such sacrilege. I can imagine the Managing Board of this publication can't be too pleased at the news, either. (After all, sending myself and a photographer to New York isn't cheap.)
But to all you football fiends who would willingly sacrifice that chunk of dirt you once saw fall off Timmy Smith's cleats on his way off the practice field for the chance to go, I must issue this reality check: The draft is actually quite boring. In fact, it's almost mind-numbing.
Basically, the draft revolves around watching highlight reels ad nauseam until Paul Tagliabue - or on the second day, one of his lackeys - saunters up to the podium to announce another pick.
Once all the players present have been chosen, a process which doesn't take long considering only five are invited, the event basically becomes an endless list of names. Aside from conducting an anthropological study on the legions of Jets and Giants fans that turn out for the event, what else is there to do?
Also, the actual location of the draft is even less impressive. The background of the stage looks as if it has been plucked from the set of some defunct sitcom. (Maybe Alex Karras lent it to them after "Webster" was cancelled?) And if you're sitting in the right spot, the twirling strobe lights mounted at the top of the backdrop will hit you right in the eye and perhaps induce a Grand Mal seizure.
Apparently the rest of the sports world has caught on to the generally soporific nature of the draft. Aside from ESPN's usual assortment of talking heads, famous folk were few and far between. One person I did recognize was renowned boxing writer Bert Sugar, complete with fedora and cigar (unlit, of course - the Madison Square Garden Theater is a non-smoking facility). Apparently though, ol' Bert didn't have an actual seat, and ended up just filling the chairs of reporters who got up either to conduct an interview in the Play-By-Play Bar-n-Grill or to acquire some more of the informative statistics on hand.
Now, as a sports writer, I love statistics and fact sheets. But the draft takes things a little too far. Each media representative receives a packet full of enough material to break the back of a sturdy burro. Producing the "Player Profiles" notebook alone must have felled half an acre of forest, and each packet contained two of said notebooks.
Granted, much of the information I received was very informative. But I could have lived without getting the scoop on Utah State tailback DeMario Brown's time in the 40 or discovering the short list of fun facts on William & Mary tight end Scot Osborne.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful, though. Going to the draft was quite an opportunity, and bumping shoulders with Marty Schottenheimer in one of the perpetually clogged theater aisles gave me a cheap thrill.
But I remain convinced that the draft has become a product of its own hype. In short, it is a self-perpetuating organism. By feeding off the hype, the needless statistics and the presence of legions of media and fans with way too much time on their hands, the event can only get bigger and longer.
Can you imagine?
I probably can. And unless I'm assigned to go next season, rest assured I'll be saving myself the trouble and catching the blow-by-blow results over the wire.
A person can only stand so much DeMario Brown information, after all.