Let’s talk about the NFL Draft

It is the beginning of the Baseball season, the first round of both the Basketball and Hockey Playoffs, the sun is shining and yet the headlines are about the NFL. The NFL holds the draft in April each year. Why? Well there are lots of contractual reasons, and some logistical reasons, but mainly it is to keep so that the teams can get the newest players signed to contracts and into summer training. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thinks that it is a strategic ploy to take viewing audience away from the NBA, I think not. People who actually watch the NFL draft are not interested in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The NFL has been holding the draft in April since long before anyone thought of broadcasting it, live or tape delayed. It has move to prime time because there is an audience, not the other way around.

I will admit that I did not watch the entire draft. I checked in from time to time, but like most sports enthusiast, I could get everything I wanted to know from the newspaper or the web the next morning. Oh, I had interests; like who was my team going to draft? What about the other teams in my division? How did the players from my college fare? What about the nationally known players?

Now there are plenty of people in broadcast, and many more on various blogs who will discuss how the draft went. They will pontificate on what team did well, why some player was not drafted as they predicted, what the affects will be on each team. Since we cannot know how well any individual will perform at the professional level based on potential, I will leave that analysis for those people who get a great deal of enjoyment and possibly some pay for doing so. Instead, I intend on commenting on the coverage of the NFL draft in general.

First, I want to applaud the staff at ESPN. There were experts on who talked literally for three days straight. The support staff found video of every player and had statistics ready almost instantly. Now the talking heads did ramble from time to time, and contradict themselves, but that is part of the process when broadcasting live. If the who thing were predictable, there would be no point in having it. Like the old sports adage, if we knew who would win the game, why bother playing it.

I do have a complaint. As I watched, I could see what each team was doing by following the ticker tape along the bottom of the screen. At times, I even put the TV on mute, or listened to music when I was at the gym and could have tuned in the audio but chose not to. The announcers discussed picks from several minutes (up to an half an hour) earlier. This was mainly to give the support staff time to dig up video clips and stats, but it also revealed a bias in the reporting. Not only did they spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing and discussing the picks of the two teams from New York City, they would break away for the live announcements for those two teams, and those two teams alone.

This falls into the “it is the largest market” argument, but we must realize that these are the home teams for most of the media outlets, ESPN included. To do this consistently may be good business for that 10% of the national market, but it does not seen very smart for the rest of the country, especially if you are catering to the nation. If you want to be a regional broadcaster, than do so and let other regions do their own thing. ESPN seems to be moving to that regional model for the big markets like Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago. This is actually sad to me. I live in the middle of the country, equidistant from Chicago, Minneapolis, Green Bay, St. Louis and Kansas City. Unfortunately, the team I follow is not from any of those cities, so if ESPN does go regional, I will miss out completely.

So the summary of my rambling today is – although the NFL draft is not riveting TV, and it is New York City centric, I like how ESPN has covered it and I hope there are no major changes in the near future.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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