According to the official “Countdown to the NFL Draft” clock on CBSSports.com, this year’s NFL draft is only “10 days, two hours, 46 minutes and 17 seconds” away. It is then that a large portion of sports fans will be glued to their televisions for two days of the most pointless, and potentially detrimental, sports coverage ever to emerge.
This year, ESPN has decided to finally throw in the towel and will be devoting it’s main network station solely to draft coverage. On Saturday, ESPN will be airing three-and-a-half hours of pre-draft coverage, followed by seven hours of draft coverage. They will follow that up with a whopping eight hours of coverage devoted to the final five rounds of the draft on Sunday.
This sounds all good until you realize that once the first round is over, and the invited top-players have already given the press a chance to get a picture of them with their new jersey, nothing happens. That’s right. Nothing. The following 12-13 hours of television involve watching a revolving cast of anchors endlessly rehash the early results of the draft. Sure, every 3-5 minutes a new pick is announced, but there just isn’t enough action to warrant any type of coverage.
In the end, this empty space needs to be filled, and it is this filler that is detrimental to the athletes. To make up for the lack of draft excitement, sports commentators are forced to endlessly hype talented players, and pry into details of each player’s personal life, hoping to come up with a scandalous story.
This year we’ve had to hear about how players got girls pregnant in high school, smoked pot early in college and even how one worked out with his shirt off. Apparently, according to the so-called experts, all of these things affect a person’s ability to play football.
There are very few reasons that a young man in his early 20s needs to have every possible mistake he had ever made in his life magnified. Needing to fill countless hours of television programming is not one of these reasons.
Thousands of articles and hundreds of hours of pre-draft television coverage often builds up unrealistic expectations for many of the draftees. When a pick can’t live up to the media-created hype around them, they are labeled as a bust and booed and jeered by even hometown fans.
Take the example of former Ohio State linebacker Vernon Gholston. Last year, Gholston was the talk of the draft, a smart, physical player who many thought would make an instant impact for almost any NFL team. When the New York Jets picked Gholston with the sixth pick in last year’s draft, Jets coach Eric Mangini agreed with the media and said that the Jets “have found the future for our defense.”
Being “the future” is a tough task to ask of any player, but it is even more to ask of a 21-year-old who hasn’t played a single snap at the professional level. With these tall expectations it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jet’s fans began to boo Gholston after he wasn’t able to crack the starting line-up his rookie year. Even more unfortunate, is the idea that if Gholston does develop into an above-average player, his image is forever likely that of a first-round bust.
Time will only tell which of the athletes taken in this year’s draft will be busts. However, as sure as the Pope is Catholic, those busts will exist. It’s time we remember the athletes in the draft are not seasoned veterans, and it will be impossible for all of them to live up to the lofty billing the media hype is giving them.