I have plans Saturday afternoon, thank goodness. Even if I didn’t, there is a laundry list of activities I would pursue while ignoring the NFL draft out of spite. Cleaning soap scum from my shower with an old toothbrush, for instance. Or downloading the entire Celine Dion catalog.

There is no sadder commentary on the state of professional sports than the hyperbolic buildup to this two-day event that is, charitably speaking, less exciting than watching Terry Francona rock back and forth in the Red Sox dugout and spit tobacco.

In my most reclusive, shut-in, get-a-life childhood fog, before I discovered girls, cars and beer (all of which should be consumed separately, by the way), I wouldn’t have watched 15 minutes of the NFL draft.

How did this glorified stock report ever develop an audience? I can understand devoting 12 hours and hundreds of dollars worth of drinks and hors d’oeuvres to a sporting event with an actual resolution at day’s end. But when draft day is over, whether the Cleveland Browns draft Brady Quinn, Quinn Buckner or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, we’re no closer to an answer than when we started.

ESPN (Motto: “The worldwide leader in sports, as long as we own some of the broadcasting rights to that sport”) is largely responsible for my boycott of this event.

It’s too easy to make jokes about Mel Kiper’s hair or Chris Berman’s affinity for vague 1960s acid rock lyric references that sail over the heads of his 18-to-35 audience and into oblivion. The actual substance is equally nauseating. The weeks of preliminary coverage are both excessive and contradictory.

Worse are the inevitable self-pats on the back for being the only network savvy enough to beg Pete Rozelle for broadcast rights to the meat market in the early 1980s. As if it took a soothsayer to figure out that endless NFL chatter would keep more butts on the couch than Australian Rules Football, fashion shows and wildebeest mating rituals. All they’ve added over the years are enough spinning, flashing graphics to give us a seizure.

Reluctant props to the NFL for turning the announcement of a name every 15 minutes into might-see TV. Nothing better demonstrates the growing gap between them and every other spectator sport in the country.

MLB peaked before video killed the radio star. The NBA peaked with Magic, Larry and Michael. The NHL peaked (if you can call it that) with Wayne Gretzky. NASCAR peaked when its boss somberly announced, “We’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.”

The NFL? No summit in sight, my friend, and no limit to its demographic. Even my wife, a devout Raiders fan, is on pins and needles over this draft thing. She believes JaMarcus Russell is the ticket for a return trip to the promised land.

She’ll be watching alone.


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