Only the all-conquering, all-powerful NFL could pull off the the COVID-19 draft, or as Roger Goodell might have wanted to call it ‘Pandemic Pandemonium’.
He didn’t call it that. The Commish was too busy projecting camera presence along the lines of a middle school drama student, down in his basement in suburban New York. For that, he gets $40 million a year. Nice work if you can get it. Some might call that ‘legalized robbery’. But then again, I get paid to do sports-talk radio, so I have some nerve calling out bogus professions.
That’s how great the NFL’s Shelter-On-The-Clock was. Not even Goodell in his basement could dull the quality entertainment and drama the 2020 NFL Draft produced.
I confess, when the NFL announced a few weeks ago its plans to go full-speed-ahead with its April 23 draft, the whole thing seemed terribly tone deaf. We had an infectious disease shutting down the nation, if not the globe, and the NFL wanted to make sure the Carolina Panthers could find a pass rusher?
But, as has seemingly always been the case with the all-conquering, all-powerful NFL in the last 50 years on the American cultural landscape, the all-conquering, all-powerful NFL was correct.
We as a country wanted the draft. We as a country needed the draft. Who knew? The NFL knew, that’s who.
I’m half-convinced that when our medical heroes find a COVID-19 vaccine, the syringe should come with an NFL shield on it.
Sure enough, the TV ratings backed up my hunch. Over 15 million people watched on ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network, smashing the record for any previous NFL Draft.
Of course, it helps to have a captive audience.
I found unexpected pleasures in the unusual circumstances. Already, the following items have entered the American sporting lexicon:
— Kliff Kingsbury’s Scarface-level Arizona home.
— Javon Kinlaw’s “Little League Dad” reaction.
— ‘Toilet-Gate’ at Titans coach Mike Vrabel’s house.
— Henry Ruggs and the Raiders new mantra: #RobeLife
— CeeDee Lamb and his girlfriend with the suspicious “Phone-Gate”
Hell, the NFL is so powerful, they got Dr. Anthony Fauci to cut a spot for them. I half-expected the Bengals to furiously resubmit their pick to select: “Tony Fauci, scatback/slot receiver, St. John’s.”
Back in the mid 2010s, the NFL took a few body blows. The Colin Kaepernick situation was being used as a, pardon the pun, political football. People starting taking sides. A guy ran for President and exploited the Kap situation to foment political discord. He even bragged about getting better ratings than the NFL. Whatever happened to that guy?
Even other sports started taking potshots. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made his famous “pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered” remark. And of course, the widespread concussion awareness (even a feature film by the same name, starring Will Smith) brought legitimate concern about the NFL’s future.
And maybe all those chickens will come home to roost — greed, concussions, etc. Maybe in 10 years, as Cuban predicted a few years back, the NFL will suffer deep blows to its popularity.
But for one night in April, 2020, it flexed its mighty muscles. And a nation was entertained. The NFL pulled off the CoronaDraft, and it was sort of amazing.